Fort Langley National Historic Site of Canada

Natural Heritage

Painting of the Fraser River (1858)
"Fraser's River: View looking down from Ft. Langley"
© BC Archives / pdp000123, 1858

The Fraser River valley lies between the Coastal mountains to the north and the foothills of the Cascade Range to the south.

Fort Langley was built on the south bank of the Fraser River approximately 56 km from the river mouth. The valley narrows rapidly toward the east and eventually becomes a steep-walled canyon.

The Coastal and Cascade Mountains, as well as many interior mountain ranges provided major obstacles to overland transportation, while the numerous canyons and rapids of the Fraser River served as severe impediments to inland transportation by water.

Aerial view of Fort Langley
Aerial view of Fort Langley
© Digital Orthophoto / 1995

Today modern highways such as the Coquihalla speed travellers into the interior on routes first blazed through the mountains by the traders of Fort Langley.

The type of forest that occurs in the Fort Langley area is common to nearly all areas of the south coast of British Columbia and of Vancouver Island. These areas have the highest forest productivity in Canada. The most common trees in this area include Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar. Of the shrubs and herbs, which occur in the vicinity of Fort Langley, the more important of these were bog cranberry, blueberries, mountain cranberries and salal. Of these, the cranberries formed an important branch of trade during the mid-1850's, 725 barrels having been sold in 1855. Today, commercial cranberry bogs are found around Fort Langley.

The traders at Fort Langley had access to a large variety of faunal resources including beaver, black bear, fox and racoon. Today a variety of birds and wildlife can be found in the same areas as domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep, poultry, horses and pigs.

Salmon was both a major food source and component of trade for both Fort Langley and the inland posts. Threespecies of salmon were of major importance: sockeye, coho and spring. The bulk of the salmon runs would have occurred during the fall, the size of the runs varying considerably from year to year. These salmon runs can still be witnessed today and salmon remains a local favourite both fresh and smoked.