Located in the centre of territory traditionally claimed by the Tsimshian First Nation, this region was one of North America's most densely populated areas long before explorers arrived. Initially, the British and Americans set up posts to trade sea otter pelts. Plentiful wild salmon, which have sustained the Tsimshian for some 10,000 years, drew dozens of canneries to the coast during the 1800s, along with a multi-cultural, seasonal workforce. In the early 1900s, the Grand Trunk Railway selected Kaien Island as its Pacific terminus, and the City of Prince Rupert was incorporated in 1910.
Prince Rupert earned a place on the world map as the world's halibut capital, and during WWII, as the staging area for Allied troops and munitions on their way to the Aleutian Islands. In the post-war era, the city's fortunes have primarily been tied to fishing and forestry.
Prince Rupert is located on Kaien Island, just off the northwest coast of BC and at the western end of Yellowhead Highway 16. It is roughly 48 km (30 mi) south of Alaska, 145 km (90 mi) west of Terrace, and 725 km (450 mi) west of Prince George.
BC Ferries and the Alaska Marine Highway System operate year-round routes to Prince Rupert. VIA Rail offers daylight service between Prince Rupert and Jasper, stopping overnight in Prince George. The cruise between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert offers an exciting journey along BC's Inside Passage. During peak season there are frequent sailings to Skidegate in Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands.
Air Canada Jazz flies twice daily from Vancouver International Airport connecting with domestic and international carriers. Hawkair flies daily from Vancouver's South Terminal. Flying time is approximately two hours.
Greyhound Bus Lines offers twice-a-day service between Prince Rupert and Prince George, with connections to points north, south and east.
Built in 1889, today, the North Pacific Historic Fishing Village is a National Historic Site. It is the most complete cannery that remains of the remote villages which once dotted the West Coast. Experience mouth-watering food, licensed dining, cozy lodging, wildlife, and beautiful scenery, with live performances, tours and exhibits in this wooden cannery village suspended on pilings over an estuary of the Skeena River. In North Pacific's remarkable river setting you will be transported back to the hectic days of cannery life. A live show set against a backdrop of historic photos will bring to life the characters and the story of the North Coast fisheries. Displays are housed in original buildings and guided tours describe the canning process, fishing methods and lifestyles.
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.
Your visit to the Museum will begin with a warm welcome in the impressive longhouse lobby with its massive cedar timbers and contemporary glass art. Here you can choose from a wide variety of guided tours and other museum programs. As you make your way through the exhibits in the Great Hall and the Treasures Gallery, you will discover the legacy of archeological artifacts, unique works of art and oral history that portray thousands of years of Northwest Coast history and culture. Here you will also encounter the dramatic history of the more recent period: the fur trade, the construction of the railway, the development of the fishing industry and the creation of modern day communities.
In the Hall of Nations you will discover the rich diversity of Northwest Coast nations and their unique ceremonial art, and in the Monumental Gallery, with its spectacular view of the harbour, you can view exciting current works by contemporary Northwest Coast artists. See as well, the Ruth Harvey Art Gallery, which displays a wide variety of local and regional art.
Located in Prince Rupert's waterfront park, Kwinitsa Railway Station Museum provides adults and children alike with an exciting journey into the history of Canada's northern railway and the many small stations like Kwinitsa along its route. Exhibits portray the development of early Prince Rupert, from its days as the tent town at the terminus of the Grand Trunk Railway to its birth as a city in the 1920's.
Officially Cameron Cove, this part of Prince Rupert was once known as "Vickersville." Squatters settled here in the days when the downtown was strictly controlled by the railroad company. When a dairy was opened here in 1909, there was no dock and the cattle had to swim ashore. The dairy didn't last long, but the name Cow Bay survived and today has become a theme in a trendy shopping district.
Escape the crowd, in this last frontier of sport fishing. The waters around Prince Rupert are rich in the nutrients that support an abundant fish population and straddle the migratory salmon routes. Here you can fish all five species of salmon - chinook, coho, chum, pink, and sockeye - as well as halibut, varieties of rock fish, shrimp or crab.
Those who prefer freshwater angling will reap dramatic rewards. The Skeena River is one of British Columbia's most important salmon producers, and is famous for its wild salmon and steelhead. The fly and bar fishing are phenomenal. The wilderness around Prince Rupert is sprinkled with lakes and streams that feature great cutthroat and rainbow trout fishing.
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 Prince Rupert. 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.
Outdoor adventure tours vary greatly in terms of difficulty, length, comfort level and expense, but people agree that exploration of the Northwest Coast wilderness is worthwhile and rewarding. Here, a preferred method of exploration is by boat. Whether you paddle or cruise, the spectacular geography and remote location will long be remembered.
Kayaking is easy to master and is the perfect way to explore the coastal environment, allowing you to quietly study the wild coastline. Depending on the timing of your visit, there are even places where you may be able to paddle with whales. Guided kayak trips range from three hours to seven days.
Island explorations are also popular. You can hire a boat to explore the beaches and forests of nearby islands. For a truly memorable experience, finish off your beachcombing with a feast of fresh crab boiled up on the beach.
Walks and hikes around the city range from easy to very challenging. The groomed trails at Butze Rapids and Grassy Bay offer informative interpretive walks in the coastal rainforest.
Visit Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert Visitor Centre
100-215 Cow Bay Road
Prince Rupert, BC V8J 1A2
Toll Free: 1-800-667-1994
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia