The oldest non-native settlement in British Columbia, Fort St. John sits on a plateau north of the Peace River, amongst some of the finest farmland in the province.
Archaeological discoveries show evidence of Paleo Indian occupation of the area around Charlie Lake dating back 10,500 years, making the region the oldest Native settlement site in British Columbia.
The town’s history dates back to Alexander Mackenzie’s arrival in 1793. Construction of the Rocky Mountain Fort by the North West Company commenced the following year, on the first of six sites chosen for the town of Fort St. John. Fur traders, explorers and homesteaders followed, settling into this vast, remote and rugged region. The company’s dominance of the region’s fur trade ended with its amalgamation with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821. Gold was discovered along the banks of the Peace River in 1861.
The laying down of the Alaska Highway, in a record nine months in 1942, brought about great changes in the northern communities of BC. Nearly 2,400 km of gravel roadway was constructed from Dawson Creek to Alaska, providing quicker access for the US military to their northern state during the Second World War.
Incorporated as a city in 1975, Fort St. John is now the largest city on the Alaska Highway, and in Northeastern BC, and is the transportation and service hub for the area. Known as the Energy Capital of BC, Fort St. John is a busy, modern town that popped up with the expansion of the oil and gas industries in this unique prairie region, the only one in British Columbia. Grain and oilseed are important industries in this the most northerly agricultural region in Canada. Forestry and hydroelectric power add to this resource-rich community.
Fishing, excellent year-round sports facilities, and a strong local arts community meet the needs of everyone.
The northern hospitality in Fort St. John and the Peace area is unsurpassed…so come and enjoy!
Location: Fort St. John is located in beautiful Northern British Columbia, 300 miles (478 km) northeast of Prince George (5-hour drive) and 773 miles (1,237 km) north of Vancouver (14-hour drive). Fort St. John is situated near the border with neighbouring Alberta, 134 miles (214 km) west of Grande Prairie, Alberta (2½-hour drive).
The Fort St. John Airport is the gateway to the Peace River Region of British Columbia. Daily flights are available from Western Canada’s 3 major gateways; Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
Journey through history at the North Peace Museum, which features the history of the North Peace area and its early residents. Pioneer exhibits, a trappers cabin with an original fur press, and an Alaska Highway construction exhibit are on display. Antique machinery, another symbol of Fort St. John’s past, is displayed on the museum’s grounds.
On the museum grounds is the tiny Anglican Chapel of the Holy Cross, built in 1934 by Anglican missionary Monica Storrs. The site is recognizable by its 136-foot oil derrick.
The modern North Peace Cultural Centre includes a library, an art gallery, and a 400-seat theatre. The centre offers a variety of shows, from the famous to the showcasing of local talent, live theatre, music and dancing.
Indoor Activities: Head indoors on rainy days to the North Peace Leisure Pool, the finest leisure pool facility in Northeastern BC. Features include a waterslide, wave pool, lap pool, sauna, and a jacuzzi to rejuvenate the soul.
Golf: Golfers can select from exceptional and scenic golf courses in the Fort St. John area. The gentle rolling terrain of the very scenic 18-hole Lakepoint Golf & Country Club makes the course a “must play” when travelling the Alaska Highway (Mile 54). Golfers can also tee off at the public 9-hole facility at the Fort St. John Links Golf Course.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Big Bam Ski Hill is a volunteer-run community ski hill located on the south side of the community of Taylor, south of Fort St. John. Volunteers worked vigorously throughout the summer of 2009 to re-open part of the hill. A new tow-lift is capable of moving over 400 people per hour up the 750-ft tow line to an elevation of 180 feet.
The W.A.C. Bennett Dam is celebrating 40 years! Join them for an exciting underground bus tour of one of the world’s largest earth-filled structures. They will drive right through the canyon wall that will take you to the powerhouse – 500 feet underground! Have fun with hands-on science exhibits and learn how electricity is made. Tours of the underground powerhouse are available (first tour leaves at 10:30am and the last at 4:30pm). Free admission. Fee applies for underground bus tours. Hours: 10am to 6pm daily from May 17 to September 1. Located on Canyon Drive, 21 km west of Hudsons Hope.
Behind the W.A.C. Bennett Dam is Williston Lake, the largest man-made lake in North America, offering excellent fishing and fossil hunting in the surrounding area.
