Posted by: cherylyoung | February 12, 2013

Hitch up the wagons and polish up those spurs we are off to Fort St. James

 

 
 

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 sledding.

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

newspapers.

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, between 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 Histrioc 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 century.

 

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 collapse.

 

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 Vanderhoof, 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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