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Home / Kootenay Rockies / The Elk Valley / Fernie


A Step Back in Time

Coal was discovered in the Crowsnest area of Southeastern British Columbia more than 100 years ago by prospectors looking for gold. In 1897, William Fernie reported a major discovery which led to the formation of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company. The mining community which emerged in 1897 was named Fernie, in honour of the miner whose efforts helped to establish the new industry. 

An extremely interesting legend concerning Fernie follows:

William Fernie, founder of the city, met a tribe of Indians during one of his prospecting trips. He noticed one of the Indian chieftain's daughters was wearing a necklace of shining black stones. Knowing that these stones were coal, William Fernie asked as to their source. The Indian Chief agreed to show Fernie where these had been found, upon condition that the prospector would marry the Indian maid. After learning the location of the coal deposits, William Fernie refused to marry the Princess. The Indian Chief was angered by this and he laid a curse upon the valley stating that it would meet with fire, flood, and famine. Fernie - Fernie's Historic Courthouse - Steve Short

As a reminder of the curse, the Ghost of Mount Hosmer can be seen each sunny summer evening on a rock face high above the city. The "ghost" is a spectacular shadow in the form of a rider on horseback.

The first fire which occurred in 1904 destroyed a large portion of the wooden business section of the city. The largest disaster, however, came on August 1, 1908, when a forest fire practically destroyed the city. Soon, Fernie was rebuilt. In 1916, disaster struck when the Elk River overflowed its banks and flooded sections of West Fernie. The near famine conditions of the Great depression made Fernie people believe the curse would never end.

On August 15, 1964, members of the Kootenai Tribes, headed by Chief Ambrose Gravelle, also known as Chief Red Eagle, assembled in Fernie for the ceremonial lifting of the Fernie Curse. Mayor James White made amends with the Chief by smoking the "Pipe of Peace" with Chief Red Eagle.


Fernie is located on Highway 3 in the extreme southeastern corner of British Columbia, 31 km (15 mi) south of Sparwood and 42 km (26 mi) west of the Alberta/British Columbia border.

Things to See and Do
  • Mount Fernie Provincial ParK

Located on the edge of town, Mount Fernie Provincial Park is a small park with a big personality - a camper and nature lover's delight, with dozens of forested hiking trails. The mountains surrounding Fernie are all equally accessible from town, an interwoven trail network connecting the micro urban environment to the rocky reaches of the high alpine peaks. The Cedar Valley, Fairy Creek Falls, and Mt. Proctor are only minutes from town, and Mt. Fernie, Mt. Bizzaro, Mt. Hosmer, Mt. Trinity, and the Three Sisters also provide a gateway to outstanding scenery and wildlife viewing. Black bear, deer and elk are abundant in these parts, so if they drop by for a visit, take proper precautions and be on your best behaviour.

  • Fernie Golf and Country Club

Fernie Golf & Country Club is one of the BC Rockies' finest golf facilities. Founded in 1918, it has a challenging par 70 course celebrated for its mature tree-lined fairways, strategically placed water hazards and panoramic mountain views.

  • Elk River

Flowing right through Fernie, the Elk River provides many recreational opportunities on a hot summer day, from an inner tube float downstream to an invigorating whitewater raft trip in the Elk Canyon. The City of Fernie offers a public boat launch located downstream of the 4th Avenue extension to provide river-access for larger non-motorized watercraft.

  • Skiing and Snowboarding

While traditional winter activities like snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, curling, pond skating, and shinny hockey are still enjoyed by locals, more adrenaline driving sports such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are now attracting visitors from all around the globe. The recently expanded Fernie Alpine Resort is rapidly gaining status as the hidden powder capital of BC. Well known to skiers and boarders from British Columbia and beyond, the ski area is located just 5 km (3 mi) west of Fernie and the massive bowls are tantalisingly visible from Main St. Fifty groomed runs and countless other secret chutes and gullies cover a total of 2,400 vertical feet (730 m) with suitable terrain for novices, intermediates, and experts alike. And if your favourite run is "tracked out"? The dense Alpine forest provides unbeatable snow-stashed tree-runs.

  • Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling territory is accessible up Coal Creek Road, giving motor sport enthusiasants the super fun thrill of speed and powder and the ability to venture far into the fabled Fernie backcountry.

  • Fishing

The Elk River and its more than 30 tributaries are home to bountiful wild populations of West Slope cutthroat trout, whitefish and some of the largest bull trout found anywhere, making Fernie an angler's paradise. A classic dry-fly river, the Elk is accessible along most of its length and the lakes in the surrounding area are equally amenable to anglers. If you're looking for fishing with a difference, try a three-day floating trip down the river or heli-fishing in neighbouring alpine lakes.

  • Hiking

With an incredible array of scenic hiking trails through ancient old-growth cedar forests, alpine meadows and high mountain peaks, Fernie is hiking heaven.

  • Mountain Biking

Mountain biking, a major draw to summertime Fernie, caters to everyone, from newcomers experiencing their first-time high to hard-core muddy madmen engaged in extreme adrenaline-pumped competition. Fernie offers hundreds of miles of varied riding terrain, from the pastoral beauty of the valley's farms and ranches to the old townsite on the Coal Creek Heritage Trail, to lift-accessed exploration of Fernie Alpine Resort's extensive trail system. The celebrated TransRockies Challenge also passes through town.

Nearby Communities
Contact Information

Tourism Fernie
Web: www.tourismfernie.com



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