BC’s National Historic Sites Offer a Glimpse into the Past: Here are 3 to Explore
British Columbia has a rich and fascinating history and Parks Canada National Historic Sites highlight pieces of this history. BC’s National Historic Sites are spread throughout the province, from East to West and from North to South. Several of the sites are within an easy day trip of the Fraser Valley. Others will require more planning and commitment. All are worth visiting.
Previously, we published a blog that highlighted two National Historic Sites that are easy day trips from Metro Vancouver. Today, we are talking about three National Historic Sites, Ford Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse, Rogers Pass, and Fort St. James, that are spread throughout the province and would make a great part of any summer vacation.
A common thread through many of Canada’s National Historic Sites is the Xplorers Program for the young and young at heart. This program includes a booklet highlighting activities at each site. As children complete the activities, they work their way toward earning a certificate and souvenir. The program is a great way to keep kids engaged and learning, and offers a lot of fun opportunities.
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
As the lone National Historic Site on Vancouver Island, Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse does not disappoint. Fort Rodd Hill is an artillery fort complete with underground bunkers, guardhouses, and gun batteries. Fisgard Lighthouse makes history as the first permanent lighthouse on the west coast of Canada.
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse offer a variety of activities to keep the whole family entertained – from wildlife and bird watching to camping in one of Parks Canada’s oTENTik tents. There are also special events happening all summer, including a two-day event all about women on the home front and Victoria’s largest squirt gun battle!
Victoria has tons of other things to see while you are in the area. Consider stopping for a delicious fish and chips lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish in the Inner Harbour or taking a tour of the BC Parliament Buildings. If you head further west, stop for a walk at Witty’s Lagoon in Metchosin or a swim at the Sooke Potholes.
Rogers Pass National Historic Site
Rogers Pass National Historic Site can be found within Glacier National Park, making it the perfect weekend getaway. The Rogers Pass Discovery Centre is a replica railway showshed that tells the history of the immense difficulties in navigating Rogers Pass. This is the centrepiece of the National Historic Site, and the only portion of Glacier National Park that is open year-round.
Rogers Pass is crucial in Canadian history. It was through this area that the Canadian Pacific Railway linked British Columbia with the rest of Canada, bringing Sir John A. Macdonald’s promise of a railway from coast to coast to fruition. Running a railway through such rugged terrain was extremely difficult – especially due to the enormous amounts of snow Rogers Pass receives each year and the extreme avalanche danger. After only 30 years of operation, the Canadian Pacific Railway abandoned the Rogers Pass route and opted to build a 9-kilometre long tunnel through Mount Macdonald, alleviating some of the dangers associated with the railway. Today you can step back in time at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre and see just how difficult early navigation was in British Columbia.
Plan your visit for the summer to make the most of Glacier National Park. In the winter, the park is inaccessible to all but the most experienced backcountry travellers. In the summer, however, Glacier National Park offers excellent hiking. Check out the Loop Brook trail for an easy walk along the old railway route. The trail passes by huge stone pillars that in a previous life suspended the railway above the valley floor.
Fort St. James National Historic Site
For a more northern experience, Fort St. James National Historic Site takes you back to the fur trade days of 1896. Each of the fort’s restored wooden buildings houses a unique display. At the Fur Warehouse, you can see and feel the pelts that made the fur trade profitable. At the Trade Store, you can trade one of your pelts in for the goods you need to survive. Personally, my favourite experience was the Officers’ House, where you can pop into the yard to take part in the Chicken Races!
One of the experiences unique to Fort St. James is the ability to stay overnight in the fort. Spending the night at the Murray House gives you the opportunity to live like it was 1896. From dinner at the Old Fort Café to a moonlight exploration of the fort, spending the night in this restored heritage building is an experience like none other.
In the area, consider stretching both your lungs and your legs on the Mt. Pope hiking trail located within the Mount Pope Provincial Park to get unbeatable views of Stuart Lake. When you get back, stop for a well-deserved ice cream cone at Little Jimmy Fry’s.
BC has some of the best National Historic Sites in the country. Our diversity of mountain and ocean sites guarantees that you will find something to suit your interests – all while learning about BC’s fascinating history.
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
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Published: June 22nd, 2017
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