Chasing the Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Fort Nelson

Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in all of British Columbia, Fort Nelson and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality are home to some of the most dazzling night skies in the entire province.

Given its advantageous location situated at the 58th parallel, our region is nestled perfectly below the ‘Aurora Oval’ and beneath the pathway of the northern lights from early August until the middle of May.

Equally as important when it comes to viewing the northern lights, northeastern British Columbia is blessed with very little-to-no light pollution given how remote this part of the world is. Add in the fact that we experience some of the clearest night skies and dry weather in Canada, it all adds up to a tremendous opportunity to view the spectacle that is the Aurora Borealis.

Muskwa River

Advancements in technology have made it a little easier to track Aurora Borealis activity over the years. Web based space weather sites such as https://www.swpc.noaa.gov from the National Weather Service provide good baseline data to help track activity on any given night.

With that being said, the aurora borealis remain unpredictable in nature, and can ‘flare up’ at any given moment.

Along with being well prepared to venture out in the cold winter night, here are a few more tips to help increase your chances to view the northern lights around the Northern Rockies Region:

1 – Head north. Find a place with good expansive views to the northeast. The lights will often be in first view to the north east, and will sweep across the sky in a westerly fashion as the night progresses.

2 – Get out of town. The light given off by the glow of the sleeping town will hinder your ability to view the aurora borealis due to what is known as “light pollution”. Find a place away from town where the skies are pitch black. Try Parker Lake, or take a drive out along McConnachie Road north of Fort Nelson. Muncho Lake, Stone Mountain, and Liard Hotsprings Provincial Parks are also fair game.

3 – Put in the time. Aurora chasing is just that – A chase. There will be moments where one might become discouraged due to inactivity, but the key is to stay persistent. They usually ignite in unsuspecting fashion, so try to stay active and ready. Peak activity often occurs just before or after the midnight hour.

Once a person views the northern lights for the first time, it can be a very surreal experience. At their peak, they can illuminate the entire sky, as they whip and dance overhead, leaving people in a state of astonishment.

An experience unlike any other – It is easy to understand why so many travel across the world to view them here in northern Canada.

-TNR

Ryan Dickie

winterhawkimages@gmail.com

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