Pemberton, British Columbia
Pemberton is a village municipality north of Whistler in the Pemberton Valley of British Columbia in Canada, with a population of 2,574. Until the 1960s the village could be reached only by train, but that changed when Highway 99 was built through Whistler (then named Alta Lake) and Pemberton.
|Village of Pemberton|
|Coordinates: 50°19′3″N 122°47′55″W|
|Region||Pemberton Valley (Sea to Sky Country/Lillooet Country)|
|• Type||Elected village council|
|• Governing body||Pemberton Village Council|
|• Mayor||Mike Richman|
|• Total||10.89 km2 (4.20 sq mi)|
|Elevation||210 m (690 ft)|
|• Density||217.5/km2 (563/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC−8 (PST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−7 (PDT)|
|Area code(s)||604 / 778 / 236|
Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada, is a small village located in the Coast Mountains, 100 miles (159 km) north of Vancouver. Pemberton has a population of approximately 2,574 people. Until the early 1960s, when Highway 99 was built, Pemberton was accessible only by train and the population was under 200 people.
The local economy is also dependent on logging and tourism. Mt. Currie rises to the south, at 8,500 ft (2,591 m), and can be seen throughout the Pemberton Valley.
The climate of Pemberton is very warm and dry in the summer and mild and wet in the winter. Pemberton is an ecologically complex and diverse zone which is referred to as the Coast-Interior Transition zone. Moving from west to east in the direction of the prevailing winds and taking into consideration the elevation changes; it follows that there is a windward, wetter zone and a leeward drier zone and an even drier zone on the leeward side of the Lillooet Ranges and the Pacific Ranges north of the rail line. High summer temperatures and the pronounced water deficits during the growing season are the norm.
Those who were here first
The Pemberton Valley lies in the traditional territory of Lil'wat Nation who have lived on these lands for thousands of years. Potatoes have been grown in the Pemberton Valley since the earliest days. Joe Joseph says that the land he inherited from his grandmother grew the first potatoes in the valley and that before the Gold Rush, when she was six, his grandmother had traveled to the coast with relatives and there visited a Mount Currie woman who had moved away from the valley and was then living somewhere in the Lower Mainland, perhaps around Fort Langley. When Joe's grandmother and her relatives were leaving to return to the Mt. Currie homes, the woman they had visited gave them a pail of “skinny, long, lady finger” potatoes, and said to plant them all that year, but to save the whole crop the first year and plant that crop with coming of the second spring. Then, she said, the Mount Currie people could eat some of the potatoes they would dig the next fall. The returning visitors followed directions because the cultivation of domestic potatoes fitted well into the gardening practices of native women who dug them with forked sticks, and early miners making their way north to the Fraser River gold fields starred in astonishment at the potato fields of Joe's ancestors.
Early European exploration
In 1827, the Hudson's Bay Company's men first penetrated the valleys of the Birkenhead and Lillooet Rivers. Frances Ermantinger arrived then by way of Seton Lake and Anderson Lake, and James Murray Yale came three years later, having made the trip north from Fort Langley. In all likelihood both men were searching for a safe route for fur brigades from Kamloops and Fort Langley, for a route to bypass the lower Fraser River canyons.
In 1846, Alexander Caulfield Anderson travelled through this country with the same purpose: to decide if company horses could make their way from the Fraser to present day Mount Currie and on, by way of Lillooet and Harrison Lakes, to Fort Langley. By then, as of the Oregon Treaty, the lower Columbia River, the main link with the Interior, was American, and for that reason Governor Simpson considered a new route "most highly important." The men travelled on foot and by canoe from Kamloops to the south end of the lake named for the leader (Anderson Lake). Seton Lake was named for an officer named Alexander Seton, a relative of A.C. Anderson. Seton served as lieutenant colonel on HMS Birkenhead and which sank off the coast of Africa (famous for being the first time "women and children first" was heard). The exploration party continued by what Anderson described as a "very good trail," and camped overnight at the Birkenhead River. The next day, following the Birkenhead River, they reached Mount Currie area by late afternoon. The route was never used by the company, which chose to build the Brigade Trail from Hope via passes over the Coastal Range / Cascade Mountains to the east of the Fraser Canyon to reach Fort Kamloops.
