British Columbia Coast

Howe Sound, along British Columbia's South Coast.

The British Columbia Coast or BC Coast is Canada's western continental coastline on the North Pacific Ocean. The usage is synonymous with the term West Coast of Canada.

In a sense excluding the urban Lower Mainland area adjacent to the Canada–United States border, which is considered "The Coast," the British Columbia Coast refers to one of British Columbia's three main regions, the others being the Lower Mainland and The Interior.

The aerial distance from Victoria on the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Stewart, British Columbia on the Alaska border at the head of the Portland Canal is 965 kilometres (600 mi) in length. However, because of its many deep inlets and complicated island shorelines—and 40,000 islands of varying sizes, including Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii —the total length of the British Columbia Coast is over 25,725 kilometres (15,985 mi), making up about 10% of the Canadian coastline at 243,042 kilometres (151,019 mi).[1][citation needed] The coastline's geography, which is shared with Southeast Alaska and adjoining parts of northwest Washington, is most comparable to that of Norway and its heavily indented coastline of fjords,[2] a landscape also found in southern Chile. The dominant landforms of the BC Coast are the Insular Mountains, comprising most of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, and the Coast Mountains, which extend beyond into Alaska and the Yukon.

The British Columbia Coast is mostly part of the Pacific temperate rain forests ecoregion as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. In the system used by Environment Canada, established by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the area is defined as the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. In the geoclimatic zones system used by the British Columbia Ministry of Forests the bulk of the region comprises the Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone, although small areas flanking the Strait of Georgia at the coast's southern extremity are classed in the Coastal Douglas-fir zone.

Major inlets

The great fjords of the British Columbia Coast rival those of Norway in length and depth but have even higher mountain scenery with a more alpine flavour. Many of the islands offshore are much larger than those along the Norwegian coast, many large enough to have major fjords of their own, as well as their own mountain ranges. This is also of course even more true of the very large islands farther offshore, Vancouver Island and Graham and Moresby Islands in Haida Gwaii, which together form the Insular Mountains, distinct from the Coast Mountains of the mainland.

Here are the most important fjords, inlets, straits and sounds, including those important for reasons other than their size, listed south to north:

The many fjord-like waterways between the coast and the islands, and within the archipelago, cannot be fully listed here, and there are many more others that are not so much fjord-like as flooded valleys between what had been mountain peaks many thousands of years ago, when the shoreline was lower.