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Fort St. James National Historic Site of Canada

Driving Tours to Fort St. James National Historic Site

Driving Tours in Fort St. James National Historic Site

ROUTE: Be sure to plan your travels involving resources from Tourism BC and check your driving plans by consulting www.drivesafebc.com before you go.


Follow The Fur Trade Trails

A Recommended One day trip from Prince George, British-Columbia

Fort St. James was the economic and administrative capital of New Caledonia (Northern BC) for more than100 years before the arrival of the railway into the region. The community and its historic site are the beating heart of Fur Trade history in the region. Combining a day’s outing to the Parks Canada historic site and a stop off in Vanderhoof along the way gives a good picture of major historical influences on the evolution of our city as it is today.

Stuart Lake 
Stuart Lake 
© Parks Canada
  • 8:00 AM Begin the day in Prince George, find highway 16 and drive west for 90km to beautiful Vanderhoof, BC.

  • At Vanderhoof, stop at the Vanderhoof Community Museum and explore their unique heritage village. Stop at the OK Cafe (one of Northern BC’s best kept secrets!) Or take a tour and learn about early settlement history and the many intriguing stories of Vanderhoof’s past.

  • Leave Vanderhoof and drive west to Highway 27. Turn north and drive 50km to Fort St. James, BC.

  • Driving to Fort St. James, cross the mighty Nechako River; earliest of waterways in support of the fur trade and home to the highly endangered Nechako White sturgeon.

  • Entering Fort St. James 40min later, you cross the Stuart River, a provincial heritage river. Follow Parks Canada signs to get to the national historic site.
     
  • Stop and visit Fort St. James National Historic Site, a fully restored 1896 fur trade post. Special events, interpretive programs, a great cafe and full service visitor centre welcome you. Stay the night in their period bed and breakfast or spend a few hours taking part in a program, baking an apple pie or relaxing by the incredible view of Stuart Lake and Mount Pope Provincial Park. Open 9am-5pm daily.

  • When you’re finished with your visit to Fort St. James, extend your stay by walking the new Ripples of the Past Interpretive walk along Stuart Lake and see stories of bush pilots, ancient chiefs and more. (2hours or 2km return).

OPTIONS:
Nice weather and too nice to return to Prince George right away? Stop in Vanderhoof and visit Riverside Park for a stroll along the Nechako River or a visit to their excellent bird watching tower.
Berman Lake Regional Park: Half way from Vanderhoof back to Prince George, stop by this beautiful secret park for a dip in a cool kettle lake, left from ancient glaciers or take a walk on several looping hiking trails for a close up look at sub-boreal forest. Use Norman Lake Rd intersection to access. 

Printable version in PDF "Follow The Fur Trade Trails" - 152 Kb

Retracing Simon Fraser’s Steps

A Recommended Driving tour from Fort Langley National Historic Site to Fort St. James National Historic Site
 
Visitors to Fort St. James National Historic Site will be pleased to learn about another spectacular Fur Trade site protected by Parks Canada. Why not explore British Columbia’s incredible past by retracing the route that Simon Fraser would have used to journey Fort St. James to the Pacific Coast in 1808 during his voyage of discovery. We recommend taking three days to drive and explore all of the spectacular features along the way. When driving from Fort Langley (or anywhere in the Lower Mainland) to Fort St. James, be sure to try the following itinerary and explore along the way. 

Journey on Hwy 1, Trans Canada Highway from the Lower Mainland up the Fraser Canyon. Follow the Cariboo Highway (Hwy 97) north from Cache Creek, BC to eventually arrive in Prince George, BC. Heading west for 90km on Hwy 16 will take you to Vanderhoof, BC. From there, a 50km drive north on Hwy 27 will finally bring you to Fort St. James and the National Historic Site.

DAY ONE

Congratulations on visiting Fort Langley the other day!! You are now embarking on a journey which fur brigades and adventurers used for close to two hundred years to connect the capital of New Caledonia in Fort St. James with outside markets around the world via the Pacific Coast. This driving tour is a recommended journey from Fort Langley to Fort St. James and is a suggestion only on how to comprise your trip.

Caribou goldfields, British Columbia 
Cariboo Chilcotin countryside 
© Parks Canada

Drive from Fort Langley along the spectacular Fraser Valley Highway to Hope, BC. Head north through the churning Fraser Canyon that kept fur brigades at bay, created major headaches for gold seekers heading northwards to the Cariboo goldfields and is home to two incredible engineering marvels of railway construction. As you drive north, the twisting highway follows the route of the old Cariboo Wagon Road, which linked destinations in the vicinity of Fort Langley with Barkerville, BC.

For day one, you’ll want to think about overnighting somewhere in the Cariboo Country. Clinton, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake all offer fun, affordable and quality accommodation from hotels to beautiful campgrounds.

Possible stops along the way could include:

  • Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park: spectacular suspension bridge remaining from the wagon road era.

  • Hell’s Gate Airtram: a firsthand experience over the formidable rapids that took many a life in the early to mid 1800s’ and led to the un-navigable reputation of the Fraser River in this area.

  • Historic Hat Creek Ranch: Delve back into the cowboy ways of Cariboo country and visit this complete working ranch which was amongst the largest in Western Canada.

  • Chasm Provincial Park: a short drive off of the main Hwy 97 leads to this incredible painted chasm formed 10,000 yrs ago in the last ice age.

  • Museum of the Cariboo: Williams Lake hosts a spectacular museum and interpretive centre that tells the story of the area’s cowboy culture unlike any other.

