British Columbia is the most western province in Canada with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east all developed by resilient people including the first nations who settled here.
The lure of the unknown, gold, silver, forestry and a safe place to retreat to from persecution brought people of many cultures. Looking back at the history of British Columbia it is rich in stories of survival with a strong foundation created by those who made this their home. Listed below are 10 historical sites in British Columbia that represent many of those first settlers in British Columbia.
Fort Steele Heritage Town — The history of Fort Steele is very closely linked to the gold rush in the 1860’s after gold was discovered at Wild Horse Creek. This Provincial Heritage Site has over 60 restored heritage buildings and is filled with hidden treasures so take your time exploring as you step back in time. http://fortsteele.ca
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Center — This center is a national historic site in the community of New Denver in British Columbia’s Kootenay area and dedicated to telling the story of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were forcibly relocated during World War II. The Village of New Denver sits along the shores of Slocan Lake and surrounded by the majestic Selkirk Mountains. Although the population of this community is just 500+ it’s a constant bustling beehive of activity. http://newdenver.ca
SS Moyie — This National Historic Site of Canada is the world’s oldest intact passenger sternwheeler and one of the most significantly preserved vessels in North America. The SS Moyie can be found in the beautiful little town of Kaslo, the oldest incorporated community in the Kootenays. http://klhs.bc.ca
The Last Spike — This railway museum is located in Revelstoke and another satellite museum can be found 30 miles west of town where the actual last spike was driven in to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway. The museum displays the history of the railway and shows visitors how important it was to building Canada as a nation. http://www.seerevelstoke.com
Doukhobor Village — Learn about the Doukhobor culture and their very unique lifestyle while it developed from 1908 to 1938 in this authentic reconstructed communal village in Castlegar. Learn more about the customs of the people and how they lived and while you are there see the petch (bread-baking oven) and the wood-fired banya (sauna) and see their methods of creating crafts and clothing during the last century. http://www.hellobc.com/castlegar.aspx
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre — An interpretive centre constructed into a hillside in Osoyoos with both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Enjoy the interactive learning opportunities while peeking inside a traditional pit house and sweat lodge or look eye-to-eye with a Western Rattlesnake. Bring your camera. http://www.destinationosoyoos.com
Hat Creek Ranch — This ranch was a very important part of the transportation history in British Columbia. This historic site near Cache Creek gives you a very rare chance to explore the original buildings that housed the Gold Rush travelers of the 1860’s. In the historic roadhouse you will find interpreters dressed in period clothing that will take you on a guided tour.
Barkerville — During the gold rush of the 1800’s thousands of prospectors raced to Barkerville in search of gold and many found it. Today, Barkerville is a booming place to visit filled with adventure. The colorful characters from the past will guide you around town, and you can watch a live show in the authentic gold rush theater or even pan for gold yourself. http://www.barkerville.ca
Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historical Site — This was a fortified village occupied in the late 1700s and early 1800s by the Gitwangak First Nation. Near Kitwanga are at least 50 totem poles to see all within an hour drive from town. There’s a map available at the visitor center.
North Pacific Cannery — This completely preserved cannery in Prince Rupert is a national historic site and was in operation for almost 100 years. Set along the river on the Inverness Passage visitors can wander amongst the buildings set on wooden piles and since most of the cannery is intact you will feel what it was like when the cannery was filled with activity. http://www.visitprincerupert.com
British Columbia’s West Coast and Vancouver Island
If by chance you are able to visit the west coast of the province or Vancouver Island the following are links of historical sites worth visiting. There are many more to discover so keep your eyes open.
- McLean Steam Sawmill – Alberni, Vancouver Island
- Emily Carr House – Victoria, Vancouver Island
- Craigdarroch Castle– Victoria, Vancouver Island
- Britannia Mine Museum – North of Vancouver along the west coast
- Vancouver China Town – Vancouver
Campgrounds near the historical sites
- New Denver – http://newdenver.ca/campground-2/
- Revelstoke – http://www.seerevelstoke.com/listings/camping/
- Kaslo – http://www.kaslo.ca/content/kaslo-municipal-campground
- Hat Creek Ranch – http://hatcreekranch.ca/camping/
- Okeefe Ranch – http://okeeferanch.ca/page.php?cont_id=41