Usk is located 22 km (14 miles) east of Terrace
and 76 km (48 miles) west of Kitwanga (Gitwangak)
on Hwy 16.
Usk is a small rural community, situated on the banks of the Skeena
River, whose European history dates back to 1912 with the building
of the right-of-way for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The name
Usk is thought to have been derived from one of the railroad engineers
working on the project whose birthplace was from near the River
Usk near Cardiff in South Wales.
A ferry was first implemented in 1914 at Usk to help service the
building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which happened to be
situated on the north side of the Skeena River.
From the period of 1914 to 1936, the community of Usk thrived with
a large influx of Europeans arriving with the discovery and opening
of gold-mining potential with the Cordeliera and Lucky Luke claims
near Kitselas and Bonite Mountains.
People from the USA made up a large percentage of this population,
many having the opportunity of purchasing low-cost land containing
vast quantities of easy-to-harvest timber. Eventually, a number
of sawmills were built in Usk to help supply lumber for the mining
operations, as well as the building of a public school, the Shackleton
Hotel and other businesses in the Usk region.
Sadly though, because of the low quality ore and the cost of operation,
the Columario Gold Mines Ltd. operation ceased existence in 1936.
There were still a number of sawmills operating in this time providing
jobs but, with the coming of the depression and harder to get to
timber, times proved to be too tough for the local population working
in the bush.
Then, with unseasonably warm winter seasons in 1936 and 1948 and
the coming floods from the Skeena River, Usk had to rebuild a number
of times. Unfortunately, Usk never really did recover to its past
glory with the last remaining sawmill closing in 1959, because of
the building of Hwy 16.
Today, Usk is made up of two separate laid-back communities along
the north and south banks of the Skeena River. Both communities
combine to make up Usk but, individually, have a completely different
community atmosphere and view depending on what side of the Skeena
River you are on.
The north side of Usk is very isolated with very little signs of
life besides the CN Railway that now operates, since 1923, on the
old Grand Trunk Pacific Railway right-of-way. There is a Via Rail
drop-off station located here for passengers travelling on the railway.
Inland Ferry Service
To get to the north side of Usk, you have to take a reaction ferry
operated by contract by NNC (Nechako Northcoast Cont.) for the Inland
Ferry Service. The free crossing, which takes around five-seven
minutes to go across the Skeena River, operates from the swift current
in propelling itself across the river in a green, non-motorized
form. The on-demand ferry operates from 6:15 a.m. - 11:45 p.m. year
round, with the only exception being in low water or icy conditions
when a passenger-only aerial tramway has to operate.
The south side of Usk is bordered by Hwy 16 and the Skeena River.
There are no stores or commercial enterprises here with the only
exception being an organic farm and a small RV Park called Golfish
Resort. The rest of the community is generally made up of small
hobby farms and residential homes on small acreages on Usk Frontage
Road and Grandview Drive. There is a tourist attraction across Hwy
16 at the Usk Frontage Road turnoff called the Usk Pioneer Chapel.
Located right on Hwy 16, the Usk Pioneer Chapel has served the Usk
and Terrace communities, being a major back-drop for weddings and
other special ceremonies. The small chapel welcomes visitors, many
who come to sign the guest book and take pictures of the building.
Skeena RV Park
Situated at 2158 Grandview Drive, the Terrace-Usk Skeena RV Park
offers a convenient location if you are exploring across on the
north side of the Skeena River. The facility offers Skeena River
fly-fishing, ocean charters, a 9-hole pitch-and-putt golf course
and an RV park that accommodates 20 campsites. Telephone (250) 635-9457.
Canyon National Historic Site
If you do visit Usk, make sure that you also visit Kitselas Canyon
National Historic Site at the First Nation Kitselas community of
Gitaus only 4 km (2.7 miles) away. The canyon, long regarded as
sacred by the Kitselas First Nations was also the scene of amazing
feats by riverboat captains as they plied their way up and down
the Skeena from Terrace to Hazelton through
the very swift and narrow Kitselas Canyon.
Creek Provincial Park
There is a provincial government campground located near the Kitselas
Canyon National Historic Site at Kleanza
Creek. The facility is only a five-minute driving time west
of Usk on Hwy 16 and makes a perfect base camp if you are visiting
Usk and Kitselas Canyon National Historic Site, especially if you
like walking or cycling.