Fort St. James National Historic Site: season in full swing

It’s been a busy season so far at the National Historic Park in Fort St. James.

  • Wed Jul 27th, 2016 4:00pm
  • News

A spectacular view of Stuart Lake from the Historic Park in Fort St. James.

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

It’s been a busy season so far at the National Historic Park in Fort St. James.

And as you wander through the grounds of the site, in all of its history, the natural wonders and cultural treasures remain alive and well.

People young and old, local and from afar, enjoy a visit into the past along the stunning shores of Stuart Lake.

“This has been the best year ever,” site manager, Bob Grill said. “I think we’ve finally got it and attendance has been excellent so far.”

The site is open from June 1 to September 22 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Whether it may be a walk through the historical buildings with costumed historic interpreters on site who share the history of the Fort, or a visit with the baby goats, ducks and rabbits, one can also enjoy the new Commemoration Café which is open daily.

You can also have a whole National Historic Site to yourself for the night. A bed and breakfast stay in the luxurious Murray house is certainly worthwhile.

This is where the chief factor A.C. Murray and his family lived in 1896 complete with original bedding and artifacts in all the rooms.

But what about the world class chicken races that has everyone in a feathery frenzy?

“These races have been running for about five years now, Grill said. “And they remain a popular event throughout the season.”

Every day at 11:00 am, people flock to the famous chicken races. In lanes lined with chicken wire, birds race for the finish while crowds bet chicken bucks on the winners.

The chickens run three to five races and proud guests who pick the fastest feathery fellow receive a pin-on winner’s button.

With many events planned for the season including Salmon and Metis Day on September 18, the site continues to bring in those curious in reliving the past in Fort St. James.

According to the Historic Site, in 1805 and 1806, the North West Company constructed the first two permanent fur trade posts west of the Rocky Mountains.

The second, Fort St. James, became the centre of the northern fur trade district, known as New Caledonia.

Although today it is restored to a single year in time, 1896, the story visitors will hear spans about one hundred and forty six years, starting with the arrival of the fur traders and ending in 1952, when the Hudson‘s Bay Company closed shop on the original site.

Simon Fraser, John Stuart and those along with them, discovered the area to be rich in all kinds of fur-bearing animals and once established, the post became a vital trading post for the Dakelh or Carrier peoples.

Stuart Lake Outpost was renamed Fort St. James in 1821 with the amalgamation of the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company. The post was active until 1952.

With many other events and services the Historic Site has to offer, it remains a place full of many stories, a place full of rich history and culture.

The chickens are ready for you. Get ready get set and, go.