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Every two weeks, I prepare a printable list of events, competitions, conferences, exhibits, tours and other information to help our keen community members assist with visitors' questions.
Sean Bickerton is the BC Director of the Canadian Music Centre and "a champion for the extraordinarily talented and endlessly invented Canadian composers who enrich our lives". He recently made the trip to Prince George for the Casse-Tête Festival of Experimental Music. Read about his travels north and his time at the festival on his blog: http://seanbickerton.com/2016/07/16/my-trip-to-casse-tete/.
I may not have known what I was getting myself into when I offered to volunteer for Mary Poppins, but I didn’t even hesitate when Judy Russell asked if I was available for every performance.
The art of theatre is more than meets the eye and rather than learning just about props and moving sets, I also learned the language of community theatre; stage left, stage right, upstage, downstage, flies, spikes, trucks – it’s a magical language that brings a brings a production together.
I volunteered for Mary Poppins late in the game – the actors, dancers, choreographers, set builders, and more people that I could have imagined had been rehearsing for the three months prior; needless to say, I learned just how challenging and rewarding a production can be.
From the set design to the costumes – there is so much required to make it a magical experience for the audience. One may think that volunteering behind the scenes might ruin the magic of it all, but it is quite the opposite – there is a deeper appreciation for the work and you have more time to fall in love with the characters…in other words, the things that make it magical come to life.
Tonight is opening night and I’m not nervous – last night, among the chaos of set moving, prop shifting and costume changes, I found myself smiling at the small moments that make the show: the warble in Mary Poppins (Amanda Spurlock) voice as she sings her heart out, the glances Bert (Adam Harasimiuk) shares with the audience, the emotion in Winifred’s (Amy Blanding) soliloquy.
Mary Poppins is more than a musical, it is a glimpse into a magical past that captures the hearts of many, and this collaboration will deliver in spades. Mary Poppins runs from July 19th – 31st and tickets are available at Central Interior Ticketing.
On June 6th 2016 I hosted the first Digital Ambassador Workshop in the Prince George Visitor Information Centre as part of our new "HelloPG" Community Ambassador Program. The turn-out was much more than I expected and very encouraging: the enthusiasm of our digital content creators is remarkable.
With support from Destination British Columbia's Visitor Services Innovation Fund, Tourism PG has been able to take a new initiative for engaging more visitors outside of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC). The HelloPG Community Ambassador Program operates on three fronts: 1) Providing keen locals, especially customer service employees and event volunteers, with bi-weekly information packages about events, exhibits, shows and tours; 2) Attending events and visitor hot-spots with a Pop-Up VIC (tent, table, guidebooks, maps, etc.); 3) Engaging the community's digital ambassadors to help fill in online-content gaps, and to foster regular communications so that our team doesn't miss important new digital content.
So, what is a digital ambassador? Our community is rich with content creators already doing ambassador tasks: blogging, posting journals and guides, publishing videos and photos, making maps, writing reviews, answering questions on forums, travel sites, and social media. The HelloPG program provides digital ambassadors with ideas for taking their activities further, though these self-starters rarely need much guidance; even more important is to formally recognize our digital community and give them a convenient venue to collaborate and share ideas with the Tourism PG team.
I knew that most of the attendees were already seasoned content creators and didn't need tips on SEO or photography basics, so I wanted to talk about the style of tourism media in BC.
This is an obvious departure from established tourism video tropes: gone are perfect blue skies, studio lighting, contrived composition, smiling models, sappy sentiment and twangy stock music. Instead, the style of the video rests on mist, darkness, dappled light, slow-motion close-ups, and golden hour shooting.
Moving on from the provincial overview, I thought it was important to show a regional video too. BC is organized into six tourism regions: Northern BC, Cariboo Chilcotin, Kootenay Rockies, Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Coast & Mountains, and Vancouver Islands. Destination BC has recently released a video for each region, but in the interest of time I only showed our Northern BC video.
If you were to watch all the regional clips, the Northern BC story would immediately be set apart by the narrator's solitary journey, where as the narrators in the other regions are travelling as couples or groups.
