Fort Nelson

Discover Fort Nelson, British Columbia: A Community Rich in History and Natural Beauty

Fort Nelson, a community nestled in the northeast of British Columbia, Canada, is part of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM). This town, which lies east of the northern Rocky Mountains in the Peace River region, is a scenic four-hour drive from the nearest urban centre, Fort St. John. The journey along the Alaska Highway, which runs through Fort Nelson, offers breathtaking views year-round. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, the population of Fort Nelson was 3,366.

The Historical Journey of Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Established by the North West Trading Company in 1805 as a fur-trading post, Fort Nelson was named in honour of the British naval hero Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson. The community has moved five times due to fires, floods, and feuds.

Fort Nelson, British Columbia during World War II

During World War II, the Fort Nelson Airport served as an airbase for the United States Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Contrary to popular belief, Fort Nelson was the original Mile 0 on the Alaska Highway due to the existence of a previously constructed road from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson. The U.S. Army built the Alaska Highway in 1942, fearing a Japanese invasion of Alaska. After the highway's completion, Fort Nelson became a bustling service centre along the road.

Post-World War II Developments in Fort Nelson, British Columbia

In the early 1950s, the first five acres of land were sold to locals, marking the start of the community as a separate entity from the military. Oil and gas exploration in the early 1950s provided Fort Nelson with the industrial sector that it required to jump-start expansion of the community into what would eventually become the village of Fort Nelson in 1971.

Fort Nelson, British Columbia in the New Millennium

Fort Nelson held its first annual Northern Lights Festival in March 2019. The community welcomed hundreds of international visitors to experience the northern British Columbia lifestyle. The festival included dog sled races, trips to Liard Hot Springs, northern lights viewing, indigenous handgames and cultural celebrations, concerts from celebrated Canadian musicians, and many other events.

The Geography of Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Fort Nelson lies near the confluence of Fort Nelson River, Muskwa River, and Prophet River. The entire region of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, of which Fort Nelson is the largest community, constitutes 10% of the province's total landmass. Fort Nelson is well known to be surrounded by mountainous beauty pertaining to the northern portion of the Rocky Mountains.

Wildlife in Fort Nelson, British Columbia

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality is home to an extensive variety of wildlife which attracts many tourists and hunters to the region. Wildlife found in the area include animals such as moose, black bear, grizzly bear, caribou, deer (white-tail and mule), elk, bison, stone sheep, mountain goat, wolves, and several more.

Climate of Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Fort Nelson has a climate right on the boundary between a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) and a subarctic climate (Dfc), with a mean average of 4 months above 10 degrees Celsius placing it just within the former category.

Demographics of Fort Nelson, British Columbia

In the 2016 Canadian Census, Fort Nelson had a population of 3,336 living in 1,424 of its 1,682 total dwellings, a -5.5% change from its 2011 population of 3,561.

Attractions in and around Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Fort Nelson boasts several attractions including the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum, Poplar Hills Golf Club, The Phoenix Theatre, Northern Rockies Recreation Centre, and the Northern Lights Festival. The surrounding Northern Rockies offer attractions such as Liard Hot Springs, Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park, Smith River Falls – Fort Halkett Provincial Park, and Muncho Lake.

Infrastructure in Fort Nelson, British Columbia


The Fort Nelson General Hospital was constructed in 1944 and continues to serve the community. Despite its small population, there are currently two operating pharmacies.


Fort Nelson is located along Highway 97 (Alaska Highway), south of the intersection with the Liard Highway (British Columbia Highway 77).


The Fort Nelson Airport or Northern Rockies Regional Airport (NRRA) is located 3.8 nautical miles (7.0 km; 4.4 mi) east northeast of Fort Nelson.


CN Rail operates a former BC Rail line that has its northern terminus in Fort Nelson.