The gold rush era
In 1858 the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush began and some 30,000 miners began the trek through traditional Lil'wat and upper St'at'imc territory to the goldfields at Lillooet, then known as Cayoosh Flat. Many miners who reached the goldfields in the summer of 1858 intended to stay the winter and this created an urgent problem for Governor Douglas of Vancouver Island. The miners needed food and that food had to be transported to regions above the lower canyons of the Fraser, where there were no roads. Because he knew that twelve years earlier A.C. Anderson had traveled from Lillooet by a chain of lakes to Fort Langley, Governor James Douglas asked for a survey a route linking all lakes between the north end of Harrison Lake and the Fraser River. The total length of trail would be just over sixty-eight miles, the total length of all lakes nearly fifty-six miles.
Five hundred miners eager to reach the gold-bearing Fraser River bars volunteered to build the trail, and were charged $5 each for the privilege of doing so, in the form of a deposit to be refunded in exchange for goods upon completion. They established Port Douglas and constructed a trail called Douglas Portage to the north end of Lillooet Lake and called it Port Pemberton. This was the first public works project in the newly formed Crown Colony of British Columbia and is also known as the Harrison-Lillooet Trail, the Lillooet Trail, the Lakes Route, or the Douglas Trail.
Pemberton was named for Joseph Despard Pemberton, a surveyor for the Hudson's Bay Company and Surveyor-General for the Colony of Vancouver Island in the 1850s. Joseph Pemberton had laid out Victoria's townsite, and supervised the construction of British Columbia's first legislature building, "the Birdcages". Joseph Pemberton never visited the place that bears his name.
The little port developed to serve the Gold Rush and nearby farming settlement grew as mining traffic increased. Then very quickly, when traffic shifted to a route better than the one between Harrison Lake and Lillooet, most of the few settlers then in the area moved on. One of the assets of the area would become widely known – the richness of the land – and small waves of settlement would continue until a new Pemberton would replace the first Port Pemberton. Before the last of the farmers moved away national and provincial demands for new routes brought more strangers to the area seeking access. As early as 1891 men incorporated a company to build a railway from the coast to Pemberton and beyond, but not until 1914 did a train run into the valley. The new settlers in the late 1800s included John Currie, who was listed as a permanent resident in 1885. John emigrated from Scotland to Quebec with his family at the age of seventeen and soon ran away from home and struck off for the California gold fields. He returned to Pemberton to pre-empt land with his partner McDonald. John settled in Pemberton with his native wife, Seraphine Joseph of Mt. Currie, and they ran Pemberton's first post office, serving a handful of settlers. Andrew Joseph was one of the first mail carriers, who in all weather brought mail in from Lillooet. In 1873, Marcus Smith, the leader of the first railway survey party in this area, supervised a survey that brought him up the head of Howe Sound, and on by way of Birkenhead River, Anderson and Seton Lakes to Lillooet, following the route the Pacific Great Eastern Railway would take forty years later and which was used for the construction of the Lillooet Cattle Trail to the mouth of the Seymour River in North Vancouver. Completed in 1878, the cattle trail was the largest infrastructure project by the new province and ended in disaster for the only herd of cattle driven over it. This route became known, after rebuilding by John Currie and his native crew, as the Pemberton Trail and was the only route to the coast.
In 1901 Carl A. Hartzell wrote to the Daily Province stating that 20,000 acres of Pemberton land were out of reach of flood and than an acre in the driest sections could produce 1500 lbs of grain or 12 tons potatoes. Charles Barbour, lamented in the same newspaper, that the government's lack of foresight in failing to build a road from the coast to Pemberton prevented annual production of $1,000,000 worth of agricultural products. Pemberton land was cheaper than Fraser Valley land, selling at $18 an acre versus $45 an acre.
Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe
The Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe is an important document in the history of First Nations and the governments of the Dominion of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. Signed in Spences Bridge on May 10, 1911 by a committee of 16 chiefs of the St'at'imc, taken down by anthropologist James Teit, it is an assertion of sovereignty over traditional territories as well as a protest against recent alienations of land by white settlers at Seton Portage due to railway construction. The declaration states, “we have always lived in our country; at no time have we ever deserted it, or left it to others”.
The coming of the railway
In the early years of railway construction, the railway men planned to build their railway to haul out the timber up the Squamish Valley, but their charter provided for construction from the Squamish River right through to Lillooet on the Fraser, about 120 miles distant. By the end of 1907 ten miles of the line had been surveyed; by the end of 1909, sixty miles to Pemberton was completed. By 1911, the railway was becoming a reality and land values rose to $100 an acre. The railway company planned two townsites; Pemberton, and Newport (quickly renamed Squamish) but in 1912 the company ran out of funding. The Pacific Great Eastern Railway Company soon picked up the pieces and by 1912 advertisements suggested that one crop might pay for the "ideal little farms" created by the subdivision of the former John Currie property at Agerton. Readers were assured that "the day the railway arrives land will sell for $500 to $1000 per acre".
