Located on the original mile 0 of the world-famous Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson is an entry gate of the Northern Rocky Mountains’ northernmost parts. Fort Nelson, the community in British Columbia, is located within the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRMM).
With the nicknames of Mile 300 and Fort Nelly, Fort Nelson was incorporated in 1971. This community is famous for its natural beauty and surrounding. Thanks to Fort Nelson River’s confluence, Muskwa River, and the Prophet River, along with the beautiful Northern Rockies.
Fort Nelson community has history and exploratory spots of its own. Let us dive right into the culture, beauty, places, and stories that the region has to offer.
Reminiscing the History
Like any other BC province and community, Fort Nelson has also seen war times and their effects. Fort Nelson was initially established by the North West Trading Company as a fur-trading post back in 1805. The place was named Fort Nelson in honor of Horatio Nelson, the British Naval Hero.
World War 2 and Post World War Times
The airport of Fort Nelson was an airbase for the United States and Royal Canadian Air Force. It is usually believed that Alaskan Highway’s construction commenced in Dawson Creek, but Fort Nelson was the highway’s original mile 0. The US Army started constructing this notable historical artifact in 1942.
With the construction carried on by over 11000 US soldiers for over 9 months, Fort Nelson became a bustling service center along the way. After the end of the war and the Japanese invasion threat, the Canadian portion was ceded to the Canadian Government.
The community was started as separate from the military around the 1950s. Fort nelson found the industrial-strength in the oil and gas sector in the early 1950s. This led to a quick start of economic activities that helped the community to be established officially in 1971. In the same year, a railway was built that reached up to Fort Nelson by the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.
The coming of the railway in the community boosted the transportation of major products produced by the local industries. However, the rail was shut in 2010 due to lack of use. Over time, Fort Nelson has witnessed many ups and downs in the economic condition. But its heritage and attractions still tempt lots of people.
Attractions and Places to Explore
Fort Nelson Heritage Museum
Located just west of the historical Mile 300, the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum keeps up with the region’s history for future generations. Marl is the first curator of the museum and, until today, is the first at the museum and the last one to leave.
Marl worked as a mechanic when Alaska Highway was just a trail in 1957. He saw many items being thrown away and so started saving such items. By the 1970s, he had acquired so many specifics and antiques that a museum needed to store them. Nelson Historical Society was found in 1977, and after a decade, in 1987, the museum was established and opened for the public.
See Marl Brown, the curator of the museum, sharing his journey.
The museum is one of a kind for curious explorers and historians. It has 8 buildings full of displays and artifacts. If you’re an enthusiast of cars, this place is for you too. The museum has an epic vintage car collection, some belonging to the World War 2 period.
The museum has fashioned a little trapper’s cabin to help you see life as a trapper. Varied forestry displays, oil and gas, mining, construction, firefighting, communications, wildlife, and wildfire can be seen here.
The museum is also pet-friendly but on a leash. This place is to fall in love with Fort Nelson. You’d not realize how time went by exploring the museum.
Poplar Hills Golf Club
Featuring a 9-hole golf course, this golf club is in the middle of nowhere; as a result, giving you some dazzling views of Northern Rockies. If you’re driving on the Alaskan Highway through Fort Nelson, this would be a great stop to stretch your legs and have some fun.
If you’re a golf lover, you’d like to try your hands here as the terrain makes the course a little challenging.
The Phoenix Theatre
With thought and the need to create a local space for the display of community theatre and arts, the Phoenix Theatre was established. To add glory to the Fort Nelson Tourism, this theatre promotes and showcases local artists’ talent. This encourages the artists, adds zeal to the locals for their culture, and puts up an amazing picture to the tourists.
There are many festivals and events held here. This impacts the economy as visitor’s spending is increased. The events are based on arts, culture, community history, music, outdoor fun and activities, family, and much more.
The theatre is among the member of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada and BC Arts Council. The Phoenix won the award of the Chamber of Commerce Customer Service Award in the year 2011. If you’re attracted to knowing about the community’s sense in a greater way and how a community lives and grows together peacefully, this is your spot.
Fort Nelson Recreation Center
The Fort Nelson Recreation Center, widely known as the Northern Rockies Regional Recreation Center, offers many things, from Fort Nelson’s visitor information to a community hall, ice arenas, walking track, meeting rooms, squash court, rock climbing wall, curling rink, and many more things.
Located on 5500 Alaska Highway, it also has an Aquatic Center adjacent to it. The aquatic center has opened just back in 2015 but is a fun recreation spot. A 25m swimming pool with 6 lanes, diving boards of 1m and 3m, hot tub, learner’s pool of 2 lanes, aquatic climbing wall, water slide, sauna, steam room, in short everything you would want for rejuvenation.
A quick stop here will lead you to the refresh button in you. Explore. Enjoy. Rejuvenate.
