Posted by: cherylyoung | December 15, 2012

Fort St. James was originally established in 1806

Fort St. James was originally established by the explorer

Simon Fraser for the North West Company in 1806.

Goods from eastern Canada and Europe were brought

to Fort St. James for distribution  through the fort

to outposts in the surrounding area.

The fort was the social and economic heart of the

fur-trade district, known as New Caledonia, and was

the main contact point between fur traders and the

Carrier Indians, with furs gathered here being shipped

to the European market.

Fort St. James has been restored as a National Historic

Site, with town buildings dating back to the 1880s.

Fort St. James displays the largest group of original

wooden buildings representing the fur trade in Canada.

Site visitors have the same spectacular view of Stuart

Lake that the Carrier Indians and the fur traders

knew so well.

Not that they all saw this view the same way:

while this was ‘home’ to the Carrier people, to the

fur traders it was ‘wilderness’.

Hardships, adventures, challenges and changes

are all part of the story of this place.

Today, mining, forestry, and a growing tourism

industry all play an active role in the economy of the

local Fort St James community.

Year-round outdoor and indoor recreational

opportunities include camping, hiking and biking trails,

ballparks, golf, fishing, waterskiing,  canoeing,

swimming, sailing and boating, alpine and nordic skiing,

skating, hockey, curling, snowmobiling, and  dog


The region is rich in wildlife, one of the last great

wilderness and resource industry frontiers in

the world.

This spectacular part of Canada is sparsely

populated yet accessible;  rural and wild, yet well

serviced and close to big city amenities.

The weather is characterized by snowy winters and

warm summers.

Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church, built in 1873,

is one of  the oldest remaining churches in British

Columbia, located on Lakeshore Drive overlooking

Stuart Lake.

Situated behind the church is the cabin in which

Father Morice printed the Carrier Prayer Books and


Aviation history buffs can head to the Russ Baker

Memorial,  a monument erected in memory of

legendary bush pilot Frank  ”Russ” Baker, one of the

first bush pilots in the area, and founder  of Canada’s

two major airlines.

Also worth a visit is the one-third model of the

German Junkers W34 Float Plane at Cottonwood Park.

This plane was very popular in the Second World War,

and was also used by bush pilots in Fort St. James.

The ancient burial site of Chief Kwah, one of the

greatest chiefs  known to Carrier Indians, is located

near the Stuart River.

The grave site was selected by the Carrier Chief prior

to his death.

To get there, take the first right after the Necoslie

River bridge, the first bridge when leaving town.

Twenty one sites of Indian Pictographs are located on

the north shore of Stuart Lake, bet ween Fort St. James

and Pinchi Bay, by Honeymoon Island.

These Native rock paintings on the cliffs of Stuart

Lake date back to the nineteenth century, and depict

animals, fish, birds and symbols  showing guardian

spirits and images received in dreams.

Guides and boat rentals can be arranged.

The history of the fur trade lives on at the Fort

St. James National Historic Site on Kwah Road, where

interpretive and interactive exhibits are on display,

and original log buildings have been restored and

furnished in the style of the late 1890s.

Park staff in period costumes spin stories of old and

carry on life much as it was in the late nineteenth


Listen closely for the phantom whispers of days

gone by, and relive the colourful past of trappers,

traders and Native people.

Come with us on a Tour of Fort St. James, and

Share the Wonder.

Tom Creek Steam Shovel has been preserved as a

tribute to the pioneer families who contributed to the

growth and development of the region during the

first half of the twentieth century.

The shovel was brought to the area in the mid 1930s

by Thomas A. Kelley.

It traveled under its own steam to Fort St. James,

then “Grandpa”  David Hoy barged it to Takla Landing

for it’s final 19 miles to Tom Creek.

Limestone T-Caves are located about 8 kilometres

up the eastern side of Stuart Lake, reached by following

the shoreline by canoe or boat from Cottonwood Park.

About 800 metres from the last house you can hike

the steep trail to the interesting T-shaped caves and

enjoy the beautiful view.

Expect about a 1 to 1-1/2 hour easy paddle on a

calm day, and a 15 to 25-minute hike to the caves.

Watch the kokanee running at the Tsilcoh River from

mid to late August, and take in the excellent view at

Tsilcoh Falls.

Located thirty kilometres from town on Pinchi Road,

these natural falls are something to see.

The road is accessible by car, and there is a campsite

for day and overnight use.

Closer to town are the smaller Pinchi Falls.Stuart Lake

is a paradise for boaters, and there are several marinas

and boat launches to help you enjoy it.