The first train from Squamish reached Pemberton on Oct 29th, 1914. The Pemberton Station platform was a structure of "rough planks on a sea of roots" but the general roughness was of little concern to settlers boarding the first passenger train south. Finally a link to the coast and access to Vancouver markets made permanent settlement possible.
Very soon after railway completion many families arrived to settle and more came after WW1. Despite the richness of the agricultural land permanent settlement remained a challenge due to spring and fall flood events and many new settlers lost everything, choosing to pick up and seek their fortunes elsewhere.
In 1947 the Pemberton Dyking District was formed to manage drainage and flood control in the Pemberton Valley. The organization initiated the dyking and straightening of the Lillooet River and its tributaries, Ryan and Miller Creeks; and the lowering of Lillooet Lake via a tri-partite agreement with federal and provincial governments. The program was administered via the Post-War Rehabilitation Council and the drainage project was carried out under the Prairie Farmer's Rehabilitation Act. The new land made available by the drainage project brought a rush of new settlers in the late 1940–1950s. New modern services also encouraged the purchase of old run down farms and the new government land.
Telephone, Internet and Fibre
Pemberton is serviced by TELUS and Shaw Communications for local telephone service as well as broadband Internet and digital TV services. Though Telus received a Federal grant one year prior to the 2010 Whistler Vancouver Winter Olympics to bring fibre to much of the area, that fibre is still dark, and not in use. Telus is denying public access to the fibre, and to most businesses also, and provides its “last mile” public services via copper wire. Shaw TV, telephony, Internet are provided via coax cable. Shaw services leave the valley through a few, but not enough, leased fibres from TELUS. Rogers, TELUS and Bell Mobility offer cellular service in the region as well.
Because of concerns of the poor quality, and in some places complete lack of communication services, the local Pemberton Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Pemberton, SLRD Squamish Lillooet Regional District, Lil’wat 1st Nation, MLA Jordan Sturdy, and MP Pamela Goldsmith Jones were instrumental in getting grants to improve local Internet and fibre access. Base Wireless, with a provincial $133,000 grant from Connecting BC program, was bringing high-speed wireless Internet and fibre to Poole Creek, north of the village, in 2017. High-speed Internet to the Pemberton Industrial Park and surrounding areas of Lil’wat Band's old town site of Mount Currie. April 2017, through a new connectivity project by Base Technology Ltd. the Province of BC, & the Federal Digital 150 Connecting Canadians program.
The western half of the Pemberton Meadows has neither copper wire telephony nor cellular coverage. In 2012 Base Wireless brought service down the Meadows to Geese Road. Base Wireless in 2014 set up a temporary communications for the dual Innergex Micro-Hydro Projects, that ran till summer 2017. It began with a plug and play Telus optical fibre connection in the Pemberton Gateway Village Suites Hotel Building then from the roof over a series of low power antenna relays. Though the original set-up was decommissioned, a parallel system also run by Base Wireless provides broadband Internet access to all the farms that wish to subscribe, in the Western Pemberton Valley. The farmers can now make and receive phone calls for the first time by connecting their cellphones via WiFi to Facetime, Skype, or Facebook Messenger.
Electricity and a road to the south
In 1951 electricity came to Pemberton, from the Bridge River Power Project at Seton in the north and through to the U.S. in the south. The hydro tower access road followed the old Pemberton Trail and became a rudimentary access route to the south for service vehicles and the adventurous. The Pemberton Board of Trade first began lobbying efforts for a road to the south as early as 1933. It wasn't until the development of Whistler as a ski resort in tandem with the Garibaldi Development Association bid for the 1966 Olympics, that the impetus was provided to the Highways Department to extend and improve the narrow gravel road north from Whistler to Pemberton in 1964. In 1969 the road was blacktopped and Pemberton became the northern terminus of the longest north south highway in North America, extending from the Baja in Mexico, through the U.S. via route 1.
The road to Vancouver finally put an end to the Pemberton Co-op: produce could be shipped direct, and sacks, feed and fertilizer and other farm needs could be delivered to the farmer's gate from suppliers.
The early steamers that moved gold rush traffic in 1858 were constructed on site with local materials and the Owl Creek hatchery project in 1911 was the first commercial sawmill in the area. Logging occurred with early Pioneer settlement as part of initial land clearing activities and the Perkins mill assisted many new settlers with materials for their homesteads. The arrival of the railway provided opportunities for small tie mill and pole yard operations along the railway from 1900 to 1960. The arrival of Fleetwood Logging Company in 1950 signaled the arrival of large scale logging in Pemberton. Fleetwood set up a camp on the upper end of Lillooet Lake and logged using A-frame logging methods. By 1972, 100 logging trucks a day headed south from the timber leases in the upper Lillooet River region through to Squamish in the south. In 1973, the BC Forest Service built a new office In Pemberton and many provincial forest service sites and parks were established in the area during this time. The office closed and moved to Squamish in the 1990s.
