Smithers, British Columbia Canada

Discover Smithers, British Columbia: A Blend of History and Modernity

Smithers, a charming town nestled in northwestern British Columbia, is a hidden gem halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert. With a population of 5,351 in 2016, Smithers serves as a hub for the Bulkley Valley, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor recreation.

The Historical Journey of Smithers, British Columbia

The history of Smithers is deeply intertwined with the development of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP). The GTP required two major divisional points in BC, and after Prince George, Smithers was selected as the second divisional point. The town was named after Sir Alfred Smithers, the chair of the GTP board.

In 1913, the Railway Commission approved the station site, and by October, the first passenger train arrived in Smithers. Despite the swampy ground and challenging subsoil conditions, the town grew steadily. The railway remained the dominant employer for decades, but from the 1950s, employee numbers gradually dwindled. In 1994, the Smithers Community Services Association purchased the listed station building.

The Unique Town Layout of Smithers, British Columbia

The street layout of Smithers was designed by professional landscape architects to accommodate a potential 10,000 people. Over the years, the municipality has largely adhered to this plan. Main Street serves as the commercial core, with the train station and Alfred Park at one end and Central Park at the other. In 1925, a combined courthouse/provincial offices were built within Central Park. In 1972, Main Street adopted an alpine theme, adding to the town's unique charm.

Commerce and Population Growth in Smithers, British Columbia

The early 20th century saw a building boom in Smithers, with the Seymour Lake Lumber Company producing 10,000 feet of lumber daily. By 1914, Smithers had two newspapers, two banks, three churches, a three-storey hotel, stores, a telephone system, and an electricity supply. After a fire in 1914 destroyed 13 downtown buildings in Telkwa, many businesses relocated to Smithers, boosting its population to 700. The population continued to grow over the years, peaking at 5,624 in 1996.

Public Institutions and Amenities in Smithers, British Columbia

Smithers boasts a range of public institutions and amenities. The post office was completed in 1913, and the first school was established in 1914. In 1920, a two-storey hospital was opened. During the Great Depression, the basic rural road network was built, the golf course opened in 1931, and the airfield in 1933. In 1967, when Smithers became a town, the combined library/museum was built. The Bulkley Valley Regional Pool and Recreation Centre opened in 1990.

Education, Health, and Emergency Services in Smithers, British Columbia

School District 54 Bulkley Valley is one of the largest employers in Smithers, and three private schools operate in the town. A Coast Mountain College campus provides tertiary education. The Smithers Public Library and the Bulkley Valley Museum offer cultural and educational resources. The Bulkley Valley District Hospital is a 25-bed acute care facility. The town also has a 40-person volunteer fire department, a three-ambulance base, and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment.

Transportation in Smithers, British Columbia

Smithers is well-connected by air and rail. Air Canada, Central Mountain Air, charter airlines, and helicopter companies provide multiple daily flights. VIA Rail's Jasper-Prince Rupert makes a scheduled stop three times a week in each direction. When Greyhound cancelled this route in 2019, BC Bus North became the replacement operator for a twice-weekly service.

The Unique Culture of Smithers, British Columbia

Smithers and the Bulkley Valley are known for their unique culture. The town has adopted an alpine theme, reflected in the architecture of the downtown area. A fibreglass statue of a man blowing an alpine horn, known as The Alpenman or Alpine Al, has become the town symbol. Residents of Smithers, known as Smithereens, have a strong environmental ethic. The town is also home to many musicians, including Juno-Award-winning Alexis Puentes. The annual Mid-Summer Music Festival draws audiences and participants from all across North America.

Demographics of Smithers, British Columbia

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Smithers had a population of 5,378 living in 2,313 of its 2,411 total private dwellings, a change of -0.4% from its 2016 population of 5,401.

Outdoor Recreation in Smithers, British Columbia

Smithers is known for its world-class skiing and fishing, particularly for steelhead. Other popular activities include soccer, volleyball, hockey, baseball, downhill mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, quadding, and snowmobiling. Smithers offers a variety of extreme sports, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Geography and Climate of Smithers, British Columbia

Smithers is surrounded by several towns and cities, including Witset, New Hazelton, Kitwanga, Terrace, Kitimat, Port Edward, and Prince Rupert to the west, and Telkwa, Houston, Topley, Burns Lake, Fraser Lake, Fort Fraser, Vanderhoof, and Prince George to the east. The town has a subarctic climate, with cold and cloudy winters and warm summers.

Smithers, British Columbia in Movies and Television

Smithers has been a filming location for several movies, including Disney's Eight Below, The Grey, and The Mother. The town was also referenced in the show How I Met Your Mother.