Situated in the Fraser Valley near the confluence of the Harrison and Fraser Rivers, the community of Harrison Mills is surrounded by towering mountain peaks, lush forests and salmon-rich rivers. A map dating back to 1846 bears the name Harrison Hot Springs, named in 1828 by Governor Simpson after Benjamin Harrison, a deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1835 to 1839. Although the philanthropic Harrison was never in North America, he served as treasurer of Guy’s Hospital in London for fifty years.
During the Gold Rush of the 1800s, sternwheelers linked small towns like Harrison Mills with the docks downstream at Mission and New Westminster, transporting gold prospectors as they travelled to the goldfields in the interior.
Agricultural, farming and tourism are the mainstays of the Harrison Mills community.
Location: Harrison Mills is located in the Fraser Valley at the junction of the Lougheed Highway 7 and Morris Valley Road, 10 miles (16 km) west of Agassiz, 19 miles (30km) east of Mission, and 65 miles (104 km) east of Vancouver (90 minutes).
Historic Kilby Store & Farm in Harrison Mills is well worth a visit. Kilby’s General Store is the focal point of this Fraser Valley farm, and was once a temperance hotel, built on pilings and linked to the railway station by a ramp to its second storey. Converted to a general store in 1906, the Kilbys installed gravity-fed gas pumps in 1926, when automobiles began to appear at Harrison Mills, and continued serving travellers until 1977.
The Chehalis River Hatchery on Morris Valley Road provides viewing of chum, coho, and chinook salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout. The best viewing times are: Adult chum from October to December; juvenile chum from April to May; coho from October to January; and chinook from from March to May and July to November. Coho salmon can be viewed year round. Spawning sockeye salmon can also be viewed in October at Weaver Creek Spawning Channel on Harrison Bay, 3 km north of the Chehalis River Hatchery. When driving to the Hemlock Valley on the Morris Valley Road, watch for bald eagles and other wildlife.
Eagle Watching: Being situated near the confluence of the Harrison, Chehalis and Fraser Rivers, bald eagles can be viewed in their hundreds between November and February. The eagles feed on the multitude of dead pink, chum, chinook and sockeye salmon that have spawned and completed their life cycle. The eagles can be viewed along Morris Valley Road and from the banks of the Harrison River in Kilby Provincial Park.
Harrison Lake is famous for being the largest lake in southwestern BC, with over 45 miles of beautiful lake settings. The deep blue lake, green mountain slopes, snowcapped peaks and blue sky all combine to paint a picture of nature at its best.
The springs at Harrison Hot Springs form the centrepiece of a luxury hotel resort. The pools at the resort are for hotel guests only, but there is a public pool one block east of the hotel. The large, wonderfully warm public soaking pool has cooled hot spring water pumped into it. The mineral rich hot springs at Harrison were originally used by the Salish Coast Natives who revered them as a “healing place”, arriving by canoe to benefit from their rejuvenating waters. The minerals waters are said to bring relief to sufferers of rheumatism and arthritis through the 8 minerals present in the water, which averages 1,300 parts per million of dissolved mineral solids, one of the highest concentrations of any mineral spring.
Golf: Golfers have two courses to choose from in nearby Bridal Falls; The Falls Golf and Country Club, a dramatic 18-hole, par-71 championship course with panoramic views of the Fraser Valley, Mount Cheam and the Coast Mountain Range, and the attractive 9-hole Mountain Brook Golf Course set in a natural forest at the base of Cheam Mountain. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Hemlock Valley Ski Resort is located 8.5 miles (14 km) north of Hwy 7 from Harrison Bay. This is a small, regional winter recreation destination that is also beginning to develop its trails for summer use by mountain bikes. Because of its low elevation and close proximity to the ocean, Hemlock Valley fares better in some years than others. The depth of its snowpack depends on a pattern of sustained cold weather. Despite Hemlock Valley Ski Area’s low elevation, local skiers and snowboarders make the most of its three chairlifts (one triple, two double), which provide access to its rolling, contoured bowl – when it’s open. The season here runs from December to March.
Fishing: The fishing possibilities around Harrison Mills are endless throughout the year. Five species of salmon return to the Harrison, Chehalis and Fraser Rivers during the fall while spring offers cutthroat trout fishing and winter sees a good winter-run of the famed steelhead. Sturgeon fishing is also popular.
Kilby Provincial Park, located west of Harrison Lake on Harrison Bay, provides camping, with vehicle/tent campsites located just south of Hwy 7 beside the beach. The setting is lovely, but there’s not much privacy between sites. The campsite is operated on a first-come, first-served basis. The beach at Kilby is particularly popular with waterskiers and anglers. Trumpeter swans and a thousand or more bald eagles come here to feast on the annual salmon run in late autumn.
Sasquatch Provincial Park is named after the region’s most famous semi-mythical beast. While keeping your eyes peeled for shaggy hominids, enjoy scenic trails and backwoods hiking in this park, one of the finest (and probably spookiest) in British Columbia. The park touches on four lakes, two of which – Deer and Hicks – are well suited to exploring in small boats. Trout fishing is popular in these two stocked lakes. Paddle to isolated Sandy Beach at Hick’s south end, well worth the journey. Miles of logging and Hydro power roads run through the hills surrounding the two lakes, perfect for a moderately challenging but lengthy mountain bike ride. An easy walking trail loops around Hicks Lake. If you camp at Deer Lake, watch for white-coated mountain goats on the steep-sided slopes of Slollicum Bluffs that rise above the lake’s north side. Early in the morning is the best time to see them as they pick their way along the bluffs.
To the northeast of Harrison Mills, on Highway 9, the resort town of Harrison Hot Springs puts recreation and health at the forefront of living. Beat those hot summer days by swimming, canoeing, sailing and fishing, and if you absolutely need to do something educational, this is one of British Columbia’s richest areas for rockhounding, especially for unearthing some spectacular fossils.
East of Harrison Mills is the picturesque agricultural community of Agassiz. The rural setting of farms and wilderness enhances the community of Agassiz, which strives to maintain its small town values and caring attitude.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.