Fort St. James, British Columbia Canada

Discover Fort St. James, British Columbia: A Historical Gem in Canada's Wilderness

Fort St. James, British Columbia, is a district municipality and former fur trading post nestled in northern central British Columbia, Canada. This community, located on the south-eastern shore of Stuart Lake in the Omineca Country, is at the northern terminus of Highway 27, which connects to Highway 16 at Vanderhoof. It is home to the John Prince Research Forest, a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. In 2016, Fort St. James celebrated its bicentennial, marking its incorporation as a district municipality.

The Rich History of Fort St. James, British Columbia

The history of Fort St. James, British Columbia, is deeply intertwined with the fur trade. Founded by North West Company explorer and fur trader Simon Fraser in 1806, it came under the management of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821 following the forced merger of the two competing fur companies. Known historically as Stuart Lake Post, it is one of British Columbia's oldest permanent European settlements and served as the administrative centre for the Hudson's Bay Company's New Caledonia fur district. The fort, rebuilt four times, continued as an important trading post well into the twentieth century. Today, the fort is a National Historic Site of Canada, with some buildings dating back to the 1880s.

Fraser, along with his assistants John Stuart and James McDougall, explored potential river routes to the Pacific Ocean from 1805 through 1808. Their winter explorations in 1805-06 led to the discovery of Carrier's Lake, now known as Stuart Lake. Located in the heart of territory inhabited by the Carrier or Dakelh First Nation, this proved to be a lucrative locale for fur trading, leading to the establishment of Fort St. James on its shore in 1806.

Despite initial challenges, the fur trade eventually took root in the area, and the post became profitable, continuing to function until its closure in 1952. The community is located on the south-eastern shore of Stuart Lake, at the head of the Stuart River, both named after Fraser's assistant John Stuart.

The Climate of Fort St. James, British Columbia

Fort St. James, British Columbia, is located in the sub-boreal spruce zone, a sub-division of the hemiboreal climatic zone. This region is characterized by severe, snowy winters and short, warm summers. The region is rich in wildlife, making it a paradise for nature lovers. Under the Köppen climate classification, Fort St. James is classified as a humid continental climate (Dfb).

Demographics of Fort St. James, British Columbia

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Fort St. James had a population of 1,386 living in 586 of its 671 total private dwellings, a change of -13.3% from its 2016 population of 1,598. With a land area of 23.45 km2 (9.05 sq mi), it had a population density of 59.1/km2 (153.1/sq mi) in 2021.

About one quarter of the population of the greater Fort St. James area identify as being of First Nations origin. The town is surrounded by numerous, small First Nations communities and Indian reserves, including Pinchie, Tachie, and Nak'azdli.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Fort St. James had the highest proportion of South Asians of any municipality in Canada, forming approximately 22% of the total population as per the 1991 census. The South Asian community of Fort St. James was composed mostly of Punjabis of the Sikh faith. The Gursikh Temple, the local gurdwara, was built in 1981. However, the Sikh population of Fort St. James declined from 435 in 1991 to 20 in 2021, as many Sikhs moved to Greater Vancouver. The Gursikh Temple was donated to the Victory Christian Church in 2013.