DAY TWO

Barkerville Historic Town 
Barkerville Historic Town 
© Barkerville Historic Town

Driving northwards from the southern Cariboo, you are passing now from arid desert country and the domain of cowboys and ranching into country filled with wild gold rush past and plenty of frontier adventure. Passing through resource based communities like Quesnel and Prince George brings you into contact with the beating heart of BC’s interior and some key links to the past. This drive should include a chance to take several hours off the main route and travel to Barkerville along Hwy 26. This world renowned heritage town is the largest heritage park in Western North America and was at one time the busiest community in interior BC. At the end of day two. Consider staying the night in Barkerville, Wells or Prince George, BC.

Possible stops on day two might include:

  • Quesnel Museum: Classified as one of BC’s very best community museums and archives.

  • Cottonwood House National Historic Site: A roadhouse which served the gold rush era on the Cariboo Wagon Road has been painstakingly restored and is a great place to step out and check out a quaint heritage village. Unique bunk style accommodations are on hand.

  • Wells, BC: this community has a renowned arts and culture scene which is an experience not to be missed. Check for theatre performances nightly, explore the interesting shops and galleries, or drop in for a tasty dinner in one of several excellent restaurants.

  • Barkerville Historic Town: The largest collection of heritage buildings at any heritage park in western North America, Barkerville is definitely a highlight of any vacation in this area. Drop by Barkerville and make sure to get there early in the day; there’s enough to keep you going here for several days of exploration.

DAY THREE

We recommend beginning this day and spending a few hours in Prince George visiting one of three exciting attractions. Prince George is the capital of BC’s north and was originally founded in 1806 as Fort George, a secondary fur trading post from Fort St. James. Though the economic powerhouse of the area today, Prince George’s past is squarely tied to the fur trading past that originates in Fort St. James. Traders brought their goods to and from Fort George via the river highway created by the Stuart and Nechako Rivers. The confluence of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers was an advantageous location to work from, allowing for trade routes to the east, north, south and west to converge easily. Home to the Golden Raven collection of cultural heritage sites, you will want to depart Prince George sometime in the afternoon in order to make the two hour drive to Fort St. James, BC.

Possible stops on day three might include:

  • A visit to one of three Golden Raven cultural sites in Prince George. Visit the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum for an outstanding collection of regional railroading lore, the Exploration Place which houses a great museum and science centre for families, or take a 40min drive north of Prince George and drop in on Huble Homestead for a look at homesteading’s past.
    Exploration Place 
    Exploration Place 
    © Exploration Place

  • Pause at the Vanderhoof Community Museum for a look at settlement history, a collection of Frank Swannell artefacts or for dinner at the locally renowned OK Cafe.

  • Driving north of Vanderhoof, arrive in Fort St. James in the late afternoon and either camp on the shores of Stuart Lake at one of two provincial parks, or stay the night at Fort St. James National Historic Site’s own period bed and breakfast (advance reservations required).

We recommend spending the night in Fort St. James and arriving early to take part in all the interpretive programs, allow time to tour our 7 heritage buildings and to wander the newly created Ripples of the Past Interpretive walk.

RETURN TO FORT LANGLEY
For more information on where in Northern BC to travel, visit www.hellobc.com 

Printable version in PDF "Retracing Simon Fraser’s Steps" - 217 Kb

From the Canadian Rockies

A Recommended One or Two day driving tour from Jasper National Park, Alberta 

DAY ONE

  • 8AM in Jasper National Park and depart, heading west on Trans-Canada Yellowhead Hwy 16, bound for British Columbia.

  • Stop at Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site and wander the short Portal Lake pathway at the top of the Continental Divide. Check out the new interpretive exhibits and viewing decks at this peaceful location. Yellowhead Pass was the former route in which some fur brigades destined for Fort St. James would use in the transport of all important raw leather from the prairies. Important in making moccasins and other tools of the Fur Trade.

  • NOTE: You are crossing into BC and into the Pacific Time Zone. Adjust watches accordingly.

  • Visit Mount Robson Provincial Park and enjoy numerous views of spectacular peaks and valleys. Stop in at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre and take a photo of the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (if you catch it on a clear day, you are exceedingly lucky!).
     
  • Heading west on Hwy 16, bypass the junction with Hwy 5 South, heading towards McBride, BC.

  • McBride, BC has a quaint community museum and Art Gallery which are free of charge and worth a stop if time permits.

  • Ancient Forest 
    Ancient Forest
    © Parks Canada
    Continue west towards Prince George, BC (gas up before departing McBride. No cell phone coverage or service stations for 200km!).
     
  • Stop at the Ancient Forest Day Use area and view a spectacular interior rain forest of epic proportions. Huge cedars will astound visitors in any weather. The best time to see the cedars and wander the 3km pathway is on a rainy day.

OVERNIGHT
Purden Lake Provincial Park: if you are camping (beautiful lake, only 4 hr drive from Jasper, Alberta). Reservations are available through BC Parks. Cabin resort is also located nearby.
Prince George, BC: if you are looking for hotels and motels.

DAY TWO

  • Spend the morning in Prince George, BC and explore the Golden Raven Heritage Attractions in this bustling interior BC city of 80,000. Upcoming host of 2012 Canada Winter Games.

  • After visiting the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum, the Exploration Place or Two Rivers Gallery, head west on Hwy 16 toward Vanderhoof, BC.

  • Approximately 90km west, Vanderhoof BC is a moderate sized community of about 5000 people. An interesting Community Museum and an excellent bird sanctuary on the Nechako River are worth exploring along the way.

Printable version in PDF "From the Canadian Rockies" - 173 Kb 
RV images courtesy of Northern BC Tourism Association


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