Travellers in Northern British Columbia aren't necessarily characterized by travelling alone, but are remarkably independent and free spirited. The opening line of the narration, "Travelling, for me, is coming in without a plan," resonates with me as a traveller, and I think hits home for most of the RV and camping road-trippers that flock to Northern BC every summer.
To complete the series of video examples, I showed Tourism PG's new outdoor adventure clip.
The video took approximately one year to shoot and edit. With a focus on adventure recreation and action sports, our clip doesn't fully match the ponderous pacing of Destination BC's videos; however, we did adhere to the visual style wherever possible.
Destination BC's previous flagship video, The Wild Within, prompted travellers to reassess questions about nature: "What is big? What is power?" Our clip further asks visitors to question their experience of nature: "What is real?" Those who travel to Northern BC seek genuine, authentic, experiences with spontaneous local connections and discoveries that stem from their own agency as self-sufficient road-trippers.
Sublime nature and freedom to roam is the big appeal of Northern BC, but with media that hinges on seemingly endless wilderness, travellers get the impression that Northern BC is far less developed than it is. They are often surprised by the size of Prince George and the services offered here. We get some surprising questions: Are the roads paved? Are there sidewalks? Is the city open in the winter? Therefore, it is important for us to represent our City with fresh, high quality visuals and look for opportunities to add more content; for example, locations on Google Maps that unexpectedly don't have an image uploaded. It's also important to have a vibrant and welcoming social media presence: not just from corporate accounts, but from locals as well.
With knowledge of our visual/editorial style (being "on-brand") and the type of travellers in our region, Digital Ambassadors can undertake some specifics to promote their favourite areas and activities, and engage with travellers on social media. Most attendees at my presentation are doing a combination of these activities already:
The HelloPG program, and becoming a Digital Ambassador, is a great way to collaborate with your peers, engage with visitors, and most likely learn a few new things about your area. If you're interested, please email me, email@example.com, and simply let me know you would like to join HelloPG as a Digital Ambassador.
We recently had the opportunity to host three social media influencers from Vancouver, Edmonton, and Seattle in our fair town for a brief 48 hours. We crafted an itinerary with the goal of showcasing some of our city's finest attractions while promoting four major summer events.
Read on to learn about how our guests experienced:
Our guests arrived at 12:05pm on a Pacific Coastal Airlines flight from Victoria and we hoped they would be ready for a jam-packed two days with us!
After checking into the Prestige Treasure Cove Hotel we brought them for a late lunch to Nancy O's -a local favourite restaurant in downtown Prince George. There we debated what dish to order and what beer would best accompany it (did you know that Nancy O's has over 60 beers from around the world?).
Continuing on with our beer theme we headed over to Pacific Western Brewing (PWB) on the shores of the Nechako River where Matt lead us on a tour of the facilities and we learned some fun facts about our local brewery, such as:
Next we travelled downstream to visit BC's northern-most winery: Northern Lights Estate Winery. There we had another delightful tour lead by Doug, an operating partner and developer for the winery. We toured through the cellar and the orchards. We also learned how the winery and orchards are strategically placed on the banks of the Nechako River, at the base of the iconic cutbanks, to allow for a slightly lengthened growing season. Doug told us how the orchard's location extends the growing season, but you'll have to go for a tour and find out yourself!
The best part about these two tours was talking with Matt and Doug and learning from them. As a lifelong resident of Prince George I have known some of the facts of the brewery and winery's history, but I never knew why certain choices were made.
After the winery we took our guests to Cimo Mediterranean Grill and everyone enjoyed a relaxing evening with delicious food, an array of wine and excellent service.
Can you believe we did all this in less than ten hours?
Thursday dawned with a beautiful spring sun shining in clear blue skies. We were thankful that the weather was so perfectly suited for some time on the water. Our bloggers' first activity was a paddle down the Nechako River with members from the Two Rivers Canoe Club. This excursion was so appealing that even our CEO, Erica, brought her canoe and father-in-law along for the ride!