Muncho Lake Provincial Park
A nature lover? Your stop is just here. The Muncho Lake Provincial Park would give you some spectacular views of folded mountains, wildlife, and gorgeous wildflowers that will fill your heart. The Muncho Lake itself is picturesque for its aqua-green colored waters with a stunning backdrop of mountains.
You can take a boat trip or hike through the region to take in the views. The Northern Rockies Lodge is located just nearby, giving you a perfect stop spot and enjoying a day or two here. There is fishing, floatplane tours, canoeing, and boating fun available here.
In winter times, as the lake freezes, it becomes a winter wonderland with activities like skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and more. If you’re lucky and patient enough, you might get dazzled by the beauty of the Northern Lights at Muncho Lake valley.
Liard Hot Springs
The Liard River Hot Springs is just near to the Muncho Valley Provincial Park. If you’re traveling through Fort Nelson historical mile 300 of Alaskan Highway, the Liard Hot Springs will be like an oasis to you.
These unique and warm thermal waters will welcome you any time of the year. There are certain basic facilities, like changing rooms and outhouses that are maintained by BC Parks. You can enroll yourself for full service and accommodation or an all-inclusive trip to Liard Hot Springs.
Explore the beauty of the Liard Hot Springs just here.
Stone Mountain Provincial Park
To grab some incredible wildlife viewing opportunities and spectacular landscapes, you should visit the Stone Mountain Provincial Park spread across 25,691 hectares. Certain backcountry hiking routes lead to the mountain valley. These routes are full of alpine meadows and lakes.
You can opt for canoeing, cycling, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, wildlife viewing, and some recreational activities available in winter. There are facilities available for boat launch, campfires, picnic spots, camping areas, which are vehicle accessible, drinking water, and pit toilets. You must go through the Park site to know more before planning the trip.
Demonstration Forest Trails
The trails of Fort Nelson that go through its Demonstration Forest along the Alaska Highway are named after varied wildlife. Demonstration Forest is located on the northwest side of the town. It fits many leisurely and adventure activities like hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Lots of the signs here tell the story of the boreal forest and its inhabitants. To reach here, you will have to follow the signs on Alaska Highway of Demonstration Forest Recreation Site. You will find a pond with picnic tables just a few minutes away from the parking lot.
Smith River Falls
Traveling to Fort Nelson, BC, you’d find a sign saying Smith Falls that will lead you to a dense forest. Driving further through a dirt road, you’d come at the location of Smith Falls. You’d instantly fall in love with the falls and the tranquility of the area.
There’s also a trail that leads you closer to the falls. If its summertime, the trail would be hike friendly else in winter, it becomes slippery. There is a small outhouse that is accessible only in summer. Smith Falls is a part of Fort Halkett Provincial Park.
These falls are 35m high and 10m wide and plunge into a deep pool with a thunderous roar. If you are nearby the parking area, facilities like canoeing, cycling, fishing, hiking, hunting, wildlife viewing, boat launching, picnic areas are also accessible.
So, whether you’re reaching the Smith Falls randomly through the highway or the provincial park, you are going to have some great time in the laps of nature.
Triple G Hideaway
This is an RV park and campground in Fort Nelson, BC. The Triple G Hideaway is located near many local attractions and spots, making it a perfect stay. There are many amenities and services offered by them to ensure that you have an enjoyable time there.
- Each site here has a fire pit and picnic tables.
- Tent Sites available
- Wi-Fi hotspots, Cable TV, Water, Sewer, Power
- 24 hours Coin-Operated Laundry and shower
- Coin Operated wash station of RV pressure
- A gift shop full of local souvenirs and collectibles
- Pets on Leash
- A family restaurant featuring lounge and patio with an exquisite menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Festivities to Enjoy
Each community and region have some festival of their own to celebrate their legacy and specialty. Fort Nelson also holds certain festivals that bring together locals and tourists.
The Northern Lights Festival
This is one of the biggest festivals, and each day something is happening. This festival is a celebration of Fort Nelson’s community and culture. They celebrate the Fort Nelson First Nations and the indigenous artists and culture from across Canada. There are viewing stations located around the festival site, and there is a facility for shuttle transportation at 10 PM each night.
The First Nations artists organize a cultural and music night. They range from traditional dance to upcoming modern artists that blend in with indigenous traditional music. An artist named Alex Wells demonstrates the traditional Cree hoop dance and inspires awe in people.
There’s all this and many things more each year. Many musicians and award-winning singers perform at this festival, making it one of the most awaited and best.
This is an annual event in Fort Nelson, which is held during May. Many local businesses register at the show, which is held at the Fort Nelson Recreation Center.
This is held by the Fort Nelson Community Literacy Society with a different theme and celebration each year.
The community of Fort Nelson is just a small one consisting of approximately 3000 people. With ample history, exquisite geography, attractions with the latest recreational centers, and activities, it is becoming a must-stop for all the Alaskan Highway riders.
If you’re on your ride to Alaska highway, add Fort Nelson to your list and enjoy a relaxing and insightful day exploring the downtown and places. If you’ve been here, comment on any of your favorite spots, which others should not miss.