The Liard River was the focus of a potential BC Hydro development for many years. In 1992, this section of the Liard was identified as an Area of Interest (AOI) to the Protected Areas Strategy, and was subsequently officially included in 1995 as the Grayling-Liard River AOI. The Fort Nelson Land and Resource Management Plan later established protected status for this area in 1997.
The Liard River Corridor overlaps with traditional use territories of the Kaska Dene First Nations of McDonald River, Fireside and Lower Post; and the Slavey Cree and Beaver Cultures of Fort Liard and Fort Nelson First Nations. Moose was a mainstay of the Indigenous people and they historically utilized the river corridors. Moose continues to be important to Indigenous people.
Liard River Corridor Park encompasses the river valley and uplands to the height-of-land on both the north and south sides of the river from the Liard River Hotsprings to as far east as Scatter River Old Growth Park. The Liard River forms the southern boundary of the Mackenzie Mountains, separating the lower heights of the Liard Plateau from the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains to the south. The river descends about 150 m in elevation from west to east within the park.
The park provides representation of the Hyland Highland, Muskwa Foothills and the Muskwa Plateau ecosections. An extensive high upland plateau characterizes the Hyland Highland. Lower in elevation, the Muskwa Plateau is dominated by boreal mixed wood forests and intermittent areas of muskeg. Subdued mountains isolated by wide valleys typify the Muskwa Foothills.
Elevational gradients in the park vary from 1000 m to 1300 m along the river bottom to 2500 m to 3500 m along the height-of-land. The Liard River Corridor includes the Grand Canyon of the Liard, a 30 km stretch of river with dangerous rapids that includes the Rapids of the Drowned and Hell’s Gates Rapids.
The entire area of the park was covered with ice during the last ice age and present landscape is a product of those glacial processes. Fossilized ammonites up to 30 cm in diameter have been found in several creeks that flow into the Liard River.
Important tributaries of the Liard River within the park include the Deer, Grayling, Toad and Scatter Rivers; and Canyon, Moule, Sulphur, Brimstone, Crusty, Graybank and Chimney Creeks. Several smaller lakes, including Norquist and Aline Lakes, can be found in the lowlands north of the Grand Canyon of the Liard.
Ranges in elevation between valley bottom to mountain peaks support three biogeoclimatic zones within the Liard River Corridor Park. The Boreal White and Black Spruce zone dominates and is found along the entire Liard valley, as well as its tributaries. Old-growth white spruce forests are found in alluvial areas along the bottom of the Liard River. The western half of this zone experiences drier and colder weather and as a result, forest stands are predominately composed of white spruce and lodgepole pine; soopolallie, bunchberry, bastard toadflax are common understory species. In contrast, the moist, warm climate of the eastern half supports forests stands of white spruce and aspen with understory vegetation of highbush cranberry, rose, twinflower and bunchberry. The Spruce-Willow-Birch and the Alpine Tundra zones are found in small, isolated patches at the height-of-land on both the north and south sides of the Liard River.
The park is home to a diverse variety of wildlife species. The most unique species found in the park is a free-ranging herd of wood bison, which inhabit the forested areas in the western portion north of the Liard River. The park is also home to moose, grizzly bear, Rocky Mountain elk, fur-bearers, and northern long-eared bats.
Fishery values along the Liard River are high. Twelve species of fish have been identified, including the only known anadromous salmonid (chum salmon) in northern B.C. Sport fish species include Arctic grayling, chum salmon, bull trout, inconnu, lake whitefish, mountain whitefish, northern pike and burbot. Other non-game fish consist of the long nose sucker, lake chub, flat head chub, slimy sculpin, white sucker, round whitefish and the long nose dace.