While most of our group was travelling down the Nechako waterway in good company, our food blogger, Traca, was visiting Garrett at Nancy O's Restaurant. Not only was it a unique experience to be in a closed pub at 10am with the cooks making gentle clunks and clinks in the kitchen, but I also got to be a fly on the wall while Traca and Garrett conversed.
Listening to Garrett detail their vision for Nancy O's and their inspiration for creating such a unique and welcoming atmosphere increased my admiration for them even more. I learned that Irish pubs were a significant influence in the design of the restaurant. I learned that family ties and relationships are vital to their business. I learned that they value atmosphere and hospitality as highly as they value their food (and we all know how much their love their food).
Most of all, Garrett reaffirmed what I had sensed in the past: that Nancy O's want to be an integral part of Downtown Prince George. They desire to increase our vibrancy as a city and they want to be responsible in the way they source their food. They want to be a welcoming place where talent (musical and culinary) can be appreciated. They want to help other restaurants and businesses flourish.
I learned I want to become a regular of theirs and be a part of their endeavours and experience it all first hand.
Next, we visited The Exploration Place and Christian toured us around and taught us about Prince George's dinosaurs, Prince George's history, the 2015 Canada Winter Games (hosted by Prince George), the Iron Jock, and Cream (their snake ambassador).
Even though I am a local and have lived in Prince George my entire life, I can honestly say that I learn something new (and interesting) each and every time I visit the Exploration Place! I love that the staff have a wealth of fascinating information to share and that they are so passionate about their work.
Next we went to Ms Lorea's School of Esthetics and Nail Technology. There we had the exceptionally talented Melissa transform two of our guests into terrifying zombies! In just two hours she performed her magic and it was incredible to watch!
We cannot express our thanks enough to Melissa, Dee, and everyone at Ms Lorea's; without them this certainly would not have happened. Thank-you!
Our busy day continued with chocolate making at Ohh... Chocolat Cafe where we indulged in some fine Belgian chocolate and made some unique creations. Caroline shared some stories with us about her business, and what inspired her to become a Master Chocolatier. It was interesting to hear Caroline's perspective of the 2015 Winter Games because I never knew about all the legwork and research they had done in advance. They worked hard and their preparation and insight paid off. We're so happy that they were able to showcase their product to the nation last February!
Later that night we visited Two Rivers Gallery and their 2RG MakerLab that is held every Thursday night. I've only been to MakerLab a handful of times and every single visit I'm astonished at how welcoming and friendly everyone is and the incredible creativity that overflows! In case you don't know, MakerLab takes place upstairs in Two Rivers Gallery on Thursday nights. Makers are welcome to use the available equipment, including the 3D printer, laser cutter, sewing machines, woodworking equipment and much more. In addition, the tables are ginormous and easy to work at and stools are abundant.
We ended this busy and educational day by unwinding at Twisted Cork to the soft crooning of Britt AM at Twisted Cork. I think we were all so tired that not many pictures were taken. I did manage to snap this one of the spread of tapas that we all shared before everyone dug in!
Friday morning we let our guests sleep in and took them on a meandering tour of Prince George before dropping them off at the airport. We visited the University of Northern British Columbia and Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.
Hosting our three out of town social media influencers was an excellent and memorable experience for all involved. Our guests gathered quality content to share through their networks, they increased traffic to our social media (especially Twitter) and they expressed pleasant surprise at how much Prince George has to offer.
I also enjoyed touring our guests around Prince George in the 48 hours that turned out to be a blur. I gained a new appreciation for all the passionate people who have chosen to grow roots in this place and share their creativity and talents with our residents and visitors. I was able to participate in or witness conversations that ran deeper than normal. I heard our visitors ask questions I had never considered; this resulted in me gaining a refreshed perspective on our town and the array of high quality amenities that we are able to offer. Places that I had taken for granted because I grew up visiting them drew compliments and admiration from the three bloggers. People I had met in the past demonstrated incredible hospitality and kindness to our guests. This, and many other factors, made me proud to show off the place I call home and eager to share my experience with other residents.
Tourism Prince George is pleased to present the HelloPG Community Ambassador Program. This program will give enthusiastic local ambassadors a new set of tools and skills to do what they love: making new friends and telling people about the area.
Ambassador Updates are a series of bi-weekly e-newsletters that summarize upcoming events, shows, conferences, exhibits and competitions, along with reference material for commonly requested traveller information.
Special Event Ambassadors are equipped with marked clothing, as well as guide books, maps, signage and tablets to help visitors at large events. You will get training and resources to become a local knowledge specialist and support the other volunteers at competitions, festivals, trade-shows and conferences.
Don’t be stumped for answers or caught off guard by questions like, “is the city open in the winter?” A short training session for front-line employees and event volunteers will get you caught up on city and regional tourism info, including attractions, events, trip ideas and, of course, your greatest info resource: Tourism Prince George. As a little extra, we’ll send you updates through the summer so you can deliver the fresh goods to customers and travellers (or discover something new for yourself).
Digital ambassadors are photographers, videographers, writers, Google Maps contributors, and content creators for everything online. Join our network to connect with our staff and show us what you've got. Plus, we hold meetings and workshops so you can collaborate with your peers and take projects to the next level.
The full breadth of this program is made possible through funding from the Destination British Columbia Visitor Services Innovation Fund.
For more information or to get involved, please contact Michael Stanyer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: gh sasaki, 2015 Canada Winter Games
Having recently started a family of my own, my eyes have suddenly been opened to the variety of activities that are offered in Prince George for children and families. I always knew they were there, but I’m just starting to realize their value! There is so much to do with kids in our city, and everywhere we go, people are very friendly and welcoming to all. I know Prince George is a great place to live, but what a great place to stop for a visit too! You can experience new things, show the kids some great scenery and learn some things along the way. There’s a lot to love about PG and many reasons to visit; here are just a few:
Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park
Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park is a great place for families to stop while traveling through Prince George, whether for a picnic, an afternoon walk, or a chance for the kids to burn off some energy. Accessed from 18th Avenue or 20th Avenue, just off Queensway Blvd., the park is an easy detour off Highway 97 South or Highway 16 East. There is plenty of green space for running around or spreading a blanket, as well as picnic tables and benches scattered throughout. There’s a large playground complete with swings, jungle gyms, and more. Another highlight is a kids’ waterpark for the hot days. For extra fun, extend the park visit to the Exploration Place for some science and history (see below)!
The Exploration Place
Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre, located downtown at the 20th Avenue side of Lheidli T’enneh Park, offers fun for the whole family and is a unique stop for both locals and tourists. Instead of stopping for lunch at a rest area on the side of the highway, travelers can stop here to give the kids a break, stretch and eat lunch; then the kids can visit the play area and view the science and history exhibits to sneak in some summer learning during their playtime. Try to visit the Exploration Place at a time when the Little Prince is running! This steam engine trail weaves for a couple kilometres through the park and is a delight for everyone – the young and young-at-heart! After the train ride, be sure to hop off for ice cream in the train station.
Central BC Railway and Forestry Museum
If you have a child who likes trains, the Railway and Forestry Museum, just off 1st Avenue/Highway 16 East on River Road, is a must stop attraction. The opportunity to explore will entice both kids and kids-at-heart (aka adults who still like to play). Sure, you can view trains and more models of chainsaws than you thought existed, but what makes the Railway and Forestry Museum really unique is that you can actually climb into the trains, push the buttons, and pull the levers. You won’t find many “do not touch” signs here – what a way to entertain an inquisitive kid! You can walk through the Takla coach to see where workers used to reside and eat meals, and then compare that with the classy Nechako coach, which was at Expo ’86, and where Prince Charles and Princess Diana once took their tea. The Museum has a train playground and many special events throughout the summer and beyond, such as Friends of Thomas Days and Family Day, where the Cottonwood Minitrain runs, giving kids a chance to look at the trains while riding one! Also be sure to check out the Urban Orchard: over 100 fruit trees (including haskap, blueberry and raspberry bushes), which help the museum to be self-sustainable and showcase what can be grown in PG. Some of the produce goes to the Northern Lights Winery and some goes to local shelters.
Park Drive-In Theatre
With only three drive-in theatres left in British Columbia, there aren’t very many chances to bring your kids back to “your era”; leave the iPads at home and experience a bit of history and entertainment at the Park Drive-In Theatre in Prince George. Located on Chief Lake Road (accessed off of Highway 97 North), movies on the 3200 square foot screen at the Park Drive-In Theatre run from May to September. And don’t worry about snacks – the concession offers all the classics you need for the movies, from nachos and hot dogs to candy and popcorn – yum! The park area also has go-karts and mini-golf on the weekends, so make it a full day of fun!
Perhaps because the outdoors are so beautiful and impressive here, or because sports culture and facilities are so exceptional, many people might not think of Prince George as British Columbia’s northern arts capital. Having made a life in the arts here, I can tell you confidently that it is just that, and I’m always excited to share with visitors and locals alike why I think so. The opportunities to experience and engage with professional and community arts here are hugely outsized for a regional centre.
The Prince George Symphony Orchestra is Canada’s northernmost professional orchestra, and one of the longest continuously operating professional orchestras in Canada. (Full disclosure: I am thrilled to be the PGSO’s General Manager). Every year, the PGSO hosts outstanding guest soloists from all over the country and indeed the world, but what’s really amazing is our local musicians. The orchestra has a core of highly-trained professional musicians who lead sections made up of a combination of local pro freelancers and skilled volunteers (and a few freelancers flown in from other centres to supplement key roles). All the PGSO’s professional musicians are involved in the arts community in multiple other ways; many are the music teachers who form the next generation of local talent, and all play in other musical ensembles and settings.
Theatre North West has had one of the highest per-capita subscription rates of any professional theatre company in Canada. (Full disclosure: I used to be TNW’s Marketing and Development Officer). As a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, TNW hires professional actors, designers, and theatre artists from all over the country, creating its own teams and productions from absolute scratch every single production. I’ve often heard remarks to the effect that people are amazed that the quality at Theatre North West matches what’s available in major centres—but it should come as no surprise, not least given that TNW brings you literally the same individuals you would see onstage in those very cities, here united around a northern heart beating at the creative centre. What also surprises people all over this country is that Prince George is not just a town with a theatre, it’s truly a theatre town, whose support for TNW rivals the support shown to any professional theatre in Canada.
Two Rivers Gallery curatorial insight, exacting conservation standards, and inviting community outreach bring the city not just beautiful art of the highest quality, but lively aesthetic and intellectual challenges. I must especially applaud their commission of “Balance” by Peter Von Tiesenhausen, which stands right outside their front doors, and which is a thought-provoking and superlative sculpture that I think could be a serious contender for the next Mr. PG.
Judy Russell and Enchainement Productions bring us incredible dance and musical theatre opportunities that invite comparisons to all-professional productions. (Full disclosure: the PGSO is about to undertake its biannual collaboration with Judy’s dance company on their production of The Nutcracker; so excited!). This past summer, the Sound of Music was heard by an impressive succession of packed houses at the PG Playhouse, and I’m sure Evil Dead: The Musical will be this fall as well, before they launch into The Nutcracker just in time for Christmas.
As a winter city, it’s perfectly apt that ColdSnap!, our folk and popular music festival, livens up our winter with some of the best Canadian and international artists around, up close and personal in intimate venues around town. I would be remiss not to mention the contribution some of our most stalwart arts venues have made—and not just the big ones like the CN Centre and Civic Centre. Books & Company, Nancy O’s, Groop Gallery, the University of Northern British Columbia, the Exploration Place, the Prince George Public Library, and the College of New Caledonia all provide a home not just to music and visual art, but also to Prince George’s thriving literary arts scene. We are home to a range of brilliant and widely recognized local writers, especially poets, to the degree that no less a luminary than Toronto publisher and poet Jay MillAr called Prince George “the secret poetry capital of Canada.”
