Gateway to the North

Found at the junction of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers, 91 kilometres (56.5 miles) east of the geographical centre of BC, is the city of Prince George. With a population of approximately 78,000 Prince George is 786km (488 miles) northeast of Vancouver on Hwy 97 and nearly midway between Jasper, on the BC/Alberta border, and Prince Rupert, on BC's West Coast, on Hwy 16 (the Yellowhead Hwy).

Native peoples have used the land where the rivers meet for hundreds of years while the first Europeans arrived in 1793. Canoeing south on the Fraser River Alexander Mackenzie did not notice the outpouring of the Nechako River due to an early morning mist but in 1807 Simon Fraser did. Fraser established a tiny outpost and wintered there before continuing his famous voyage down the river now named for him. Prince George began to prosper in 1914 when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad (to Prince Rupert) was completed. The growth was halted abruptly with the start of the First World War.

1952 brought both the John Hart Highway, connecting Prince George with Dawson Creek, and the extension of the Pacific Great Eastern (now BC Rail) from Quesnel. The $80,000,000 Prince George Pulp and Paper was completed in 1964 and Northwood Pulp and Timber and then Intercontinental Pulp followed this. From 1961 to 1971 Prince George's population soared from 14,000 to 50,000 and today Prince George is BC's fourth largest city outside of Greater Vancouver.

Prince George now offers a diverse mix of educational, recreational, cultural, and entertainment attractions along with its government, service, distribution, and transportation functions. Opened in 1994, the University of Northern BC has attracted many people with new visions and talents to the city. Western Canada's newest multi-purpose facility, the 1880 seat Prince George Civic Centre Complex, has helped to revitalize the downtown area. New recreation facilities and shopping centres have also been built throughout the city.

At the Civic Centre you are greeted by an open-air plaza, featuring a striking clock tower, outdoor skating rink, and water fountain. The Prince George Civic Centre serves as well for large sporting events as it does for conventions and special events. Another new facility completed in the fall of 1995 is the Multiplex. With 5796 fixed seats, 189 private suite seats, 210 standing room spaces and excellent accessibility for the handicapped the Multiplex is designed to host events varying from hockey games to trade shows to concerts. Susan Crowe, Bill Cosby, Bryan Adams, and Victor Borge are just a few of the entertainers who will be appearing in Prince George in the coming months. Prince George is also home to the Cougars of the Western Hockey League.

Prince George and the surrounding area boasts of over 115 parks with activities as varied as bird watching and riding a narrow gauge steam railway. Forests for the World Park is the largest city park with 106 hectares (262 acres), expansive views, and a small lake with beavers and waterfowl. You will also find nature walks and hiking and cross-country skiing trails winding through the mixture of hardwood and softwood forests. Bird watchers should visit Cottonwood Island Nature Park a 32-hectare (80-acre) sanctuary along the banks of the Nechako River. Fort George Park is site of Simon Fraser's original outpost and is now home to Canada's smallest official railroad. Rides are offered on weekends and holidays from May through September. Skirting downtown Prince George for 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) along the Fraser and Nechako Rivers is the secluded and peaceful Heritage River Trail System.

For those of you who like to look at and/or buy arts and crafts Prince George has several galleries. Downtown you'll find the Native Art Gallery with Interior and Coastal native artwork. The Prince George Art Gallery has exhibitions by local, regional and provincial artists and craftspeople. Throughout the year Studio 2880 has craft fairs and markets.

Attractions to tour include the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum, Huble Homestead, and Northwood Pulp and Timber operations. The Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum features the story of transportation from dugout canoes to sternwheelers to railways. Huble Homestead is a living museum located 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Prince George. It was a trading post established in 1905 at the Fraser River end of the Giscome Portage. The Giscome Portage connects the Pacific and Arctic watersheds.

For adventure you can go to the Lheit-Li'ten Elders Salmon Camp. Open July-September, you'll ride a jet boat 29km (18 miles) down the Fraser River and then help catch and cook salmon and listen to the elder's stories and legends while banqueting.

Whether you want to learn of or relive the past or visit a thoroughly modern city Prince George is an excellent place to visit.

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