Culture and Heritage Itinerary
Culture, History, and Heritage
The Harrison River Valley region is full of stories.
Harrison’s Hot Springs
Harrison Lake was discovered by gold-searching settlers, heading up Douglas Trail, who were hit by rapids and capsized. They were, pleasantly, surprised to realize that the waters were actually comfortably warm. The hot springs have been considered a sacred place by many cultures and were, originally, enjoyed by the Sts’Ailes (Chehalis) due to the springs’ healing benefits.
The hot springs, are potash, with a temperature of 40 °C, and sulphur with a temperature of 65 °C. The waters average 1,300 ppm of dissolved mineral solids, which is one of the highest concentrations of any mineral spring in Canada. The springs can be enjoyed at the public pool by anyone or as a guest of Harrison Resort.
Harrison Hot Springs has been a small resort community since 1886 — originally known as St. Alice’s Well—and incorporated in 1949. After multiple name changes over the years, it was decided to be named after Benjamin Harrison, a deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Harrison’s Legendary Sasquatch
Harrison is also known to be home to the legendary Sasquatch (also known as Bigfoot) with nearly a century of documented sightings. The word “Sasquatch” was coined here in 1929 – long before the subject ever entered popular imagination — and is an Anglicization of the Sts’Ailes First Nation’s name, Sasq’ets, meaning ‘wild hairy man of the woods’. The Sts’Ailes believe the Sasquatch is a spiritual being that can vanish into the spirit realm at will, which may explain why the elusive being is so difficult to track down.
The mystery of ‘Sasquatch’ has led thousands to search for signs of the ape-like beast. Question everything but don’t dismiss the possibilities until you’ve explored our collection. The legend is real! The Sasquatch Museum is located at the Harrison Hot Springs Visitor Centre and contains compelling artifacts, history, witness accounts, science, lore, and myths.
Agassiz’s Railway History
The Agassiz Harrison Museum is housed in an original Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station that was built in 1893. Only 130 years ago, the station was fully operational.
Farmers brought raw milk to the station to be shipped to urban centres like Vancouver. During hop harvest — from August to October — the railway transported just over 1,000 pickers to the area. A train called The Agassiz, brought tourists in to take farm-fresh fruit and vegetables home. Hundreds of soldiers left to ‘do their part’ during WWII. The station was a popular wood station and meal stop for passengers. The stationmaster and his staff even handled mail and passenger service. The stories are endless.
In the 1970s, stationmasters were being phased out so the CPR started to discontinue the use of stations. In 1985, the building was purchased by the Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society for $1.00.
Today, visitors will walk into a waiting room and see images of the Agassiz family and a collection of material culture objects and archival records from the communities of Agassiz, Harrison Mills, and Harrison Hot Springs.
Harrison Mills’ History
Harrison Bay is the home of the Scowlitz (Scaulits) people whose main reserve is on the bay’s western shore across from Harrison Mills. It is also home to the Sts’Ailes, whose reserve is located on the north side of the bay along the lower Harrison River and around the river’s confluence with its tributary, the Chehalis.
On the west side of Harrison River, an area called Pretty Flats (also known as Eagle Bay) is named after the home-builder and forest baron Charles Fenn Pretty, who traveled to BC in 1890. Charles learned about the large salmon runs in the Harrison River and began actively trading with the Sts’Ailes. He also became a major player in the province’s newly emerging timber industry. Charles loved the area so much that he built a lodge called Fenn Lodge, which is now owned and operated by the Sts’Ailes.
Charles Fenn Pretty was also the father of Charles Nelson Pretty — another prominent contributor to Harrison Mills. Dating back to 1917, Charles Nelson Pretty and, his wife, Rowena Elizabeth Peters were presented with an opportunity to purchase a 160-acre parcel of land that had frontage on the Harrison River. Today, this property is known as Sandpiper Resort—home to Rowena’s Inn on the River and Sandpiper Golf Course.
In 1899, the Harrison River Mills Timber and Trading Company incorporated. A school and church were built in 1901 to meet the growing needs of the people of Harrison Mills. Thomas and Eliza Kilby built and opened Kilby Store in 1906, while the Manchester Hotel was built in 1907. Today, Kilby Historic Site is a world-class 1920s living historical site.
District of Kent
Once upon a time, the District of Kent was a hops haven.
St. George Hamersley had established one of the first hopyards in Agassiz, dating back to 1892. By the 1930s, Hamersley’s hopyard and the entire industry in Agassiz had grown to be one of the top hop-producing regions in the entire province with over 300 acres of hops fields.
Workers came from all over to work the fields. Agassiz’s hops were marketed across Canada following the Great Depression with Kent, Goulding, and Cluster varieties shipped as far as England. Some hop farmers even set up shops on their farms. However, in 1935 the industry began to decline. Mildew affected the most popular varieties, which was further exacerbated by the Fraser River Flood. By 1952, all of Agassiz’s hopyards were sold.