With all the amazing talent we have working on both the creative and management sides, and with the inspiring level of support the community provides to its artists and arts institutions, I am so glad to be a part of the city’s forward momentum in the arts. I’m hopeful that the national recognition and community pride stirred by the Canada Winter Games will continue to bring out the best in us, and without a doubt, it’s the arts’ turn to take centre stage in our city.
In 2015 Prince George celebrated our 100-year anniversary as a City site. We have compiled our culture and the Prince George Heritage Commission created a web page for Prince George’s centennial called 100 Iconic Prince George People, Places and Objects. Hosted by The Exploration Place Museum, the page can be viewed at: http://www.theexplorationplace.com/pg100/100-prince- george-icons
Our top 5 cultural picks are:
Little Prince Steam Engine
The Little Prince Steam engine arrived in 1912 on a sternwheeler. The wood-burning Dinky engine was used to help build the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, now operated by CN. It runs on a 2.2 kilometre long track in the Park near The Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park. The train runs from the May long weekend to the Labour Day long weekend weather permitting. You can also enjoy hard ice cream sold in the train station. Check with the Exploration Place, 250 562-1612 for operating hours or visit: http://www.theexplorationplace.com/
Prince George Fire Department sled
This horse-drawn sleigh was used by the Prince George Fire Department from 1918 to 1928 to haul fire hoses and other firefighting equipment. It was manufactured in Winnipeg – similar models were used by fire departments across Canada. The sleigh and other fire equipment from the past can be seen at the Central B.C. Railway and Forestry Museum, open year ‘round at 850 River Road Road near Cottonwood Island Park. The Prince George fire department celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2015, which was also the 100th birthday of the City of Prince George.
Thousands of years ago, as glacial ice sheets melted and formed the Nechako and Fraser Rivers, the steep sandy slopes known as the cut banks were formed. They have long been a Prince George landmark inspiring artists and photographers. The cut banks were the site of North America’s only ski race on sand, called Sandblast. First held in 1972, the race attracted participants from all over the world, including Canadian ski champions. It was discontinued in 2004 after three people were hurt while trying to navigate the course on a couch rather than skis. High on the cutbanks in McMillan Creek Park, hikers and picnickers enjoy walking trails, interpretive signs, and spectacular viewpoints overlooking Cottonwood Island Park and the City.
The Northern Hardware and Furniture store on the corner of Third Avenue and Brunswick Street downtown was founded in 1919. A room upstairs houses artifacts including the first vacuum the store sold (a manual bellows) that same year.Originally on George Street, the business has been at its current location since 1940. It is the oldest family-owned business in Prince George, still run by the Moffat family. The store’s motto: If we don’t have it you don’t need it!
Bridget Moran statue
The plaque next to this unique statue of Bridget Moran, 1923-1999, describes how the prominent social worker, activist and author worked tirelessly to support families in the region. The sculpture was created by artist Nathan Scott and is located at 3rd Avenue and Quebec Street downtown. Scott also created the statue of Terry Fox found in the Community Foundation Park at 7th Avenue and Dominion Street.
Article submitted by Jeff Elder Cultural Coordinator
Regional District of Fraser-Fort George
Transportation is the reason Prince George exists in the first place, and it is why Prince George has developed and thrived for more than 10,000 years. That’s at least how long the Lheidli T’enneh (pronounced KLATE-lee TEN-ay) First Nation has called this confluence of two mighty rivers –Nechako and Fraser – home.