In 1984, Pemberton suffered a severe flood event and many residents had to be evacuated. In the fall of 2003 another flood event occurred, washing out highway 99 at Rutherford Creek; cutting Pemberton off from the coast.
In 2009, a prolonged drought followed by thunderstorms led to the Camelback Mountain and Copperdome Mountain wildfires in the upper Pemberton Valley and several farms had to be evacuated.
On August 6, 2010, the Pemberton Valley was on evacuation alert due to a nearby landslide from Mount Meager, despite articles to the contrary Pemberton was not actually evacuated. The order was rescinded as the avalanche debris damming the Lillooet River cleared itself safely.
The village's look is slightly rustic and has the appearance of the set of an Old West movie. It has been used as a movie set and for numerous car commercials. As to the newer structures, it may appear that this is deliberate, for tourism image-making via new design bylaws; but there are practical reasons beyond a nod to the legacy of the area's roots as part of the Lillooet Country and its ranching and mining culture. The Market & Drugstore buildings re-vitalized the village core. Their covered walkways encourage people to walk about town when shopping in all weather and all seasons and protect them from the hazards of falling snow. There is a quaint covered wooden footbridge (bicycles and horses too) over the Arn Canal.
Later, more recent developments at the beginning of town like Portage Station, Winchester and the Pemberton Gateway Village Suites Building (with nostalgic Red Clock Tower) were all required to build covered porches that shade the summer sun but let the winter sun right in.
New modernized traditional style structures include the aforementioned, Pemberton Valley Lodge, and the new post and beam Pemberton Barn that houses the Friday Farmers Market (June to Canadian Thanksgiving). The modern Public Library and Pemberton Community Centre have a covered walkround on three sides.
See Pemberton Meadows Crops: seed-potatoes Pemberton is an important agricultural community famous for producing seed potatoes, and diversifying into market gardening including potatoes for eating and potatoes for making Vodka, cranberries, food products and food/farm events. The main seed potato producers are located along the Pemberton Meadows Road, many of whom have been there for generations. Agri-tourism is a growing trend and popularized by Slow Food Cycle Sunday down Pemberton Meadows. 2014 was the 10th anniversary of the event. Organic farming is also a growth area, initiated by Across The Creek Organics, and the Helmer Farm followed soon after by many small CSA/Farmers market farms. The Pemberton Farmers Institute is a body representing local agricultural affairs. Pemberton is vital to the local food security of the Sea To Sky corridor, North America and the world at large. In its seed potato growing capacity Pemberton is important continent-wide and the breeding work is important worldwide to global food security. Whether you eat a baked potato at home or in a fast food restaurant as fries chances are high it was grown from a seed potato grown from a Pemberton-grown seed potato first.
A recent development is the planting of hops for making beer. The Pemberton Valley is growing the first Canadian patented and trademarked hop by the Canadian Food & Inspection Agency: Sasquatch. Hops Connect has built a small plant, in the Pemberton Industrial Park, to pelletize hops for the brewing industry.
Another recent development, also at the Pemberton Industrial Park, is a legal licensed medical marijuana grow operation, by Whistler Medical Marijuana Corporation, with plans to expand to recreational product too, when marijuana is fully legalized in 2018.
The Pemberton Regional Airport (CYPS) has over 400 landings a year with most of the volume occurring in August. Users are typically fire and rescue vehicles, commercial activity companies, gliders (till 2013), local aircraft and helicopter companies.
The Pemberton Airport accepts fixed-wing, rotorcraft vehicles and helicopters, and could land small jets. A Ski plane that flies to local backcountry Lodges is based at the airport since winter 2013–2014. There's an automated weather station, but there are no lights, towers or navigational assistance. Runway is not always plowed in winter. Limited Jet fuel A service is now available from Blackcomb Aviation 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Canadian and a few US military pilots practiced landings for Kandahar, Afghanistan, with approaches and touch-and-go landings.
Seaplanes and helicopters also land at both nearby Whistler's Green Lake and Whistler's Heliport, 40 minutes south.
Bus-air combinations are available via Whistler, Vancouver YVR, Abbotsford, Bellingham and Seattle.
