Ootsa Lake Odyssey

George and Else Seel: A Pioneer Life on the Headwaters of the Nechako Watershed

By Jay Sherwood

Categories: Biography, BC History
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781987915211, 224 pages, November 2016


From the 1920s to 1952, George and Else Seel lived about sixty kilometres south of Burns Lake near the small farming settlement of Wistaria on the western shore of Ootsa Lake. Like many early twentieth century settlers who migrated to BC's Central Interior, the Seels came in search of opportunity and prosperity, but the harsh environment posed challenges they could not have imagined. The community was remote and the winters were long, but eventually, along with their fellow settlers, they learned how to live and thrive in this new world. They developed a close connection to the land; helped each other in times of need; and established collaborative relationships with the First Nations people who lived around them.

The couple and their family lived at Ootsa Lake through the prosperity of the late 1920s; subsisted during the Depression of the 1930s; and experienced a rejuvenation during World War II and its aftermath. George died in 1950, but Else remained until 1952, when their property was flooded by the Nechako Reservoir as part of the Alcan project and she was uprooted, like many of the Ootsa Lake settlers and Cheslatta First Nations people.

George had spent his life as a prospector and trapper and Else as a published writer. Together they documented a rich story of pioneer life in a small Northern BC community before the demand for hydro power changed their life and the valley forever.


  • Runner-up, BC Genealogical Society Family History Book Award 2017
  • Winner, Jeanne Clarke History Award 2018


Ootsa Lake Odyssey is a welcome story for readers interested in the history of settlement and working lives in the Nechako watershed, in German immigration to B.C., and in the destruction caused by post-war hydroelectric construction in W.A.C. Bennett era.”

— Sage Birchwater, The Ormsby Review