Touring Fraser Valley

May 1, 2003
Filed under Destinations

Mention that you’re planning a motorhome trip to British Columbia, and almost anyone who
has been there will urge you to tour the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver and take the ferry
to the quaint capital of Victoria. While these two cities definitely are worth seeing,
visitors to Canada’s westernmost province should allow time to tour the scenic and historic
sites of the beautiful Fraser River Valley. Some of the valley’s attractions can be seen on
a one-day loop trip from Vancouver, but to fully enjoy the many stops you’ll want to make,
plan time to crisscross the river between the north and south shores. From Vancouver, going
east on Highway 7A to Highway 7, you’ll follow the north shore of the river through lush
meadows, dairy farms and golf courses. Pitt Lake, the continent’s largest tidal freshwater
lake, is a haven for bird-watchers. When you reach Maple Ridge, you might want to follow
the signs to Golden Ears excellent facilities for camping, fishing, swimming, hiking and
boating. In any event, continue through Maple Ridge on Highway 7 and catch the free Albion
Ferry to Fort Langley on the south shore of the Fraser River. You can either go on foot or,
if you plan to spend the night at one of the many RV parks in the area, take your
motorhome. Fort Langley is best known as the birthplace of British Columbia. In addition to
being a historic community with an interesting assortment of eclectic shops and eating
establishments, this is the site where, in 1827, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a
fort to serve the thriving fur and salmon trade. Farms produced food for the Russian
market, with the Fraser River serving as a supply route to the Pacific Ocean. The gold rush
of 1858 brought more prosperity, and the colony of British Columbia was established that
year. The fort, which later fell into disrepair, has been reconstructed as Fort Langley
National Historic Site. After touring the fort, plan to visit the many antique shops and
art galleries in the picturesque village or sample some local cuisine. There also are three
fine wineries in the community. You’ll find RV sites at Derby Reach Regional Park, which is
situated on the Fraser River. To continue your tour, take the ferry back to Albion and head
east on Highway 7. To the north of the highway are a number of lakes and provincial parks
for overnight visits. When you come to Harrison Mills, look for signs leading to the Kilby
General Store Museum for a glimpse of country life in the 1920s and 1930s. A tearoom offers
hearty country cooking, 1920s style. At Highway 9, turn north to Harrison Hot Springs,
where you can soak in the mineral springs(discovered by miners in 1850), enjoy plenty of
outdoor activities or gaze on beautiful Harrison Lake, which is surrounded by lofty
mountains. In October, the lakeshore becomes a beehive of activity as the World
Championship Sand Sculpture Competition takes shape. Singles, partners and teams from
around the world are given a specified number of hours to create sculptures from sand that
has been dredged from the bottom of the lake. The competition is keen, as artists vie for
$40,000 in cash prizes, but the real winners are the spectators who watch the sculptures
take shape. Some creations stand as much as 12 feet tall, made only of compressed sand and
water. Large sculptures can take as much as 15 tons of sand and 1,500 gallons of water. The
finished works of art are as different as they are magnificent, with some recreating
Biblical and historical scenes. After building a base of compacted sand, the artists use
everything from their hands to simple tools, like spoons and spatulas, to put minute
details on their images. Each sculpture is then treated with a solution to withstand the
rain and wind for an entire month, during which time thousands view these unique works of
art. In addition to hot springs and sandcastles, the area hosts music and art festivals,
great camping and water sports on the largest lake in southwestern British Columbia. During
the winter months, visitors enjoy crosscountry or downhill skiing at nearby Hemlock Valley.
After taking in the sights of Harrison Hot Springs, follow Highway 9 south across the river
to Trans-Canada Highway 1 and the town of Rosedale, home of Minter Gardens, a must-see
attraction. Situated at the base of 7,000-foot Mount Cheam, the gardens were created by
Brian and Faye Minter, taking advantage of the natural landscape and rich, alluvial soil.
Many original trees still stand, surrounded by theme gardens. Visitors can stroll through
27 acres of magnificent settings on paths that lead over the hilly terrain. A more-level
path that covers much of the area is wheelchair accessible. While visiting the gardens,
drop into the tearoom for a meal or a snack and visit the gift-and-wine shop. There is
ample parking for large motorhomes. Just west of Chilliwack is the road leading to Cultus
Lake, one of the most popular vacation areas in the Fraser Valley. You’ll find more than
2,000 campsites in and near Cultus Lake Provincial Park and plenty of outdoor activities:
water sports in the crystal-clear lake, golfing and hiking. There also is a water park
nearby. To continue your Fraser Valley tour, proceed east on Trans-Canada Highway 1 a short
distance to Bridal Falls Provincial Park. The path to this lovely waterfall, the
sixth-highest in Canada, is through a forest of majestic cedar trees. The walk is short and
relatively easy, and the view is worth the effort. Your last destination on this tour is
the town of Hope. This pleasant community is billed as Canada’s Chain-Saw Carving Capital
for good reason. Thanks to the two local artists, you will find 32 images of animals and a
few people dominating the landscape. Stop at the visitor center, which is on your right on
the way into town, and pick up a map providing the locations of the sculptures. More than
half of the carvings can be seen on a downtown walking tour, including a large bear, a
mountain sheep, an eagle, beavers and even a “Mountie” (a Royal Canadian Mounted Police
officer). Many of these are in a beautiful, tree-shaded park right in the middle of town.
From Hope, you have your choice of routes. Trans Canada Highway 1 and Provincial Highway 5
both go north, merging in Kamloops. To return to the United States, take Provincial Highway
3, which wanders east to Osoyoos, just north of the border. If that is your chosen route,
you will pass by the Hope Slide to the north of the highway. There is a viewing area with
an interpretive sign that describes the events of January 9, 1965. That was when Johnson
Peak collapsed, sending tons of rock, mud and trees onto the highway, sweeping back into
the valley and filling up Nicolum Creek to depths of 200 feet. The slide absorbed all of
Outram Lake. It is an awesome view of a geologic phenomenon. Hope is fewer than 100 miles
from Vancouver, but there is so much to see and do that a week would not be too long to
linger and enjoy this lovely part of British Columbia. The Fraser River is home to the
world’s largest and longest-lived freshwater fish. Sturgeon have been known to live for 150
years and grow to 15 feet, challenging seasoned anglers. There also has been a rebound of a
variety of salmon in recent years, setting new records. In addition, steelhead and
cutthroat trout are abundant in the Fraser, Chilliwack, Vedder, Chehalis and Harrison
rivers. So bring your fishing gear along!

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