The Peace Canyon Dam site tells the story of the Peace Canyon dating back to the time of the dinosaur. Two life-sized models of the Hadrosaur Dinosaur, fossils, and photos tell this story in the visitor centre. At the time that the Peace Canyon Dam was built their units were the largest in the world! Free Admission. Seasonal Hours: 8am to 4pm daily from May 17 to September 1 – guided tours available. Off-Season Hours: 8am to 4pm weekdays only – self-guided tours only.
Access is available at many points along Highway 29 to the Peace River, offering excellent fishing and canoeing in a picturesque setting. The mighty Peace River can be viewed in all its glory from the lookout point, which offers a breathtaking view of the Peace River Valley. North American’s longest river system, the Mackenzie-Peace River system, flows over 4,200 kilometres from northern BC to the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.
Located in the rolling eastern foothills of the Rockies, on the east side of Charlie Lake, is Beatton Provincial Park . Visitors will find a playground, a boat launch, lakeside campsites, a beach, and picnic tables. Hiking trails in the park double as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing routes in the winter.
Charlie Lake Provincial Park occupies the west side of Charlie Lake, at the junction of Highways 97 and 29. Secluded campsites are set in an aspen forest, with a playground, boat launch, picnic tables, and a sani-station.
Winter Activities: The fun starts when the temperature drops and the snow flies. Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, snowshoeing, and a local invention called skijoring, are all available around Fort St. John. Alpine ski at Powder King Mountain Resort in the Pine Pass, or cross-country ski at Beatton Park and the Fish Creek Community Forest.
More than 200 km of snowmobile trails maintained by the Northland Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club offer excellent snow conditions and great family fun. Take a ride on the Red Creek Trail, starting from the club’s chalet on Charlie Lake. There are two cabins at Tommy Lakes that accommodate 5 to 7 people, and one of the jewels of the backcountry is the Redfern Trail starting at mile 176 on the Alaska Highway. This takes you through breathtaking scenery, with a cabin for overnight stopovers. This wilderness trail offers a mixture of the remote outback, endless trails and alpine powder.
Fishing: Fish for Walleye, northern pike and yellow perch in Charlie Lake, 6 km north of Fort St, John, at the junction of Highways 29 and 97. The lake also offers canoeing, camping and hiking, just off the Alaska Highway. Northern British Columbia enthralls visitors with its beauty, hospitality and vast open wilderness spaces accommodating every outdoor recreation known to man.
Paddling: Spring runoff in June provides an exhilarating challenge for experienced paddlers on the Halfway River. Mile 147 on the Alaska Highway provides the put-in spot, and the take-out is the bridge spanning the river at Highway 29 to Hudson’s Hope.
In January, celebrate winter at the city’s High On Ice Festival. This highly successful event features an ice-carving competition, snow golf, sleigh rides, toboggan races, a curling bonspiel, an ice fishing derby and more.
Don’t miss the North Peace Fall Fair which began in 1929; this annual event is held in August.
Nestled in a scenic valley south of Fort St. John is the community of Taylor. Sitting snugly on a broad plain beside the Peace River at Mile 36 on the Alaska Highway, the peaceful small town is worthy of a stop as you travel the Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway 97 was constructed during World War II and runs from Dawson Creek in British Columbia to Delta Junction in Alaska, via Whitehorse, Yukon. Completed in 1943, the Alaska Highway is unofficially considered part of the Pan-American Highway, which extends south to Argentina.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Circle Tour of Northern British Columbia incorporates the Alaska Highway through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Watson Lake in the Yukon, linking with the Stewart/Cassiar Highway and Yellowhead Highway 16 in the south. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour follow the same route, from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island north by ferry to Prince Rupert. Catch another ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, or venture east on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, and south through the peaceful Cariboo to Vancouver along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.
Trivia: Back in the early 1800s, the trappers and traders in the Fort St. John area learned to depend on one another for meat, furs, guns, wire for snares, traps, etc. They had, in effect, a kind of unwritten contract. When Fort St. John closed in 1823, the dependent trappers reacted by killing five employees and destroying the fort. This led to the closure of all Upper Peace forts, and much starvation ensued. Adapted from British Columbia: Off the Beaten Path by Tricia Timmermans.