Chilliwack: From Gold to Riverboat Tours

By Susan Huebert   Trail Canada

How many people would plan a trip to see a place too small and unimportant to be mentioned in most travel books? It seems like an unlikely choice, but small cities can have a surprising number of tourist sights and be as diverse and vibrant as many larger centres. Chilliwack, British Columbia, is a good example. With festivals, natural areas, and much more, Chilliwack is a city well worth visiting.

If the early settlers could see the city now, they would be amazed at the changes that have occurred in the past century and a half. Chilliwack lies one hundred kilometres east of Vancouver between the American border and the Fraser River. Like many Canadian towns and cities, the area had a long Aboriginal history before Europeans settled there in connection with the fur trade and the gold rush. In 1873, settlers established the Township of Chilliwack and later a community called Centreville, which was renamed in 1887 to match the township. Almost a century later, in 1980, the township and city merged to become the new city of Chilliwack. The growing city, now at a population of 76,000, offers historical tours, cycling and mountain climbing opportunities, concerts, and much more. Chilliwack may not be the most popular tourist destination, but it has a great deal to offer for a long or short visit.

As the summer winds down, people begin to look more for indoor activities than outdoor pursuits. The Chilliwack area, however, still has much to attract nature enthusiasts. Cycling is a popular activity in the area. The city is surrounded by dykes built to protect the inhabitants from flooding, but the mounds serve a dual purpose. Bicycle paths along the dykes allow residents and visitors to get a unique view of the city and the surrounding countryside, while also enjoying the fresh air.

Parks and lakes are also prominent near Chilliwack. Cultus Lake, just outside the city, offers the chance for hiking, water sports, and golf; the Cultus Lake Provincial Falls Park has many kilometres of trails, and swimming and sailing are only two of the popular lake activities. The water park across the street from Main Beach is a good place for families to spend an afternoon or more, while the dinosaur theme park in the nearby Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park offers waterslides, a show garden, and paintball. No visitor to the area should miss the falls themselves at the base of Mount Cheam, where water cascades down over one hundred metres; the Bridal Veil Falls are the sixth highest in Canada. Tourists may want to take advantage of the guided tours going to the falls or to places like the Harrison Hot Springs. There is almost an endless array of outdoor activities in the Chilliwack region.

The chance to explore nature is an important part of Chilliwack’s attraction, but the city holds much more. Now that the summer concerts and events like the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival are coming to a close, fall activities are beginning again. The annual Terry Fox Run on September 16th is a good chance for athletes to raise money, while the September horse show and October barrel race will appeal to visitors and residents alike. The Arenacross show on November 9 and 10 is a special event of indoor motorcycle racing, and the Log Home and Timber Frame Expo from October 26-28th highlights a long history of construction. The world will come to Chilliwack on October 12th when the International Farrier Competition takes place in the city, and the city will also host Fist Nations powwows and riverboat tours. Almost everyone can find something of interest when so many activities are happening.

Chilliwack is a good place to experience history. Visiting Shxwt'a:selhawtxw, the House of Long Ago and Today, and Xa:ytem, a Longhouse Interpretive Centre, gives a sense of native culture, and agricultural tours to nearby farms showcase the importance of farming to Chilliwack’s development. The city’s downtown area is especially notable, with early commercial buildings, now in the process of restoration, at the junction of Five Corners and Wellington Avenue. Another good place to see elaborate architecture is on the Village Walk, where houses of a bygone age still stand. The Chilliwack Museum is worth visiting for its location in the old City Hall and for its collection of historic artefacts of the region. One of the museum’s main features is a time capsule highlighting the major events in the city’s history; by following the printed guide available at the museum, visitors can experience Chilliwack’s growth and change for themselves.

The performing and visual arts also have an important place in the city. The Chilliwack Arts Centre at the corner of College and Henderson, with its 340-seat theatre, dance studios, gallery, and other facilities is a good place to attend a concert or to see what art Chilliwack has to offer. Visitors may be surprised and pleased to see how much is available.

Despite its relatively small size, Chilliwack is an ideal tourist destination. With parks, cultural sights, interesting architecture, and much more, the city on the Fraser River is worth taking the time to visit.

Chilliwack Features

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