Named after King Edward VII, Port Edward was incorporated on June 29, 1966 when the Order-in-Council was signed by the Lieutenant Governor.
The Port Edward townsite was laid out in 1908 when the Grand Trunk Railway decided to expand their operations to the North Coast of British Columbia. Speculators began to purchase large blocks of land in the area, however, Charles M. Hays (Grand Trunk's President) put plans for Port Edward on hold when he ran his railway to Kaien Island instead. This site became known as Prince Rupert. Port Edward was put on the map during WWI when it was used as a military base, and since then, fishing, pulp, and paper have sustained it.
Prior to this, Port Edward's first actual building was built in 1913 and was to house Prince Rupert Hydro's 1500 horse-power diesel oil plant, but this never occurred.
The Nelson family moved to the area in 1909 from Tromso, Norway and within the decade they were fully immersed in the fishing industry. Nelson Bros. Fisheries Ltd pioneered in the field of long-distance fish packing on the coast, and by the early 1960s, Port Edward had become the largest fish processing area in the North. Inclusions were the installations of BC Packers evaporator plant in 1949, crab canning equipment in 1953, a clam operation in 1959 and a shrimp operation in 1961.
The District of Port Edward is located 15 km (9 mi) south of Prince Rupert. The majority of the 18,387 hectares covered is undeveloped land consisting mostly of lush West Coast rainforest. The townsite itself lies along Inverness Passage, providing access for the fishing industry to over-land transportation.
North Pacific Cannery is the oldest remaining intact fish cannery on the West Coast of North America. It was established in 1889 by the North Pacific Canning Company, and in 1891, it was sold to the Anglo-British Columbia Packing Company, who operated it until 1980. In 1984, the site was threatened with demolition, but in 1987 the North Coast Maritime Museum Society (now the Port Edward Historic Society) convinced B.C. Packers to transfer the site to the Municipality of Port Edward and the responsibility for the management of the site was then handed over to the society. The site is currently run as a not-for-profit. In 1987, North Pacific Cannery was designated a National Historic Site by Parks Canada and now commemorates the role the industrial fishery played in the economic and cultural development of North Western British Columbia, Canada, and the continent. It is a significant tourist attraction, hosting tens of thousands of visitors every year. The site consists of 30 buildings (the oldest of which dates to 1885), 600 metres of boardwalk, and a unique working dock that is 100 by 50 meters. It has also become an important institution for the preservation and cultivation of the identity and culture of the Skeena and North Coast region of British Columbia. The North Pacific Cannery has guided tours and performances that re-enact the history of the fishery.
Laxspa'aws is the Tsimshian name for the tiny island across from the community of Metlakatla and set on the reserve land of the Metlakatla Band. Its name means "island of sand" and it is locally known as Pike Island. The island is covered by a mature forest canopy that provides comfortable shelter for visitors. Gentle walking trails have been cleared and covered with wood chips to make walking easy and enjoyable. Occasional benches provide a place to pause and enjoy the forest enclave. Despite the island's small size, there are five archaeological sites. Of these, three are village sites and archaeological evidence suggests that two of them were last occupied some 1,800 years ago. As you visit the sites, guides will point out depressions on the forest floor and show you where longhouses once stood. Depending on the tide, you may see petroglyphs (rock carvings) as you walk along the beach. You can also learn about Tsimshian heritage and you will learn about the traditional uses of cedar and other plants while you explore.
There's a boat launch at Porpoise Harbour in Port Edward, with temporary moorage and a table for cleaning fish. A boat launch can also be found at Rainbow Lake. Kloya Bay is a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking.
The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, the only one of its kind in North America, protects prime grizzly habitat. Some 50 grizzlies, along with numerous black bears, are known to make their home in the area. Situated northeast of Prince Rupert, the Khutzeymateen is accessible by air and by water. Bear watching begins in the spring when the grizzlies descend from their dens to feed on the lush shoreline sedges. From the silence and safety of boats, you may watch as they graze, often feeding on mussels and other sea treats. Whether you come by boat or by plane, the spectacular scenery is an attraction in itself.
Whales are plentiful in the waters around the area. For many, the sight of humpbacks, grays, orcas, or minkes leaves an impression that will last a lifetime. The timing of your visit will determine what species you see. It could be humpbacks lunge feeding or bubble netting, or the migrating grays that pass through in spring. Orcas frequent the area, and you will identify the minke by its small head and sharply curved dorsal fin.
Much of the bird population spends the summer at sea, and ferry travellers often carry binoculars to watch for rare and unusual sightings. Kayakers and boaters are often rewarded with a close look at sea birds or curious river otters, and frequently encounter seals and sea lions.
High mountain ledges are populated by mountain goats, most easily seen from an aircraft. And though shy and elusive, you may catch a glimpse of a wolf among the trees.
Walks and hikes range from easy to very challenging. The groomed trails at Butze Rapids and Grassy Bay in Prince Rupert offer informative interpretive walks in the coastal rainforest. There are also many trails available within the Diane Lake and Prudhomme Lake Provincial Parks.
In May, serious dance competitors from across Western Canada visit Prince Rupert to compete for one of North America's richest prize purses at the B.C. Annual Dance Competition, where tough adjudicators award an impressive $50,000 in cash prizes.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia