Before European settlers, the greater Pemberton Valley area was the traditional territory of First Nations peoples of the Interior Salish tribe. Today, Pemberton's closest neighbouring community, Mount Currie, is the administrative seat of the Lil'wat Nation and their governing body, the Mount Currie Band Council.
Named for Joseph Despard Pemberton, a Surveyor General for the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1850s, "Port Pemberton" first appeared on a map in 1859 as a supply stop to service the influx of gold seekers. By the early 1880s, as gold fever dwindled, more and more people turned to farming on the rich farm lands of the Pemberton Valley.
The first passenger train rolled through Pemberton in 1914, further opening the area to settlers and trade. Throughout its history, agriculture and forestry have been the mainstays of the local economy. The Pemberton Valley is known for its seed potatoes, and is affectionately referred to as "Spud Valley" by locals. In 1967, this area became the first commercial seed potato area in the world to grow virus-free seed potatoes.
Travel in and out of Pemberton was largely regulated by the railway until 1975, when southern highway access was punched through from Whistler. North of Pemberton, the Duffey Lake road was paved in the late 1980s which completed the last section of the scenic drive called the Coast Mountain Circle Tour.
As the fastest growing community in BC, the Village has seen many changes in a short period of time. Agriculture and forestry are still important aspects of local economy, but tourism and its related services employ the highest percentages of residents.
Pemberton is 33 km (20 mi) north of Whistler off Highway 99. From Lillooet the village is accessed via Highway 99 (Duffy Lake Road). The district includes the Village, the First Nations community of Mt. Currie, Pemberton Valley, D'Arcy, and Birken.
Displays show the self-sufficiency of the Lil'wat people before contact with the Europeans and features gold rush exhibits and homes dating back to the late 19th century.
Located on Green River, Nairn Falls are a 1.5 km (1 mi) hike in from the parking lot to a viewing platform over the falls.
Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park is a 9,755 hectare (24,105 acre) area that protects important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including spotted owls, mountain goats, black bears, and grizzly bears. Old growth forests, subalpine and alpine environments, large and small lakes all contribute to the park's diversity.
Steeply rising from Lower Joffre Lake, the glacier-laden peaks are visible from an easily accessible viewpoint 500 metres from the parking lot. If you carry on, the trail becomes a rough, rocky, and steep hike through the Coast Mountain range. A highlight of the park is the turquoise blue waters of Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre lakes, all three of which are located along the trail, and each more stunning than the last. Their striking, saturated blue colour is caused by "rockflour" - or glacial silt - that is suspended in the water and reflects green and blue wavelengths of sunlight. Joffre Lakes Provincial Park has opportunities for hiking, camping, mountaineering, wildlife viewing, and fishing.
Based out of Pemberton Regional Airport, visitors can take a helicopter tour and see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world; paraglide above the valley floor; sky-dive and get a serious adrenaline rush; or soar over the valley in a two-seater glider.
Guided horseback riding tours take you through beautiful fields, forests, mountains, and along creeks. The area has miles of horse trails, guided tours and complete outfitting for the novice and experienced.
There are an abundance of winter activities in the Pemberton area. Just 30 minutes south is famous Whistler Blackcomb Resort that boasts world-renowned downhill skiing, snowboarding and more; some of the finest backcountry skiing in southwestern BC can be found east of Pemberton where Highway 99 climbs through the Cayoosh Range; cross-country trails are located along logging and hiking trails, some of which are groomed, including Nairn Falls Trail south of Pemberton, Meadows Road Trail and Spud Valley Loppett.
Pemberton is home to two challenging world-class 18-hole golf courses, both located at the base of Mt. Currie beside the Coquitlam River and with stunning views - Big Sky Golf & Country Club and Meadows Golf at Pemberton. Rated 4 ½ stars by Golf Digest and rated the Best Public/Resort Course in BC, Big Sky is truly a can't miss in the Sea to Sky corridor for golfers of any ability. The Meadows at Pemberton is a unique golf experience amongst British Columbia's most spectacular golf course settings with distinctly different layouts on both the front and back nine holes.
Jet boat tours are located on Green River and Lillooet River; whitewater rafting is on Green River providing a once-in-a-lifetime journey through pristine wilderness; kayaking is at Birkenhead Provincial Park; and swimming is available on many of the clear, beautiful lakes in the area.
There is an extensive, well-marked trail network in the Pemberton Valley. Nairn Falls is a 3 km (1.8 mi) round trip.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia