The community of Smithers was founded in 1913 as the divisional headquarters of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The community took its name from Sir Alfred Smithers, the chairman of the board of directors of the railway. Alfred Avenue is also named after him. Lake Kathlyn, one of the most familiar spots in the Smithers area, is named after Sir Alfred's daughter. In 1921, Smithers was designated the first incorporated village in British Columbia. Development of local mineral and agricultural resources were encouraged and a steady economic growth was realized. In 1967, Smithers moved from the status of village to an incorporated town.
Pioneer settlers made Smithers their home because of the fertile valley soil, its abundant mineral riches and imposing coniferous forests. Later, tourism played an important part of the economic foundation of the area. Following World War II, many Europeans immigrated to Smithers, notably Dutch and Swiss families.
The Town of Smithers is situated in the Bulkley Valley of Northern British Columbia along Yellowhead Highway 16 approximately half way between the cities of Prince Rupert and Prince George. The Town's location is positioned with excellent road, rail and air connections to the rest of the province of British Columbia.
Take the self-guided Culture Crawl through the history of Smithers and the Bulkley Valley. Visit the Bulkley Valley Museum which features artifacts and documents detailing the history of the region.
The Smithers Art Gallery opened in 1972 with the aim to promote and encourage local and regional artists and to bring in exhibitions from elsewhere. The art gallery has been home for many beautiful and exciting works of art, with shows booked at least two years in advance.
Located roughly 30 minutes away from Smithers, Glacier Gulch is a 2-kilometre wide gorge with two spectacular twin waterfalls cascading down its walls.
Tobbogan Creek Fish Hatchery is located just off Highway 16, about 14 km (9 mi) west of Smithers. Situated beside the cold glacier-fed streams of Toboggan Creek, the hatchery temporarily syphons water from the creek into their spawning beds to rear coho and chinook salmon (also known as spring or king salmon). Open from April to October, the hatchery welcomes visitors. You can take a tour of the hatchery and learn about salmon. You can also use the immaculately maintained picnic grounds or walk the creek trail.
The names of the nearby rivers are known around the world: Bulkley, Morice, Kispiox, Babine, Sustut, Skeena. The steelhead of the Skeena River system are also some of the largest in the world. The Kispiox and Babine rivers in particular are known for large fish. The Kispiox came to fame in the 1950s when fish upwards of 40 pounds were caught. Steelhead between 20 and 30 pounds still swim up the waters of the Babine.
Of the five species of Pacific salmon, four swim in the nearby waters - chinook, (also known as spring or king), coho, sockeye and pink - plus steelhead.
Magical and mystical, the northern light are a wondrous sight. Smithers sees the northern lights winter and summer, but winter is best, anytime from October through March, when the dark skies show off the colours. When the lights begin to dance across the sky - sometimes green and white, sometimes brilliant reds - it is a sight few can turn away from.
Smithers is a paddler's dream! Whether you're seeking a peaceful paddle around the lakeshore, drifting on a placid stream, or experiencing the thrill of adrenaline pumping whitewater, Smithers has it all. The Bulkley Valley is studded with large and small lakes and the surrounding mountains ensure a good supply of river water all season long. Rivers like the Bulkley, Babine, Morice and Kispiox are all within easy reach.
Golfing in Smithers is scenic and close to downtown. The Smithers Golf and Country Club is just minutes west of the city and Riverside Recreation is just minutes east. Both are located on Highway 16 and easy to find.
Whether your idea of a good hike is a couple of hours of easy walking, or ten days of wilderness trekking, you have it all right here. A linear park surrounds Smithers, providing 11 km (7 mi) of gentle town and country walking. As you move a little further from town, there is terrain to suit everyone. The Hudson Bay Mountain ski area provides easy access to the alpine for hiking during the summer and wildflowers splash colour across the meadows. If you want to hike for a day or a week the Babine Mountain Provincial Park has peaks to climb, valleys to cross, and tales of history to be uncovered.
Ski Smithers is a great family ski resort just 20 minutes from downtown. Three lifts, including a triple chair take you to the top of Hudson Bay Mountain. Enjoy ski runs from novice to expert, including some challenging tree skiing. Ski Smithers has a full service day lodge, with a restaurant and lounge; along with a well-outfitted rental and pro-shop. If you're new to skiing or boarding- you can link up with a friendly and qualified instructor at the ski school.
If you prefer to leave the lifts behind and see the backcountry - you will love the Bulkley Valley. Smithers is surrounded by mountains and hundreds of miles of untracked snow. There is generally enough snow to ski from November through June and enough terrain to suit the most demanding skier on alpine touring or telemark gear. The town has good ski shops that can advise on where to ski and can assist with gear needs. Back country ski guides are also available.
The Bulkley Valley Nordic Centre has it all for the track skier. There's a day lodge, waxing huts, lighted night skiing and many organized events throughout the season. The tracks are well maintained and a map is available of the ski area. The Nordic Centre is on Hudson Bay Mountain, about 15 minutes from downtown. Groomed trails are also maintained across the valley at Howson Hut- a privately owned ski area. Maps are also available for the Howson Hut trails. If you prefer something closer to town, cross-country skiiers make their own tracks on the nearby lakes Kathlyn, Seymour and Tyee.
The 3-day annual Midsummer Music Festival in June attracts more than 70 loca, regional and national bands who perform in front of crowds of up to 2,000 people. It provides the opportunity for young children to interact musically with professional musicians and allows them to explore music in a fun, creative way.
Background Photo Credit: Tourism British Columbia