Pemberton, British Columbia
|Village of Pemberton|
|Region||Pemberton Valley (Sea to Sky Country/Lillooet Country)|
|• Governing body||Pemberton Village Council|
|• Mayor||Jordan Sturdy|
|• Total||10.89 km2 (4.20 sq mi)|
|Elevation||210 m (690 ft)|
|• Density||217.5/km2 (563/sq mi)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC−8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC−7)|
|Area code(s)||+604, +778|
Pemberton is an incorporated village north of Whistler in the Pemberton Valley of British Columbia in Canada, with a population of 2,192. Until the 1960s the Village could be accessed only by train but that changed when Highway 99 was built through Whistler (then named Alta Lake) and Pemberton.
- 1 Climate
- 2 History
- 2.1 Early European exploration
- 2.2 The gold rush era
- 2.3 Those who were here first
- 2.4 Early settlement
- 2.5 Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe
- 2.6 The coming of the railroad
- 2.7 Flood control
- 2.8 Seed potatoes
- 2.9 Telephone service
- 2.10 Electricity and a road to the south
- 2.11 Logging
- 2.12 Recent events
- 3 Appearance
- 4 Agriculture
- 5 Transportation
- 6 Pemberton Festivals
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
The climate of Pemberton is very warm and dry in the summer and mild and wet in the winter. Pemberton is an ecologically complex and diverse zone which is referred to as the Coast-Interior Transition zone. Moving from west to east in the direction of the prevailing winds and taking into consideration the elevation changes; it follows that there a windward, wetter zone and a leeward drier zone and an even drier zone on the leeward side of the Lillooet Ranges and the Pacific Ranges north of the rail line. High summer temperatures and the pronounced water deficits during the growing season are the norm.
Early European exploration
In 1827, Hudson's Bay men first penetrated the valleys of the Birkenhead and Lillooet Rivers. Frances Ermantinger arrived then by way of Seton and Anderson Lakes, and James Murray Yale came three years later, having made the trip north from Fort Langley. In all likelihood both men were searching for a safe route for fur brigades from Kamloops and Fort Langley, for a route to bypass the lower Fraser River canyons.
In 1846, Alexander Caulfield Anderson traveled through this country with the same purpose: to decide if company horses could make their way from the Fraser to present day Mount Currie and on, by way of Lillooet and Harrison Lakes, to Fort Langley. By then, as of the Oregon Treaty, the lower Columbia River, the main link with the Interior, was American, and for that reason Governor Simpson considered a new route “most highly important”. The men traveled on foot and by canoe from Kamloops to the south end of the lake named for the leader (Anderson Lake). Seton Lake was named for an officer named Alexander Seton, a relative of A.C. Anderson and who served as Lieutenant colonel on the HMS Birkenhead was the ship Seton served on sunk off the coast of Africa (famous for being the first time "women and children first" was heard). The exploration party continued by what Anderson described as a “very good trail”, and camped overnight at the Birkenhead River. The next day, following the Birkenhead River, they reached the Mount Currie area by late afternoon. The route was never used by the Company, which chose to build the Brigade Trail from Hope via passes over the Cascade Mountains to the east of the Fraser Canyon to reach Fort Kamloops.
The gold rush era
In 1858 the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush began and some 30,000 miners began the trek through traditional Lil'wat and upper St'at'imc territory to the goldfields at Lillooet, then known as Cayoosh Flat. Many miners who reached the goldfields in the summer of 1858 intended to stay the winter and this created an urgent problem for Governor Douglas of Vancouver Island. The miners needed food and that food had to be transported to regions above the lower canyons of the Fraser, where there were no roads. Because he knew that twelve years earlier A.C. Anderson had traveled from Lillooet by a chain of lakes to Fort Langley, Governor Douglas asked for a survey a route linking all lakes between the north end of Harrison Lake and the Fraser. The total length of trail would be just over sixty-eight miles, the total length of all lakes nearly fifty-six miles.
Five hundred miners eager to reach the gold-bearing Fraser River bars volunteered to build the trail, and were charged $5 each for the privilege of doing so, in the form of a deposit to be refunded in exchange for goods upon completion. They established Port Douglas and constructed a trail called Douglas Portage to the north end of Lillooet Lake and called it Port Pemberton. This was the first public works project in the newly formed Crown Colony of British Columbia and is also known as the Harrison-Lillooet Trail, the Lillooet Trail, the Lakes Route, or the Douglas Trail.
Those who were here first
The Pemberton Valley lies in the traditional territory of Lil'wat Nation who have lived on these lands for thousands of years. Potatoes have been grown in the Pemberton Valley since the earliest days. Joe Joseph says that the land he inherited from his grandmother grew the first potatoes in the valley and that before the Gold Rush, when she was six, his grandmother had traveled to the coast with relatives and there visited a Mount Currie woman who had moved away from the valley and was then living somewhere in the Lower Mainland, perhaps around Fort Langley. When Joe’s grandmother and her relatives were leaving to return to the Mt.Currie homes, the woman they had visited gave them a pail of “skinny, long, lady finger” potatoes, and said to plant them all that year, but to save the whole crop the first year and plant that crop with coming of the second spring. Then, she said, the Mount Currie people could eat some of the potatoes they would dig the next fall. The returning visitors followed directions because the cultivation of domestic potatoes fitted well into the gardening practices of native women who dug them with forked sticks, and early miners making their way north to the Fraser River gold fields starred in astonishment at the potato fields of Joe’s ancestors.
Pemberton was named for Joseph Despard Pemberton, a surveyor for the Hudson's Bay Company and Surveyor-General for the Colony of Vancouver Island in the 1850s. Joseph Pemberton had laid out Victoria's townsite, and supervised the construction of British Columbia's first legislature building, "the Birdcages". Joseph Pemberton never visited the place that bears his name.
The little port developed to serve the Gold Rush and nearby farming settlement grew as mining traffic increased. Then very quickly, when traffic shifted to a route better than the one between Harrison Lake and Lillooet, most of the few settlers then in the area moved on. One of the assets of the area would become widely known – the richness of the land – and small waves of settlement would continue until a new Pemberton would replace the first Port Pemberton.  Before the last of the farmers moved away national and provincial demands for new routes brought more strangers to the area seeking access. As early as 1891 men incorporated a company to build a railway from the coast to Pemberton and beyond, but not until 1914 did a train run into the valley. The new settlers in the late 1800s included John Currie, who was listed as a permanent resident in 1885. John emigrated from Scotland to Quebec with his family at the age of seventeen and soon ran away from home and struck off for the California gold fields. He returned to Pemberton to pre-empt land with his partner McDonald. John settled in Pemberton with his native wife, Seraphine Joseph of Mt.Currie, and they ran Pemberton’s first post office, serving a handful of settlers. Andrew Joseph was one of the first mail carriers, who in all weather brought mail in from Lillooet. In 1893, Marcus Smith, the leader of the first railway survey party in this area, supervised a survey that brought him up the head of Howe Sound, and on by way of Birkenhead River, Anderson and Seton Lakes to Lillooet, following the route the Pacific Great Eastern Railway would take forty years later and which was used for the construction of the Lillooet Cattle Trail to the mouth of the Seymour River in North Vancouver. Completed in 1878, the cattle trail was the largest infrastructure project by the new province and ended in disaster for the only herd of cattle driven over it. This route became known, after rebuilding by John Currie and his native crew, as the Pemberton Trail and was the only route to the coast.
In 1901 Carl A. Hartzell wrote to the Daily Province stating that 20,000 acres of Pemberton land were out of reach of flood and than an acre in the driest sections could produce 1500 lbs of grain or 12 tons potatoes. Charles Barbour, lamented in the same newspaper, that the government’s lack of foresight in failing to build a road from the coast to Pemberton prevented annual production of $1,000,000 worth of agricultural products. Pemberton land was cheaper than Fraser Valley land, selling at $18 an acre versus $45 an acre.
Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe
The Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe is an important document in the history of First Nations and the governments of the Dominion of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. Signed in Spences Bridge on May 10, 1911 by a committee of 16 chiefs of the St'at'imc, taken down by anthropologist James Teit, it is an assertion of sovereignty over traditional territories as well as a protest against recent alienations of land by white settlers at Seton Portage due to railroad construction. The declaration states, “we have always lived in our country; at no time have we ever deserted it, or left it to others”.
The coming of the railroad
In the early years of railway construction, the railway men planned to build their railroad to haul out the timber up the Squamish Valley, but their charter provided for construction from the Squamish River right through to Lillooet on the Fraser, about 120 miles distant. By the end of 1907 ten miles of the line had been surveyed; by the end of 1909, sixty miles to Pemberton was completed. By 1911, the railroad was becoming a reality and land values rose to $100 an acre. The railway company planned two townsites; Pemberton, and Newport (quickly renamed Squamish) but in 1912 the company ran out of funding. The Pacific Great Eastern Railway Company soon picked up the pieces and by 1912 advertisements suggested that one crop might pay for the “ideal little farms” created by the subdivision of the former John Currie property at Agerton. Readers were assured that “the day the railway arrives land will sell for $500 to $1000 per acre”. The first train from Squamish reached Pemberton on Oct 29th, 1914. The Pemberton Station platform was a structure of “rough planks on a sea of roots” but the general roughness was of little concern to settlers boarding the first passenger train south. Finally a link to the coast and access to Vancouver markets made permanent settlement possible. Very soon after railway completion many families arrived to settle and more came after WW1. Despite the richness of the agricultural land permanent settlement remained a challenge due to spring and fall flood events and many new settlers lost everything, choosing to pick up and seek their fortunes elsewhere.
In 1947 the Pemberton Dyking District was formed to manage drainage and flood control in the Pemberton Valley. The organization initiated the dyking and straightening of the Lillooet River and its tributaries, Ryan and Miller Creeks; and the lowering of Lillooet Lake via a Tri-Partite agreement with Federal and Provincial governments. The program was administered via the Post-War Rehabilitation Council and the drainage project was carried out under the Prairie Farmer’s Rehabilitation Act. The new land made available by the drainage project brought a rush of new settlers in the late 1940-1950’s. New modern services also encouraged the purchase of old run down farms and the new government land.
Conditions on the farms in the war years changed very little from the thirties because ‘Wartime Prices and Trade Board’ controlled the prices of produce sold on the commercial market and therefore, indirectly the seed market. Heavy demand for potato seed in the first three post-war years, encouraged an increase in production. By 1949, 203 acres grown by 40 farmers passed inspection for seed. That same year a Seed Potato Control Area was formed in Pemberton, which meant only local seed could be planted. Pemberton’s isolation was now an advantage because disease prevalent in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere would be kept out. A local committee ensured that the rules were abided by. The Netted Gem continued as the principal variety because it was a good keeper that sold readily on the commercial market if seed sales collapsed, as they often did. Other varieties included White Rose (1941) and Early Rose, Epicure and Green Mountain. Growers like Ross Brothers and Jack Decker continued to win prizes for their potatoes, and for three years in succession Decker also won the grand championship. In 1941, the Pemberton Cooperative Association was formed with the object of obtaining feed and supplies more cheaply. The Co-op took over the “Snowflake” brand from the Pemberton Board of Trade and became actively involved in the shipment of both potatoes and turnips through the Interior Vegetable Marketing Board in Kamloops. By 1954, the demands of Vancouver wholesalers for washed potatoes provided the incentive for the Pemberton Co-op to get government assistance with the construction of a packing house which was completed in 1956 next to the Pemberton railway station. The Co-op was destined throughout its life to skate on the very thin ice of one financial crisis after another, but it served a useful purpose as shipping agent and supplier at a time when transportation was difficult and phone service was non-existent. Prices for commercial potatoes in the spring of 1965 reached a record high and there was a shortage of seed stock: Pemberton started the season with a glow of optimism. Meanwhile, at Agriculture Canada Station in Vancouver, a team of scientists had devised a method to eradicate two highly infectious viruses, known as PVX and PUS, which were affecting the yield of all North American potato varieties. In 1966 the researchers took stem cuttings from virus-free mother plants of about seven varieties growing in a greenhouse and planted them on Clifford Ronayne’s farm. From this small beginning the project expanded annually and by 1976 the infected seed stocks on all the valley’s potato farms had been replaced by virus-free seed. The yields from the virus-tested stock proved significantly heavier and the publicity put out by the Department of Agriculture was to bring buyers from other areas of B.C., and most western potato producing States, even Idaho. Shipments to such far away places as Holland meant that Pemberton potatoes had “arrived” and that the isolation which for so long had been a disadvantage now offered dividends of greatly increased prosperity and stability of income and economy.
After two years of harassment by local organizations, the British Columbia Telephone Company installed two telephones in 1953. An all on one party line was operated by crank system, and all calls went through the Squamish exchange. By 1966, the number of phones had grown to 270 and were a regular feature of every home.