Cottonwood Marina, Pitka Bay Resort, Paarens Beach

Provincial Park and Sowchea Bay Provincial Park

(park links below) all provide access to this fabulous lake.

Stuart Lake is 66 km long, 10 km wide, and relatively

shallow, with an average depth of 26 metres.

In winter, frozen Stuart Lake offers snowmobiling,

ice fishing, ice sailing, and dog sledding.

The Stuart River was the exploration route of Simon

Fraser and the travel route of the New Caledonia fur

trade canoe brigades.

Paddlewheelers plied the rivers (circa 1900) to

supply Fort St James and other fur trading outposts.

Today, riverboats guide visitors along the river from

Fort St James or from the Sturgeon Point Road.

Follow Sowchea Road for 11 km to

Paarens Beach Provincial Park, which offers vehicle/tent

campsites, picnic tables, firepits and a great view

of Stuart Lake.

Most parks in this region don’t officially open until

late May, once the snow has melted and the ice is

gone from the lakes.

Sowchea Bay Provincial Recreation Area, 5 km west of

Paarens Beach, provides vehicle/tent camping spots,

picnic tables and firepits on Stuart Lake.

The park is the trailhead for the 5-km Antimony

Mine Trail, which  leads to an old antimony mine

where old buildings and mining sites can be explored.

Be cautious, as the structures are old and could


Hikers will have a tough time choosing which hiking

trails to do first … and next. Closest to town is the

2-km Dickinson Hiking Trail, with other trails including

the Antimony Mine Trail from Sowchea Bay Park,

the 5-km Mount Pope Hiking Trail to the magnificent

views from the old forestry lookout, and a recommended

fishing and camping hike along the Tulle and

Marie Lake Trail.

Fort St. James has discovered that mountain biking

is a big part of outdoor recreation.

Don’t expect to find ripping sidetrack just yet, but for

the fat-tire tourist, there are a number of pleasing day

rides, like the 6 to 7-hour Tezzeron Lake Return, and

a couple of extended trips, including  The Great

Northern Circuit, a 6 to 7-day journey along northern

logging roads.

Other multiday trips include the Fraser Lake Circuit

and the Great Beaver Lake Circumnavigation.

A ride that should have any true bikepacker drooling

is the Spatsizi Overlander Adventure Ride, an amazingly

lengthy ride from Fort.

St. James to southeast Alaska.

This informal trail is the ride to end all rides, and there

is no estimate of the time it will take you.

Drop a postcard in the mail in Fort St. James,

addressed to yourself in Telegraph Creek

(at the northern tip of Edziza Park), and try to

beat it there.

Paddlers can challenge the 4 lakes and rivers that

comprise the  Nation Lake Chain.

After a three-hour drive up the Leo Creek Road, the

adventure starts with a launch at Tsayta Lake.

Forestry campsites are dotted along Indata Lake

Tchentlo Lake, and Chuchi Lake at the end of the

canoe trip, a 90-minute drive back to Fort St. James.

Arrange a pick-up and drop-off, or take a guided

7 to 10 day trip  out of Fort St. James.

Other paddling trips ranging from 1 day to 10 days

offer great times in wonderfully scenic surroundings

along the Omineca and Stuart Rivers, on Takla and

Tezzeron Lakes, and on various other area lakes and rivers.

Murray Ridge Ski Hill, north of Fort St. James, offers

downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Located 5 kilometres up Tachie Road, the ski

area contains 20 miles of runs, accessible by

a T-bar lift, and well-groomed cross-country ski trails.

Skiing and Winter Recreation in the North West.

Fishing: Stuart Lake contains some of the finest

rainbow trout fishing available, with rainbow in the

8 to 15-pound range quite common.

Other species include char or lake trout, and burbot

for the ambitious.

Golf: The public 9-hole golf facility at Stuart Lake Golf

Course offers spectacular views of Stuart Lake.

Open seasonally from April to September.

Rockhounds can find various deposits of Gold Placer,

Jade,  Rhodonite, Jasper and Agate in the area, or

try gold panning in  Rainbow, Manson, Sowchea, Dog,

or Silver Creeks.

The Cottonwood Music Festival held every July in

Cottonwood Park on Stuart Lake features bluegrass,

old-time country, classic rock, Celtic, Metis, and folk

music. On-site camping is available on the lake shore.

Together with Vanderhoof, 60 km to the south of

Fort St. James,

and Fraser Lake, another 60 km to the west of


Fort St. James is part of what is known locally as the

Tri-cities of the Stuart Nechako.

Fort St. James is located off the

Yellowhead Highway 16.






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