We Got Mail

FTLComm - Tisdale - Monday, December 10, 2001

A week ago tomorrow we ran a set of pictures showing an aerial view of the Cassiar mountain range and the site of the now ghost town of Cassiar. There is a fine site dedicated to the former community and the web master Herb Daum passed on the information about the pictures to people who are interested in this unique place in the wilds of Northern British Columbia. Since that time we have continued to run a series of picture stories about the area but all the while we have been getting email from former Cassiar residents. These messages are so interesting because they tell of the extreme attachment these people have for a place of remarkable beauty. So it seems only fitting to share these messages with you. To accompany these messges we have a few pictures around Watson Lake and a map that shows the relative location of Cassiar to Watson.

Herb suggested a look at your web-site. I much appreciate the Cassiar pictures. I worked up there for about 4 1/2 years in the early '60's.
Thank You.

John Hartley

Thank you Tim for letting me view your photos. I lived in Cassiar from 1976-1986 and never viewed anything from the air. I had the chance but I chickened out. What a treat to view them on the internet. They are absolutely awesome, what an array of fall colors they present. I truly loved Cassiar. Thank you again. Kathy Dececco
Whitehorse, Yukon

Hello Timothy.
I was pleased to see the above photos and get your address from Herb Daum. I congratulate you on your initiative in investigating the Cassiar country, especially in a light plane like a Cessna 182. I was a geologist at Cassiar in the l960s and know well about the shadows enveloping the townsite during the winter -- also the deep snowfalls. Thanks for making the photos available to us. I grew up on the Prairies and my daughter, Sharon Hamilton, currently lives in Regina.

These are excellent photos with a geological perspective. From 10,000 feet they clearly show the concordant slopes of the ancient Tertiary peneplaned surface in the Cassiar Mountains and the Horseranch Range and the cirques and canyons produced by ice erosion and subsequent modification by water erosion. Also the "kettle lakes" and eskers left behind when the ice melted. One point I should mention: The rift valley from Montana to Watson is called the Rocky Mountain Trench and the offset continuation to Dawson City and Alaska is the Tintina Trench. There are many mineral deposits related to both. I like the beaver dams also. As for the asbestos, there are some generalities I would describe differently, but your journalist approach is essentially correct. I live in the Okanagan at Kelowna, B.C. Lets keep in touch.
Bill Plumb

Yes Bill, I realise I moved pretty quickly through the stuff on the asbestos. So many people are completely unaware of this development and the subsequent result of shutting down a mining town.

I was pretty shocked when I looked at those negatives early this week so many are showing signs of losing their colour. I am going to have to get my sons involved in a massive scanning project.

I have some pictures of the Taku, the Juneau area and Sitka as well and in time will put them up on the site.

I appreciate the clarification on the rift valley because to me it was this huge gap in the world to fly down from Watson to Prince George.

My first plane was a 172 and it needed to stop and refuel enroute. The only 172 flight I made I had jerry cans aboard landed on a remote strip near an Indian village and filled up my tanks.

Some prospectors pointed out to me that along the trench end to end there was gold on the West side and hot springs on the East. Pretty amazing.

I suppose it makes perfect sense as the nature of a rift valley would allow the mantle and below to work its way upward.

Heading from Rancheria in the upper Taku valley there are some really fabulous necks, volcanic formations with their tops removed.

Another formation I want to display are the karst formations just North of Watson Lake.

We spotted them one day doing low passes over a top and spotted a sink hole.

Indeed there will be more to come and I would appreciate any assistance in getting the names and features identified.


Hi again, Tim. You obviously have a good basic knowledge of Geology. Thanks for your interest and quick response. It is indeed the short asbestos spicules that invade the lungs if proper precautions are not taken when asbestos is used DRY for insulation., but too many schools have panicked and removed asbestos from steam pipes, etc. at great cost unnecessarily, as there is very little leakage from that source. Asbestos is very useful for water pipes in tropical areas, as it does not rust and is impermeable to insects, etc. Also for brake linings, clutch plates etc., as well as the long fibres used for fireproof clothing, etc. But nevertheless it has been banned in USA and parts of Europe.

As asbestos is hosted in a basic rock called serpentine, which has 26% magnesium in its composition, tailings from asbestos mines in Quebec are now being used to recover magnesium more cheaply than from electrolysis of seawater, the conventional method.
This has been proposed for Cassiar but it is doubtful if it would be economical there due to remoteness.

I am looking forward to your pics of Taku and Juneau areas. I imagine you used a larger plane there? There are also some spectacular volcanic cones south of Telegraph Creek
unless your flying days in those parts are over? BTW, Sheldon Luck once flew me around in Beavers when he came out of retirement and was flying for B.C. & Yukon Airways out of Watson Lake.

Re R.M. Trench, there is some placer gold in most of the streams in B.C. west of the trench and yes, there are a lot of hotsprings east of the Rockies, due of course to widespread volcanism associated with subductuons related to continental drift.

This has been pretty long-winded. I guess I got carried away. Best regards


This picture looks North West overlooking the Campbell highway. Target Lake is lower left and the shower is occuring over the South End of Simpson Lake.

Hello Timothy,
I received an e-mail from Herb Daum connecting me to your web site and was able to enjoy the pictures of the flights you made over Cassiar where I spent an "interesting" 12 months back in 1970 during the four years that I spent in Canada. I have never forgotten that wonderful place and particularly the strength of the people and their ability to survive in an environment which most people have never experienced or could even imagine! Thank you for sharing these pictures. However I have another reason for this unrequested contact and this is from my wife, Heather who is studying for a teaching certificate and one of her projects is the history of flying. She has at this moment gone off to a local naval air station to research their archives. I hope you are able to provide some information for her but would add that she has to hand her project in for marking by Wednesday this coming week, so time is short and I appreciate you are a busy person but would be grateful if you can spare a few moments. I will end my e-mail here and hand over to Heather, many thanks,
Stuart Briggs
# I am currently studying for a Certificate in Education at Exeter University/Yeovil College in the west of England and studying the curriculum into the Private Pilots License and Joint Aviation Authorities to see why and how it has come into being, the influences that make people take it up etc..
It would be wonderful to have your comments to see how and why you started flying. What were the necessary qualifications needed, the continual updates to fly and the costs involved. The influences and restrictions that you have occurred that will give me a comparison to our systems in England. heatherbriggs@btinternet.com many thanks for any help or advise you can provide,
Heather Briggs

Thanks, Tim. I browsed some of your many articles on planes. I am not a pilot, but while exploring the Cassiar area for minerals, we chartered Beavers and Cessna 185s, sometimes a Supercub, almost weekly in the summer season from B.C. - Yukon Airways for 16 years, in 1960s and 1970s. One summer, my assistant and I flew almost 25000 miles on various trips. We set out 2-man prospecting parties, with packdogs, on various lakes in northern BC and southern Yukon and supplied them by air every 2 weeks. In 1961 Sheldon Luck came out of retirement and flew out of Watson. On one trip we flew into Chuckachida Lake, about 150 miles south of Cassiar. It was rather small for a Beaver, so on the return flight we taxied as far downwind as we could and while turning around, the pontoons stuck in the mud of the lake bottom. Sheldon got out of the plane into the water up to his waste, pushed it into deeper water, then got in, soaking wet and took off. He was a wonderful pilot -- flying a Beaver was sort of recreation for him!

Before Cassiar, as a geologist examining deposits out of Vancouver, I flew in a Canso out of Sandspit on the Queen Charlottes to Prince Rupert. It was interesting taking off on wheels and landing in the ocean, with the waves just outside of the window seat.

We also used Beavers on wheel-skis off the ice of Good Hope Lake north of Cassiar when staking claims with snowshoes in the winter, when we had to watch out for "overflow" and sometimes cut spruce branches and make a pad for the plane to run up onto so the skis did not freeze onto the snow. Many interesting adventures related to flying. I enjoyed it all, especially in retrospect.
Bill Plumb

The early bush flyers were pioneers. By my time, flying was still rather primitive, without
GIS and cell phones. We depended a lot on the experience and expertise of the pilots. There are a lot of small lakes in that country, as you know, and the pilots had to circle each one and see which way the wind was coming from before landing. BC-Yukon had an excellent pilot called Bob Harrison who flew us a lot. Theywould sometimes tell us " we can land on that one, but you had better hike to that nearby lake for pickup" -- sometimes a ten mile walk. We loved the Beaver. It was a bit overpowered, so we could often take a bigger load because he had used up some of his gas getting to us. They also used 10-gal gas cans and set out caches on certain lakes for emergencies, although sometimes the bears got into them.

Re overflow: We flew a crew into Letain Lake about 80 miles east of Dease Lake and while unloading the Beaver it iced in. Bob tied a rope to the tail and about six of us on the ground pulled on the rope alternately right and left as Bob used full power and finally we freed it, so he took off and flew back to Watson with the rope trailing behind. We. course, on the ground were nearly bowled over with the backlash from the prop. Ingenuity was needed all the time.

Bill Plumb

I just had to write to you and thank you for sharing those pictures of Cassiar. I lived there when I was a teenager in 1959-1964. I know exactly what you mean about the days being rather "short". To look at those pictures and see how we were totally surrounded by mountains made me realize how vunerable we were! I felt rather protected by those glorious mountains. I remember beautiful starlit evenings and the silence. It was a wonderfull content feeling. Especially at Christmas time. Those were wonderful years for me.

I thank you for bringing them to our attention. To me, looking at those pictures was a precious gift of beautiful memories.

Eileen Babcock (Orr)

I have just logged on to your website having been referred by Herb Daum, who runs the Cassiar website. I just love the photos and they bring back wonderful memories for me. I was a resident of Cassiar from 1977 to it's closure in 1992. It was always the country that kept me there and your photos stir the longing to return. I will bookmark your website and return when I need to be uplifted by the scenery once again.

Best wishes and many thanks for your wonderful images.

Christine Ball

Below is a QuickTime panorama of Watson Lake as it appeared in the mid 80s looking across the Alaskan highway at the townsite from the South