The corn capital of British Columbia, Agassiz lies just 35km southwest of Hope, on the north bank of the Fraser River. A quaint and immensely peaceful agricultural community, it grew from a humble homestead owned by Lewis Nunn Agassiz, a retired captain of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Its agricultural heritage began with dairy and beef cattle, hops, root crops and potatoes. With the advent of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, Agassiz began to spread its boundaries and today warmly welcomes its tourists yet still maintains its “small town” values.
Lying a mere 8km south of Harrison Hot Springs resort, Agassiz has a wealth of tourist attractions. The Agassiz-Harrison Museum is one such place. Set in a 100-year-old, still functioning railway station, it offers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the region’s past with historic artifacts, clothing and photos of early pioneers. Visit the Kilby Store and Farm on the banks of the Harrison River for a taste of life in the 1920s. This 5 acre site features costumed interpreters who will guide you through rural life as it was. Stop off at the old Post Office, view the elegant rooms of the Manchester House Hotel, feed the chickens at the farm or clamber into the tree house in the Orchard Playground. Your options are simply endless.
Just 14km north of Harrison Bay, you’ll find Hemlock Valley Ski Resort. This friendly 300-acre community focuses on winter recreation. But its frontiers are widening to include scenic mountain biking trails in the summer. Lying close to the ocean with a low elevation, the depth of snow here can vary significantly depending on the amount of sustained cold weather. Despite this, the area still has an annual snowfall of 30-35 feet. Hemlock Valley’s three main chairlifts operate throughout the season from December to March, enabling skiers and snowboarders to get out and enjoy its 34 runs and superb night skiing facilities. For details go to www.hemlockvalleyresort.com.
In September, Agassiz hosts its annual Fall Fair and Corn Festival at the fairground – one of the best small town County Fairs in British Columbia. Crowds flock to the Saturday-morning parade through the downtown district, and a visit to the Petting Zoo is a must for kids. The Festival also includes a Talent Show, as well as games and rides, so this grand event is guaranteed entertainment for everyone, young and not so young.
To make that great escape from humanity, the Sasquatch Provincial Park is hard to beat. North of Harrison Hot Springs, the Park’s unique character is defined by Hicks lake, Trout lake and Deer lake which are havens for fishing, canoeing and motor-boating. Amongst the spacious tranquility, camping, hiking and wildlife watching are immensely popular. The Park is a naturally diverse habitat for mountain goat, beavers, and woodpeckers. Bald eagles, dragonfly and tailed frogs are sometimes seen and the lakes and streams yield good stock of stickleback, sturgeon, salmon and catfish.
Head south of Agassiz on Highway 9 to its junction with the Trans Canada Highway and you’ll find the quaint community of Bridal Falls. Its location at the foot of Mount Cheam makes it one of the most scenic destinations in the region. A major attraction here is the Bridal Veil Falls in the Provincial Park. The sixth highest waterfall in Canada, it tumbles 400 feet over a smooth rock face, creating a unique “veil” effect. A short stroll through the maple, cedar and alder trees leads you to a viewing point at the base of the falls.
The Provincial Park is also home to significant numbers of small mammals and songbirds including gray warblers, thrush and nuthatch. For golfers, Bridal Falls is home to the Falls Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole championship course with a back drop of some breathtaking views of Mount Cheam and the Fraser Valley. Its smaller 9-hole Mountain Brook course is set in a scenic natural forest at the base of Mount Cheam.
For some of the best camping in the region, try the Kilby Provincial Park, west of Harrison Lake. For a small charge, this stunning setting offers 38 campsites for vehicle or tent. Kilby’s beach is very popular for waterskiing and angling, and with an annual salmon run in autumn, expect to share the surf with numerous bald eagles and trumpeter swans.
To enjoy a rich mix of past and present, the Mills Circle Farm Tour is a must. Witness the spectacle of roaming bison. Watch local artisans as they hand-craft pottery and show the skills of cheese making. Explore a 1920s active farm. Smell the scent of 30 different varieties of tulips. Taste some unique blends of tea. Try some garlic, strawberries and hazelnuts or enjoy Gelati ice cream. The choices are endless and the experience, like the region with its wilderness and farms, simply unforgettable.