Electricity and a road to the south
In 1951 Electricity came to Pemberton, from the Bridge River Power Project at Seton in the north and through to the U.S. in the south. The hydro tower access road, followed the old Pemberton Trail and became a rudimentary access route to the south for service vehicles and the adventurous. The Pemberton Board of Trade first began lobby efforts for a road to the south as early as 1933. It wasn’t until the development of Whistler as a ski resort in tandem with the Garibaldi Development Association bid for the 1966 Olympics, that the impetus was provided to the Highways Department to extend and improve the narrow gravel road north from Whistler to Pemberton in 1964. In 1969 the road was blacktopped and Pemberton became the northern terminus of the longest north south highway in North America, extending from the Baja in Mexico, through the U.S. via route 1.
The road to Vancouver finally put an end to the Pemberton Co-op: produce could be shipped direct, and sacks, feed and fertilizer and other farm needs could be delivered to the farmer’s gate from suppliers.
The early steamers that moved gold rush traffic in 1858 were constructed on site with local materials and the Owl Creek hatchery project in 1911 was the first commercial sawmill in the area. Logging occurred with early Pioneer settlement as part of initial land clearing activities and the Perkins mill assisted many new settlers with materials for their homesteads. The arrival of the railroad provided opportunities for small tie mill and pole yard operations along the railroad from 1900-1960. The arrival of Fleetwood Logging Company in 1950 signaled the arrival of large scale logging in Pemberton. Fleetwood set up a camp on the upper end of Lillooet Lake and logged using A-Frame logging methods. By 1972, 100 logging trucks a day headed south from the timber leases in the upper Lillooet River region through to Squamish in the south. In 1973, the BC Forest Service built a new office In Pemberton and many provincial forest service sites and parks were established in the area during this time. The office closed and moved to Squamish in the 1990s.
In 1984, Pemberton suffered a severe flood event and many residents had to be evacuated. In the fall of 2003 another flood event occurred, washing out highway 99 at Rutherford Creek; cutting Pemberton off from the coast. In 2008 Pemberton was host to the Pemberton Festival produced by Live Nation. A new 3 day Pemberton Fest / Pemberton Music Festival / Pemberton Festival produced not by Live Nation but another group out of New Orleans, HUKA Entertainment will take place in the Summer of 2014, July 18–20. In 2009, a prolonged drought followed by thunderstorms led to the Camelback Mountain and Copperdome Mountain wildfires in the upper Pemberton Valley and several farms had to be evacuated On August 6, 2010, the Pemberton Valley was evacuated due to a nearby landslide from Mount Meager.
The Village's look is slightly rustic and has the appearance of the set of an Old West movie - see picture of The Old Pemberton Hotel dating from the 20's and 30's. As to newer structures it may appear that this is deliberate for tourism image-making via new design bylaws. But there are practical reasons beyond a nod to the legacy of the area's roots as part of the Lillooet Country and its ranching and mining culture. The Market & Drugstore buildings re-vitalized the Village core. Their covered walkways encourage people to walk about town when shopping in all weather & all seasons & protect them from the hazards of falling snow. There is a quaint covered wooden footbridge (bicycles & horses too) over the Arn Canal.
Later, more recent developments at the beginning of town like Portage Station, Winchester and the Gateway Building were all required to build covered porches that shade the summer sun but let the winter sun right in. People can be found hanging out in these areas on a mild December day or sheltered from a May shower. The hitching posts are not decorations only for tourists to gawk at, but many are used by locals who ride into town, to tie up their horses.
Pemberton is an important agricultural community famous for producing seed potatoes, and diversifying into market gardening including potatoes for eating & potatoes for making Vodka, cranberries, food products and food/farm events. The main seed potato producers are located along the Pemberton Meadows Road, many of whom have been there for generations. Agri-tourism is growing, pioneered by Mayor Sturdy's North Arm Farm and popularized by Slow Food Cycle Sunday. Organic farming is also a growth area, initiated by Across The Creek Organics, and followed by Riverlands. The Pemberton Farmers Institute is a body representing local agricultural affairs. Pemberton is vital to the local food security of the Sea To Sky corridor. In its seed potato growing capacity Pemberton is important continent-wide and the breeding work is important worldwide to global food security. Whether you eat a baked potato at home or in a fast food restaurant as fries chances are high it was grown from a seed potato grown from a Pemberton-grown seed potato first.
The Pemberton Regional Airport (CYPS) has over 400 landings a year with most of the volume occurring in August. Users are typically fire and rescue vehicles, commercial activity companies, gliders, local aircraft and helicopter companies.
The Pemberton Airport accepts fixed wing, rotocraft vehicles, & could land small jets. There are no lights, towers or navigational assistance. Limited Jet A fuel service is now available from Blackcomb Aviation 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Canadian & a few US Pilots practiced landings for Kandahar with Approaches & Touch & Go Landings.
