Welcome to Fort St. James, the gateway to a chain of rivers and lakes that traverse 400 km of Central British Columbia. This small town has something to enjoy for everyone, from their National Historic Sites, Salmon Cook-Offs, breathtaking scenery and much more!
Year round outdoor and indoor opportunities include hiking and biking trails, soccer and ball parks, golf, fishing, hunting, water-skiing, canoeing, swimming, sailing and boating, alpine and Nordic skiing, skating, hockey, curling, snowmobiling, dog sledding and camping. Cultural opportunities include a Public Library, the Community Arts Council, an amateur theatre company and a movie theatre. The Fort St. James National Historic Site, the ancient burial site of Carrier Chief Kwah, Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church, and the monument to legendary bush pilot Russ Baker are of great interest to residents and visitors alike.
Take your time to explore the fort, and don’t forget your camera! Stop at the modern Visitor Reception Centre, watch a video and stroll through the interpretative displays. Rent a 45-minute audio tape tour and step back in time to the days of the fur trade. Fort St. James National Historic Park, where original log buildings have been restored and furnished in the style of the late 1890s, interpretive and interactive exhibits are on display. 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 First Nations people. Travel back to 1896 when wealth was measured in fur pelts and salmon, the natural bounty bartered by the Carrier First Nations and European fur traders at Fort St. James. Tour Canada’s largest collection of wooden buildings faithfully restored to the fur trade era. Spend the night in the historic Murray house warmed by a wood stove and memories of the family who lived here more than a century ago.
Be sure to visit the gift shop and relax at the Old Fort Café for lunch with a lovely view of the lake. Enjoy fishing, swimming, hiking, canoeing and spectacular waterfront camping on nearby lakes and rivers. Join the ‘Ghost Walk‘, a special Parks Day event on the third Saturday in July.
Want to bet on the races? Now these aren’t the kind of races you’d expect, Fort St James is home to World Class CHICKEN Races! People from all walks of life are wrapped up in the emotion and pure, unadulterated fun of the event, as locals and tourists alike gather for a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is something incredibly unique about witnessing five birds race down a runway. Chicken racing offers something unique to the community, while also giving Fort St. James their own kind of small-town flare. It most certainly should be celebrated.
Maybe you are interested in aviation history? A ⅓ scale model of a Junkers W 34 plane awaits you in Cottonwood Park. This type of plane was designed and built in Germany around and after World War I, and was used locally in the late 1940s, when Fort St. James become an important float plane base, providing service to mining and forestry operations as well as trapping and hunting interests to the north. Aviation buffs can also head to the Russ Baker Memorial. On a secluded bluff with a spectacular view over Stuart Lake, this memorial to the legendary pilot is a great place for a peaceful retreat. It was erected in honour of Frank Russell “Russ” Baker, one of the first bush pilots in the Fort St. James area. After World War II, Baker started Central BC Airways, which later became part of Pacific Western Airlines, which eventually merged with Canadian Airlines.
Always entertaining, the Music Makers of Fort St. James are an amateur theatre company that presents several shows each year at the Music Makers Hall. Be sure to check out the Fort St. James Farmers’ Market. The market is open on Friday afternoons, May through September. You can purchase produce, baking and crafts produced by local and regional farmers and artisans. You can also enjoy the local craft fair held each November at Fort St. James Secondary School has dozens of artisans and vendors showcasing their wares. It’s a great place to start your Christmas shopping and support local and regional talent.
Want to get out of town for a bit of nature exploration? Be sure to visit Paarens Beach Provincial Park. An endless choice of activities takes you away from the rush of modern living. Enjoy swimming, camping and canoeing. There are 800 metres of natural sandy beach fishing is centred around Stuart Lake, a trout angler’s paradise. Beware of high winds on this vast lake. There are many smaller lakes within an hour drive of Fort St. James holding rainbow, whitefish, char, or kokanee. Undoubtedly the most popular hiking destination in the area is Mount Pope. From the 1472 metre summit the panoramic view of Fort St. James, Stuart Lake, and the snow-capped Omineca Mountains to the north is unbeatable. The original trail was first established by the Carrier Indians. The local band would keep sentries on the mountain to watch the north end of Stuart Lake for war parties coming down from Babine Lake. According to Carrier legend a tribe of little people once lived in the mountain. After killing them all off in a war, the Carrier would offer gifts of salmon to the ghosts of the little people to ensure abundant salmon runs would continue. Another interesting hike in the Fort St. James area is the Tulle Lake trail network featuring 15 kilometres of interconnecting trail to three lakes with good fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. For the extremely energetic hiker with extra time to spend the historic Nautley/Sowchea Pack Trail intersects the Tulle Lake trail system – 45km.
- To this day raising and lowering the red ensign of the Hudson’s Bay Company occurs daily at Fort St. James. Adopted around 1818 as a symbol of the Company, its forts, ships and personnel, the ensign is made up of the British Union Jack on a red field with the letters HBC, for Hudson’s Bay Company.