Fort St. John

Discover Fort St. John, British Columbia: A City of History and Energy

Fort St. John, a city nestled in northeastern British Columbia, Canada, is the most populous municipality in the Peace River Regional District. With a total area of about 22 km2 (8.5 sq mi) and a population of 21,465 residents as per the 2021 Census, it is one of the largest cities between Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and Delta Junction, Alaska. Established in 1794 as a trading post, Fort St. John is the oldest European-established settlement in present-day British Columbia. The city, served by the Fort St. John Airport, proudly carries the slogan: "Fort St. John: The Energetic City."

The Rich History of Fort St. John, British Columbia

Over the 19th and 20th centuries, the community of Fort St. John was moved several times due to varying economic reasons. The present location is believed to be its sixth. The original trading post, named Rocky Mountain House, was established in 1794, a year after Sir Alexander Mackenzie explored the area. This fort was a part of a series of forts along the Peace River constructed to service the fur trade. It was used as a trading post by the Dane-zaa and Sikanni First Nations and as a supply depot for further expeditions into the territory.

In 1806, the North West Company built Fort d'Epinette, which was renamed Fort St. John in 1821 following the purchase of the North West Company by the Hudson's Bay Company. This fort was located about 500 m (1,600 ft) downstream from the mouth of the Beatton River, which at that time was known as the Pine River. The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1958.

The first census that recognized Fort St. John as a census subdivision took place in 1951 and recorded 884 people. The population rapidly increased, doubling almost every 5 years for 15 years so that by 1966 there were 6,749 residents living in the community.

The Geography of Fort St. John, British Columbia

Geographically, Fort St. John is on the western edge of the Canadian prairies that cover much of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The city sits between the Peace River and Beatton River, with Charlie Lake nearby. At an elevation of 690 m (2,260 ft), Fort Saint John is situated within a low-lying valley near the eastern foothills of the Muskwa Ranges and Hart Ranges of the Northern Rockies. The city is built on relatively flat, rolling hills.

The Climate of Fort St. John, British Columbia

Fort St. John experiences a cold humid continental climate closely bordering on a subarctic climate, with cold winters and warm summers. Although winters can be frigid, the area has milder winters than much of the rest of Canada due to the influence of the nearby Rocky Mountains. A predominantly southwesterly wind blows through town, with wind speeds averaging around 13.7 km/h (8.5 mph).

The Demographics of Fort St. John, British Columbia

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Fort St. John had a population of 21,465 living in 8,777 of its 10,004 total private dwellings, a change of 5.9% from its 2016 population of 20,260. With a land area of 32.67 km2 (12.61 sq mi), it had a population density of 657.0/km2 (1,701.7/sq mi) in 2021.

The Economy of Fort St. John, British Columbia

Agriculture has been the mainstay of the economy servicing and providing a market for the upland prairies. As the urban centre for a rural and farming population of about 8,306 people and home to 18,609 people, Fort St. John is a retail, service and industrial centre. The province's oil and gas industry, including the provincial Oil and Gas Commission is centred in the city. Forestry has become more important to the city since the opening of an oriented strand board plant in 2005. Much wood is exported to the United States.

Arts and Culture in Fort St. John, British Columbia

As the urban centre for approximately 20,000 people, much of the region's recreational and cultural facilities are located in town. Within the city, Centennial Park groups much of these facilities in a central location close to residences and businesses. This large park includes the Fort St. John North Peace Museum, the North Peace Leisure Pool, the North Peace Arena (home of the Fort St. John Huskies), a separate arena for children, an 8-sheet curling rink, as well as an outdoor water park and speed skating oval.

Attractions in Fort St. John, British Columbia

The city's main recreation centre is the Fort St. John Enerplex, also known as the Pomeroy Sport Centre, that opened in 2010. It is a three-storey public facility with two National Hockey League-sized ice rinks, a concession, 12 dressing rooms, public meeting rooms, a retail juice outlet, an indoor near-Olympic-sized long track speed skating oval, and a 340 meter long walking track (the "Northern Vac Track").

Infrastructure in Fort St. John, British Columbia

Fort St. John is the transportation hub of the region. The main highway, Highway 97 (Alaska Highway), built in 1942 by the United States Army, runs through the city, north to Fort Nelson, the Yukon, and Alaska. The only commercial airport between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson is the Fort St. John Airport (CYXJ) located a few miles east of the city.

Freedom of the City in Fort St. John, British Columbia

The following People and Military Units have received the Freedom of the City of Fort St. John.

Individuals

  • Charles “Bud” Hamilton: 7 December 1979.
  • William James "Jim" Eglinski: 24 June 2019.
  • The Honourable Senator Richard Neufeld: 24 June 2019.
  • Jean Leahy: 9 September 2019.
  • Sue Popesku: 11 June 2022.

Military Units

  • 2276 Royal Canadian Army Cadets: 10 April 2006.

Sources