Fraser Valley, British Columbia overview
The Fraser Valley, also called "the Lower Mainland" extends east of Vancouver to Hope, and then outwards to the many smaller communities along the Trans-Canada (#1), the Coquihalla (#8) and the Crowsnest (#3) Highways. The western boundary of this area is generally conceded to be Langley. The larger communities south of the Fraser are clustered along the Trans-Canada Highway and Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The communities north of the Fraser are clustered along the Lougheed Highway (#7) and include Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission. The Fraser Valley has a population of about 257,000 (2006). The major industries in the Fraser Valley reflect that of the whole province. Forestry, agriculture and trade are the top job-creating industries, followed by tourism.
Vancouver was named for Captain George Vancouver, who in 1792, fourteen years after sailing here under Captain Cook, returned to the area in 1792, and spent the next two years exploring the area in search of the western end of the "Northwest Passage". The Fraser River is named for Simon Fraser, the first white man to paddle the river to the sea in 1808. He thought he was descending the Columbia River until the wild river made its abrupt westward turn at Hope (too far north to be the Columbia). The area boomed the gold rush of the 1850s, which brought many settlers into the region. This eventually pushed British Columbia to join Canadian confederation, and promoted the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
The Fraser Valley is a mostly rural and farming area, punctuated with a few significant cities that are market centres. Langley is considered the west end of the Fraser Valley, before the Trans-Canada Highway hits the non-stop suburbs of Vancouver. On the north bank of the Fraser river are the two communities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, surrounded by fields of flowers for Canada's flower shops. Abbotsford is the next city to the east, which has a significant airport (YXX) with regular flights to Edmonton, Calgary, and Victoria via WestJet and Orca Airways, serving 500,000 passengers a year. The city of Mission is the largest community on the north bank of the Fraser, and is just north of Abbotsford. The next major town in the Fraser Valley is Chilliwack, with Cultus Lake and other great recreational areas just to the south. Hope is the doorway to the BC Interior, providing access to the rugged canyons of the Upper Fraser to the north, and Manning Park along the Crowsnest Highway (#3) to the southwest, as well as parks along the Coquihalla River to the northeast.
Daytime temperatures and night-time temperatures are fairly consistent because of the moderating influence of the sea. Vancouver is sheltered from the worst of Pacific Ocean weather systems by Vancouver Island. In the summer time, you can generally expect hot and sunny weather, with only occasional precipitation. In the fall, winter, and spring time, expect rain more often than not...after all, there's a reason the grass and tree-leaves are green year-round. Always carry an umbrella with you in case of rain. Vancouver gets 54 cm ( 21 inches) of snow each winter and a total of 1167 millimetres (46 inches) of precipitation per year. The city has 164 wet days (where it rains at least part of the day), mostly in the non-summer months (any months whose name contains the letter "r" has rain).
History of the Fraser Valley
In 1778 James Cook, the famous British captain, first landed at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound on the western side of Vancouver Island. He was followed by Alexander Mackenzie, working for the fur-trading Northwest Company, who in 1793 managed to reach the Pacific from the eastern side of the Rockies. He first traveled up the Peace River and then down 400 kilometres of the Fraser River, portaging, and used the lower stretch of the Bella Coola River arriving about halfway between Vancouver and the southern tip of Alaska. In 1808, Simon Fraser, also with the North West Company, navigated 35 days to the Pacific all the way down the river since named after him, passing through many uncharted rapids. Fur trading posts were established along all of these rivers and began a period of white settlement in the interior of BC. When the North West and Hudson's Bay companies merged in 1821, the province already had significant agricultural interests centred around the forts, supplying the travelers, traders and the Royal Navy.
In 1849 the settlement around Victoria officially became a British Colony, the same year as the California Gold Rush. In 1858, gold was discovered in the lower Fraser River, bringing more than 25,000 prospectors (including many who gave up after the California Gold Rush of '49) who managed to find over $500,000 in gold. Those diggings were then in 1859 and then worked by Chinese immigrants. Gold in the Caribou attracted many to that area, but was too deep and expensive to recover. In 1865 more gold was found on the Columbia River's Big Bend, near Revelstoke, but this gold rush fizzled out in a year.
By 1866, the BC and the Vancouver Island colonies were united, but an economy based on just fur trading and mining was not stable enough to grow a colony. In 1871, four years after Canada was given its independence by Britain, BC joined Canadian confederation. The BC provincial government began encouraging the agriculture and forestry industries, to begin economic diversification.
To entice it to join Canada, BC was promised a railroad linking it to the eastern part of the country. While one crew was building from the east, across the Prairies and then through the Roger's Pass. Another crew was laying track from the West, up the Fraser River canyon and into the Thompson River valley. On November 7, 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railway set the last spike in its construction at Craigellachie, just east of Shushwap Lake. The first trans-continental railway train arrived in Port Moody on July 4, 1886. The following year, the railway was extended the last 20 kilometres into Vancouver. Since then, BC has shipped much of its natural resources east to the rest of Canada, and become the country’s gateway to the Pacific nations.
Vancouver began as a little log cabin city amongst the tall trees (when the whole city looked like Stanley Park’s forest). In 1886 a fire destroyed much of Vancouver, helped along with a strong westerly squall, razing over 1,000 buildings in 20 minutes and left 3,000 people homeless. From this initial setback, Vancouver rebuilt itself and prospered. The city grew as the western endpoint of the railways, either for Canadian resources being shipped to the US or to Asia, or goods from around the Pacfic being landed there and transferred to the railway for shipment to the rest of Canada.
Vancouver's recent real estate boom (its home prices run neck-in-neck with Toronto's) was fueled substantially (though not exclusively) by the influx of Asian immigrants. Those from Vietnam left their homeland in the 70s after the communist victory after the war in Vietnam. The Japanese continue to move to Vancouver because the cost of living is so much lower here than in Japan. Those from Hong Kong have moved here in anticipation of China taking over the British colony in 1997.
The recent "Asian Flu" has reduced Asian economic prosperity, reducing its ability to import BC’s resources for its manufacturing, reducing the income levels of those to regularly visit British Columbia, and finally their ability to emigrate to BC.
Moving to the Fraser Valley
This area has basically three zones: The "Lower Mainland", the more densely popularted area between Hope and Vancouver, The "Upper Fraser" between Hop and Lytton, which flows through a canyon with both the Trans-Canada Highway and the two trans-continental rail lines hugging the canyon walls, and then the Thompson River which runs east from Lytton toward Kamloops.
Real Estate development is spurred by high prices in Vancouver, but is constrained by the protection of agricultural land in the Lower Mainland area, not just to protect the farmers but to preserve the quality of life, and the favourable impact of open green spaces have on the area's ecology.