This was the central transition point of busy aboriginal trade economies between the northern, west coast, prairie and southern communities of modern day Western Canada. Part of this network was a series of ancient “grease trails” overland. Three of the main local ones were named Nyan Wheti (between modern day Fraser Lake and Fort St. James), the Cheslatta Trail (Fraser Lake to Ootsa Lake), and Nuxalk-Carrier Trail (Quesnel to Bella Coola). These were the ancient roads, but rivers and lakes were the ancient highways. The Nechako, its watershed running east-west across much of the northern interior, was one of the most prominent. It connects to the Fraser which runs from the northern Rockies (accessible by Cree nations of modern day Alberta) all the way through the north-south breadth of B.C. into the ocean. The indigenous name of this region’s aboriginal people is Dakelh (pr. da-KELTH) and that word translates to “people who travel by boat.” Furthermore, the translation of Lheidli T’enneh is “people from the confluence of two rivers.” Transportation was so intrinsic to daily life that the people here named themselves for it. The typical Lheidli T’enneh canoe was made by hollowing a log from the giant cottonwood trees that line the local shores. These ceased to be seen on local waters during the bulk of the 20th century when colonial forces attempted to erase aboriginal culture. Dakelh nations are now reestablishing their traditional ways of life. In 2014, a partnership between the University of Northern British Columbia and the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation resulted in a hands-on class during which the students built and paddled the first cottonwood canoe in known memory.
Canoe was what brought the first Europeans through this region. In spring of 1793, Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie used the Upper Fraser River as his route towards the Pacific Ocean. First Nations contacts in this region warned the explorer that the southern Fraser’s rapids were deadly. They showed him the Nuxalk-Carrier Trail as a prudent detour. It now forms the last leg of the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail. That year, on July 20, he and his band of voyageurs used it to become the first known humans to cross the continent overland. This spot was essential to transportation for another reason. Just north of modern day Prince George is the northern divide where, depending on where you stand, all the waters flow either south into the Pacific Ocean or north into the Arctic Ocean. This was a priceless geographic feature to the exploratory trading interests who used it to major economic advantage. An easy walk from a certain spot on the Fraser over a 14.5 km (nine mile) trail to Summit Lake was all that separated these epic forces of flow. The Lheidli T’enneh people were so aware of the importance of this route they called it “Lhedesti” meaning “the shortcut” and they were happy to show it to a pair of explorers in 1862 – John Giscome and Harry McDame – who transferred the knowledge to the feverish prospectors of the Omineca Gold Rush. The colonial government renovated the trail into a wagon road, steamships built a port on the Fraser, and it was where Albert Huble and Edward Seebach would build a farm and trading post. That homestead and the Giscome Portage are now conjoined historic sites beloved by tourists and local residents alike. Water was the easiest way through the northern wilderness, but the region’s 10 paddlewheelers were no better than canoes at getting through the southern Fraser rapids. Most were built at Soda Creek above the treacherous canyons and only worked north of that spot. Helping this cargo industry were pack-train operators using horses, mules and in Barkerville even imported camels. The most famous of these pack-train adventurers was Jean-Jacques Caux, known far and wide as Cataline. But these canoes, pack horses and steam ships were eventually no match for 20th century progress, and neither were the First Nations of the day. Although the rail lines and gold mines, coal hills and lumber mills were a boon for colonial populations, it triggered more than a century of misery for aboriginal populations.
The coming of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad in 1914 almost immediately ended the usefulness of the paddlewheelers on the rivers. The steamships delivered the construction locomotives (one of which still pulls passengers around Lheidi T’enneh Memorial Park) and railway labourers - and their own demise in the process. The iconic 800-metre rail bridge (it was also the automobile bridge until 1987 when the Yellowhead highway bridge was built alongside) has a unique lift-span to let ships go under, but it was hardly ever used before they simply dropped anchor into the mists of time.
Next, in the 1950s, critical rail lines arrived in Prince George connecting the ports of Vancouver, the coal and natural gas fields of Fort St. John, and interfacing with the older east-west lines. This strategic interconnection prevails to this day. On the same philosophies as rail, the provincial highway system also came to a crossroads here. Over time, a well-resourced international airport was also established on lanes connected to the roads and the rails.
It all makes Prince George open for global business of almost every sort. Prince George is a human interchange. The signs are everywhere. They are on exhibit at facilities like Exploration Place, the Railways & Forestry Museum, the Historic Huble Homestead, and out in open every-day view like where Mr. PG stands and the steel train bridge used by CN Rail today. It is still possible to launch your own canoe and feel the natural currents that have moved people through this area for more than 10 millennia. It also moved many of us to stay.
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