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Fraser Valley, British Columbia
photo courtesy of Tourism BC
"The Mighty Fraser" river winds its way from the Rocky Mountains in eastern BC, through the canyon that bears its name in the Coast Mountains, surging through its narrowest point at Hell's Gate, before heading out to the Straight of Georgia and the Pacific Ocean. Named for explorer Simon Fraser, the river forms an integral part of much of the British Columbia landscape and is the heart of the world's greatest salmon producing river system. It carries with it a rich load of silt which has created the lush and fertile farmlands of the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver.
This is the major food producing region for the Vancouver Lower Mainland area, especially known for its variety of berries, its dairy farms and more recently its greenhouses, growing everything from cucumbers and peppers to flowers. Many of the communities in the Valley offer roadside farmstands and weekend Farmers Markets. The city of Langley is a burgeoning wine region with several new wineries opening in recent years. This is also horse country, with more horses per capita than any other part of the province. More animals -- in fact more than 200 species -- can be found at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. Langley is also home to the Canadian Museum of Flight, dedicated to the preservation of aviation history. Nearby Fort Langley played a major part in the development of our province. Originally constructed as a Hudson Bay Trading Post in 1827 it was the first European settlement in south-western BC. Now a National Historic site, its original storehouse and reconstructed buildings offer a glimpse of BC history.
The commercial centre of the Fraser Valley is the city of Abbotsford. While in recent years it has been one of the fastest growing communities in the province, it still maintains its agricultural roots and is known as the Raspberry Capital of Canada. Abbotsford has a strong Mennonite community, founded by some of the original farmers who settled here. The Abbotsford International Air Show has been a prominent summer event in the area since 1962, and the regional airport is ever expanding its flight services as well. Warm updrafts and gentle breezes has made hot air ballooning, gliding and para-sailing popular activities in the area.
Near the city of Chilliwack you will find two major attractions: Bridal Falls and Minter Gardens. Bridal Falls offers stunning views of its 400 ft. drop down Mount Cheam. Minter Gardens is a world-class 11 hectare show garden with 11 themed gardens, including a fragrance garden for the blind and an English style maze. Outdoor activities in the area include golf, rafting, kayaking and fishing.
A popular destination in the Valley is Harrison Hot Springs on Harrison Lake. Two mineral hot springs, ranging in temperature from 58 to 62 degrees Celcius, were the reason a hotel was build on the lake in 1886, creating BC's first resort. The lake was originally formed from an arm of the sea and is the largest lake in south-western BC. Windsurfing, water skiing, camping, cycling and hiking on the many trails, are some of the activities enjoyed in the area. During the second week in September, the beaches on Harrison Lake are transformed into an art gallery during the annual World Championship Sand Sculpture Competition.
Along with the nearby heritage community of Harrison Mills and the community of Agassiz, this area comprises the District of Kent, which is often called the Corn Capital of BC. Harrison Mills was originally a busy lumber operation and buildings in the community incorporate ramps and boardwalks to elevate them above the annual flood-waters of the Fraser River. Probably the best known historic building is the Kilby General Store which opened its doors in 1906 and offers a fascinating look at products from the 1920s.
At the far eastern end of the Fraser Valley, on the banks of the river where it flows out of the Coast Mountains, lies the city of Hope. Scattered throughout the city are many chainsaw-carved wooden sculptures in support of its claim to be the "Chainsaw Carving Capital". Nearby, in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park several historic railway tunnels were blasted out of the solid granite mountainside between 1911-1916, to give access to the spectacular Coquihalla gorge for the now-abandoned Kettle Valley Railway. Today these impressive tunnels, known as the Othello Tunnels, are enjoyed by hikers and cyclists.
East of Hope along Highway 3, Manning Park is a great place to stop and enjoy hiking, camping, biking and canoeing. In the winter, its extensive trail network becomes a prime cross-country ski destination.
As the Gateway to BC's interior, Hope is central to all the routes that travel north and east. Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway, continues north through the spectacular Fraser Canyon and Lytton where the muddy Fraser is joined by the blue waters of the Thompson River, creating ideal conditions for superb white water rafting adventures. Highway 5 is the Coquihalla Highway, a toll highway to Kamloops and Kelowna, while Highway 3 takes the most southerly route to the interior. Traveling through the Fraser Valley itself, you can take Highway 1 for faster travel or enjoy discovering the many special communities in the region by taking Highway 7.