Today, hop-yards are starting to resurge in the Fraser Valley due to the craft beer boom. Fun fact! A Chilliwack farm has developed the first Canadian-designed and -patented hops plant, called The Sasquatch.
Day 1: Harrison Hot Springs
Since Harrison is a place of connection and inspiration, it’s not surprising then that the Harrison River Valley is home to several artists, artisans, and musicians. The local art scene is built on years of tradition of honouring music, dance, theatre, and visual arts.
Start your day with a visit to Canwest Art Gallery located in the heart of Harrison Hot Springs Village. You’ll discover everything from pottery and glassworks to original paintings and jewellery.
Then stretch your legs and do the Heritage Walk, which will give you the Village’s historical highlights. If you time your visit right, you can experience the Harrison Festival of the Arts. Other cultural summer events to note are Sasquatch Days and Bands on the Beach.
By this point, you’ll be hungry so be sure to grab a small bite at one of our restaurants, but save your larger appetite for your next experience!
In the early afternoon, we recommend an interpretive tour with Harrison Eco Tours. You can choose a kayak or jet boat adventure. You’ll travel along Harrison River and see ancient petroglyphs and a sunken steamship. Lunch will be included on the Sts’Ailes beach where you will also receive a traditional welcome.
After the tour, be sure to head straight to the Sasquatch Museum, which is located at the Harrison Visitor Centre. Then your last stop will be at the Agassiz Harrison Museum which is located within an old railway station. This museum features old railroad memorabilia, wonderful displays, and a rail car.
Check in at Sandpiper Resort, Kilby Lodge , Sasquatch Crossing Eco Lodge, Woodside Inn, or Sasquatch Inn. Dinner can be enjoyed at River’s Edge Clubhouse at Sandpiper Resort or the Sasquatch Pub at Sasquatch Inn.
Day 2: Harrison Mills
The next morning, grab breakfast at River’s Edge Clubhouse or the Sasquatch Inn as you get ready to journey through the eras. Yesterday was a packed one so today will be more chill as you spend the day at Kilby.
Located near the junction of the Harrison and Fraser Rivers, Kilby Historic Site stands as the only reminder of the once thriving community of Harrison Mills. Reconnect with the past and explore the 1906 General Store Museum. You will be greeted by interpreters in period costume and see product packaging dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. Don’t miss the intriguing artifacts in the heritage Post Office and Manchester House Hotel as both were an integral part of the Harrison Mills community at the turn of the twentieth century. You will also see a working farm where you can visit and feed the animals.
On your way out, stop at Kilby Café for a cup of java and a piece of their homemade famous farm-fresh fruit pies. Kilby sources Back Porch coffee, which is roasted in a circa 1919 flame roaster just up the road in Agassiz. Or try their homemade soups and sandwiches. Sunday afternoons feature traditional roast beef dinner. (Please check Kilby Historic Site’s for its hours of operation)
Bonus suggestion: If you want to get up close and personal with the Sasquatch, add an afternoon ATV tour with Harrison Lake Nature Adventures where you will witness documented Sasquatch spotting trails and hear the history of the mythical beast.
Maybe explore a little more…
Even though these attractions are not located in our area, we can’t resist sharing them with you.
Located between Agassiz and Hope, head to Ruby Creek Art Gallery in the morning. This beautiful gallery is owned and operated by the Sq’ewá:lxw (Skawahlook) First Nation and features an extraordinary collection of Pacific Northwest Native art including limited edition prints, gold and solver carved jewelry, hand-carved boxes, chests plaques, handcrafted drums, soapstone carvings, and textiles.
Refuel with quick bite at the Blue Moose in Hope. You can’t go wrong with their homemade chili or soup, but their sandwiches are made right in front of you. Do not leave without taking a sweet or savoury scone for the road!
For the rest of the day, you can choose between spending the afternoon exploring Othello Tunnels or driving just a little further to Yale Historic Site.
If you hike the Kettle Valley through the Othello Tunnels, it will take you about 2 hours but we are confident you will want to spend more time here. What was once a hidden gem is now a heavily-visited tourist spot.
Yale Historic Site honours the gold-rush past and is surrounded by the Cascade Mountains. Three buildings stand as witness to a bygone era — the 1870 Creighton House, the 1863 St. John the Divine church, and the 1880 Johnny Ward House. Visit the museum, archives, and gift shop in the Creighton House, then stroll the boardwalk into ‘Tent City’ and you’ll be transported back to 19th century. You can even play a game of cards in the saloon and try your luck at gold panning.
Visit the Chinese boarding house to learn about the thousands of Chinese Railroad Workers that toiled on the CPR. Enter the grand Anglican church, with its liturgical collection and pump organ, and ring the church bell that first rang over 150 years ago. End the day with a bite at The Ward Tea House. You can even spend the night in the former home of pioneer Johnny Ward.