Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Historic Fort St. James, BC

Sat. June 16th- It rained all last night……This weather is so changeable, and it seems like rain is just ‘par for the course’ during June.


The rain wasn’t bothering this little guy…..who stopped to give us a look.

This morning, we hitched up the camper in a bit of a drizzle, noting how much easier it is to deal with the wet Northwest in the Airstream rather than the pop-up of 2 years ago.

We are making our way towards Prince Rupert, where we will catch the Alaskan Ferry, but we have given ourselves plenty of time to get there so that we do not have to drive more than about 200 miles or so on any one day. This allows us to stop and sight-see along the way and still get to a campground by early to mid-afternoon.

Along our route, today was Fort St. James, an early fur trading outpost. First established as Stuart Lake Outpost in 1806, this post formed an important part of the North West Fur Trading Company’s expansion west of the Rock Mountains. Stuart Lake Outpost was renamed Fort St. James in 1821, when the Hudson Bay Company took over the North West Company. Sitting on Stuart Lake, this post provided an easier trade route to the Pacific. Ft. St. James was still active until 1952 as a place for trade.


Fortunately, the rain had stopped when we arrived at the Fort and we were able to enjoy a look around……The buildings at the fort were arranged along a fenced square with nice wooden boardwalks connecting the buildings. The setting for this fort on the lake was so peaceful, we just enjoyed walking around, but it was easy to imagine a time when this place would be bustling.


This is the warehouse building, built in 1888.


It was used to store trade goods and furs that were then baled and shipped to Europe. Historical interpreters were on site, dressed in period outfits. We visited with one man in this building who talked about the lost art of trapping and skinning animals. He told us that the local school had a demonstration for their students on skinning an animal as a part of their local cultural enrichment. He also showed us the current prices for various pelts, and talked about how people are getting back into the trapping and trading business due to the increase in prices over the last years, with most of the pelts going overseas to China.


This building is the fish cache where dried/smoked salmon and bacon were stored.


The Carrier First Nations people of this area had depended on dried salmon for their  sustenance over the long winters. Fort St. James became an important trading place for these peoples who traded furs and salmon with the settlers. We visited with a Carrier First Nations woman who gave us a tour of the men’s boarding house and talked about the cooperative relationship between the natives and the fur trappers and traders.


This is the officer’s housing that served as the residence for the person in charge of the post…….


The inside of the Officer’s housing……very nice for that time.

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In the Officer’s house, we visited with this woman who was demonstrating the art of bobbin lace making. She lives in Germany during the year, but spends her summers here working at this park. It was in Germany where she learned the art of hand making lace. She is using silk thread to make a lace scarf. A piece like this may take up to 500 hours of work to complete.

After our visit to Fort St. James, we drove on to Ft. Fraser and Beaumont Provincial Park, a really beautiful campground on Fraser lake, where we will spend the night.

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