As Pemberton is a bedroom community of Whistler, it is also tied into the Whistler transit system. Local bus transit service is provided by BC Transit or the WAVE service out of Whistler. The Pemberton Valley Transit System / WAVE runs a commuter bus between Pemberton and Whistler. There are 4 trips daily, with 2 in the morning and 2 in the late afternoon/early evening. Bus terminus pick-up/drop-off in Pemberton between AG Grocery and Old Pemberton Hotel.
Bus service to Vancouver & Vancouver Airport from nearby Whistler is provided by a range of operators including YVR Skylynx.
Pemberton Taxi service runs a Valley Commuter Service, with a mini-bus than can be chartered also, to the nearby First Nations (Native / "Indian") town of Mount Currie that meets up with the Whistler buses.
A two car passenger-train provides railbus service besides daily round-trip service between Seton Portage and Lillooet, stopping also in Shalalth, limited service farther south to the Ponderosa Ranch (near D'Arcy) and may be chartered to run past the Ponderosa Ranch to D'Arcy, which is forty-five minutes north of Pemberton at the head of Anderson Lake. Note: there are often minor delays by mountain goats and/or bighorn sheep. They scatter for the CN's freight-trains but show no fear of the two-car self-propelled passenger train.
Foot, bike, and horse trails
The Pemberton Valley Trail Association has built 30 miles of free trails for cross-country skiing, biking, walking, or horseback riding. The latest trail connects One Mile Lake to Nairn Falls, a 1-hour hike in summer each way but can be used year-round with skis or snowshoes in winter. This trail was completed in 2012 and is part of the TransCanada Trail Network, Sea to Sky and Cariboo Trail Section. There are real hitching posts all round town to tie up your horses. There are almost 200 km / 124 miles of free trails in the Pemberton Valley System. A water proof map printed on "Plastic Paper" is published by The Pemberton Valley Trail Association and can be purchased at Bike Co. in Pemberton – funds raised go to the trails association.
The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique operates the Francophone primary school in the village out of modular portable units behind the Pemberton Elementary School: Signal Hill Elementary, so that both schools can share play fields, playground & gymnasium: école de la Vallée-de-Pemberton.
On July 25–27, 2008, Pemberton hosted the Pemberton Festival, produced by Live Nation, which had a musical lineup of 66 acts including Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay, Jay-Z, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Tragically Hip, Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Metric, and Interpol. The festival was the first to be held in the valley since the Stein Voices for the Wilderness Festivals of 1989–90, held in nearby Mount Currie, which drew over 35,000 people, the largest number of people in the valley since the gold rush. Its roster of artists included Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, and Spirit of the West.
Pemberton Music Festival
Pemberton Music Festival was re-organized in 2014 by New Orleans-based company, HUKA Entertainment. The event took place July 16–20, 2014, and brought in over 30,000 attendees over the span of five days. The festival featured multiple stages of live entertainment, with different genres including rock, indie rock, hip hop, electronic, heavy metal, and comedy. Buses and shuttles were used to bring people from surrounding communities to prevent the first Pemberton Festivals traffic issues. Approximately 20,000 attended in 2014 about half of the first festival.
Two Acre Shaker
From 2008-2014 the Two Acre Shaker music festival was held. It had grown in scale but was not nearly as large as the Pemberton Festival.
Pemberton news is covered by Whistler's weekly newspaper, Pique Newsmagazine, published every Thursday and also available online.
Pemberton Magazine is also published once a year by Pique Newsmagazine for Tourism Pemberton.
- Avians: waterfowl and raptors
- Garter snakes – 3 species:
- Northwestern garter snake Thamnophis ordinoides
- Western terrestrial garter snake AKA Wandering garter snake Thamnophis elegans vagrans
- Thamnophis sirtalis – 3 Subspecies 3a) Valley garter snake /Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi, 3b) Valley garter snake / Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi, 3c) Red-sided garter snake "Red Racer" Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis
- Northern Rubber Boa Charina bottae Limited Range British Columbia is the most Northern, and closest boa range to either pole.
- Sharp-tailed snake Contia tenuis Endangered newly discovered, limited range only known mainland habitat.
- alligator lizards Elgaria coerulea principis and Western Skink Eumeces skiltonianus both lizards Limited Range in hottest and driest areas
- Northern Pacific Rattlesnake Crotalus oreganus oreganus Edge of Historial Range, no longer extant, limited range. Once found only in specific micro-climates: hottest & driest areas with southern exposure under rock outcroppings and long needle pine, before DDT.
- Garter snakes – 3 species:
- Amphibians – newts, tree frogs, frogs, and large Western Toad
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- Beyond Garibaldi, Irene Ronayne, self-published
- People of the Harrison, Daphne Sleigh
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