Seaplanes & helicopters also land at both nearby Whistler's Green Lake & Whistler's Heliport, 40 minutes south.
Bus/Air combinations are avaialable via Whistler, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Bellingham amd Seattle.
Local bus transit service is provided by Greyhound and BC Transit or the WAVE service out of Whistler. Bus service to Vancouver is provided by Greyhound. Greyhound buses also offer package freight transport. As Pemberton is a bedroom community of Whistler it is also tied into the Whistler transit system.
Rail: no direct rail service
NB there is no direct rail service anymore as the Rocky Mountaineer just passes through without stopping. Regular passenger service on the BC Rail line, now CN, was ended in 2003. The Whistler Mountaineer runs from Vancouver to nearby Whistler Creekside.
A two car passenger-train provides railbus service besides daily round-trip service between Seton Portage and Lillooet, stopping also in Shalalth, limited service farther south to the Ponderosa Ranch (near D'Arcy) and may be chartered to run past the Ponderosa Ranch to D'Arcy, which is forty-five minutes north of Pemberton at the head of Anderson Lake. Note: there are often minor delays by mountain goats and/or bighorn sheep. They scatter for the CN's freight-trains but show no fear of the two-car self-propelled passenger train.
Foot, bike, and horse trails
The Pemberton Valley Trail Association has built 30 miles of free trails for X-country skiing, biking, walking, or horseback riding. The latest trail connects Mile One Lake to Nairn Falls, a one hour hike in summer each way but can be used year round with skis or snowshoes in winter. This trail was completed in 2012 and is part of the Sea to Sky Trail network. There are real hitching posts all round town to tie up your horses.
On July 25–27, 2008, Pemberton hosted the Pemberton Festival, which had a musical lineup of 66 acts including Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay, Jay-Z, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Tragically Hip, Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Metric, and Interpol. The festival was the first to be held in the valley since the Stein Voices for the Wilderness Festivals of 1989-90, held in nearby Mount Currie, which drew over 35,000 people, the largest number of people in the valley since the gold rush. Its roster of artists included Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, and Spirit of the West.In 2008 the Pemberton Festival produced by Live Nation.
A new 3 day Pemberton Fest / Pemberton Music Festival / Pemberton Festival produced not by Live Nation but another group out of New Orleans, HUKA Entertainment will take place in the Summer of 2014, July 18–20. 
- "Pemberton, British Columbia (Village)". Community Profiles, Canada 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2008-07-27.
- "Pemberton Gazette". Whistler Question. 9 August 2012.
- Population 1981/1986
- Decker, Fougberg, Ronayne, Frances, Margaret, Mary. Pemberton History of a Settlement. Pioneer Women. pp. 19–20.
- Decker, Frances and Margaret Fougberg, Mary Ronayne. “Pemberton History of a Settlement.” Pemberton Pioneer Women, 1977, pp.49-51.
- Anderson, Alexandar Caulfield. “History of the Northwest Coast.” Victoria B.C., 1878, pp 48-56.
- Decker, Fougberg, Ronayne, Frances, Margaret, Mary (1977). Pemberton: History of a Settlement. Pioneer Women. pp. 83–92.
- Decker, Fougberg, Ronayne, Frances, Margaret, Mary (1977). Pemberton: History of a Settlement. Pioneer Women. pp. 115–120.
- Decker, Fougberg, Ronayne, Frances, Margaret, Mary (1977). Pemberton: History of a Settlement. Pioneer Women. pp. 211–231.
- "Pemberton Gazette". Whistler Question. 09 Aug 2012.
- Marchand, Francois (2013-09-25). "Pemberton Music Festival resurrected, organizers plan on 2014 date". Vancouversun.com. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
- "Over 1,500 evacuated after B.C. landslide". The Globe and Mail, August 7, 2010.
- "Saturday, August 17th 2013 - Pemberton, BC". Two Acre Shaker. 2013-08-17. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
- Beyond Garibaldi, Irene Ronayne, self-published
- Pemberton: History of a Settlement, Frances Decker, Margaret Fougberg, Mary Ronayne
- People of the Harrison, Daphne Sleigh
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pemberton, British Columbia.|
- Official website
- Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce
- Tourism Pemberton
- Pemberton Farmers Institute
- Village of Pemberton at britishcolumbia.com
- Pemberton and District Museum and Archives Society
- Pemberton Valley Dyking District