The Fort Nelson area has served a number of roles. In the early 1800s, there was a fur-trading post. It was an important staging point for the building of the Alaska Highway and subsequently became a servicing center along the road. Resource extraction — forestry, oil and gas — have been the economic mainstays of the community, with tourism becoming more important.
- Fort Nelson Visitor Information Center, 5500 Alaska Highway, ☏ . May-Sept: daily 8AM-7PM; Oct-Apr: M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM. Information on local attractions, restaurants and places to stay. Has free Wifi, a children's play area and a gift shop with crafts from local artisans and First Nations.
Fort Nelson, named in honour of the British naval hero Horatio Nelson, was established by the Northwest Trading Company in 1805 as a fur-trading post. Due to fires, floods and feuds, Fort Nelson is in its fifth location.
The Fort Nelson Airport was also a valuable asset for allied military forces in World War II, as it served as an airbase for the United States Air Force and for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Contrary to popular belief that the construction of the Alaska Highway commenced in Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson was the original mile 0 on the Alaska Highway because of the existence of a previously constructed road from Fort Saint John to Fort Nelson.
The United States Army built perhaps the most notable historical artifact in the area, the Alaska Highway. Construction began in 1942 out of a firm belief that Alaska faced significant threat of Japanese invasion. Initial highway construction was performed by over 11,000 U.S. soldiers. After approximately nine lengthy and strenuous months, the highway was finally completed, making Fort Nelson a bustling service-center along the famous road. After the Japanese surrender of 1945, the U.S. Army ceded the Canadian portion of the highway to the Canadian government, which opened it to the public in 1948.
In the years following World War II, the construction of the Alaska Highway, and the construction of the Fort Nelson Airport, Fort Nelson grew considerably as a community. In the early 1950s the first five acres were sold to locals, which marked the start of the community as a separate entity from the military. Oil- and gas-exploration in the early 1950s provided Fort Nelson with the industrial sector that it required to jump-start expansion of the community into what would eventually become the village of Fort Nelson in 1971. After the completion of BC Hydro's natural-gas power plant to provide electricity to the region, Fort Nelson experienced growth. A railway was built by the Pacific Great Eastern up to Fort Nelson in 1971 which allowed efficient transportation of the local industry's major products (lumber, oil, and gas) to larger markets in the south.
Winters, except when dry chinook winds blow from the Pacific Ocean, tend to be severely cold and generally dry with snow depth of only 0.5 metres (19.7 in) typical owing to the dryness of the 1.77 metres (69.69 in) snowfall, while summers are warm and occasionally rainy, though spells of hot weather are rare.
Fort Nelson is colder than anywhere else in British Columbia from November through February, but the mean average temperature during the summer is warmer than coastal areas even far south such as Victoria and comparable to Vancouver.
The Fort Nelson Regional Airport (YYE) is about 8 km northeast of Fort Nelson. Central Mountain Air force frets flghts 7 days a week and up to 5 flights a day from Edmonton (YEG), Calgary (YYC) and Vancouver (YVR) international airports.
- 1 Fort Nelson Heritage Museum, 5553 Alaska Highway, ☏ . Mid May - early Sept 10AM-7PM daily. A sprawling collection of antique cars and trucks, local history, the story of the Alaska Highway, historic local buildings and more. Tours are frequently available from the curator (a local resident), who brings insight and character to the stories of the community and the highway. $5 (adult), $3 (child & senior).
- Poplar Hills Golf Club
- 2 The Phoenix Theater, 5319 50th Avenue South, ☏ .
- Northern Rockies Recreation Centre
- Fort Nelson Community Literacy Society's October Culture Fest
- Heritage Days. Late February. Entertainment, the working displays. Free bannock and tea in the Trapper's Cabin as well as live entertainment. Free admission to the museum and a bake sale both days.
- Trappers' Rendezvous. Annual Fort Nelson Trappers Rendezvous celebration first weekend in March. Events at the museum and around town. Trappers Rendezvous Dog Pull takes place on the museum grounds on the Saturday.
- Fort Nelson Demonstration Forest, end of Mountainside Dr. A park with a number of well-maintained trails of 1-3.5 km in length. Some trails can also be used for biking and cross-country skiing. Trails include interpretive signs explaining some of the local ecosystem. There's a pond with picnic tables about 10-15 minutes from the parking lot. The park is also a popular spot for dog walking. Free.
- Canoeing down the Fort Nelson River
- Trapper's Den Wildlife Emporium, Mile 293 Alaska Highway, ☏ . M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. Gift and souvenir Shop owned and operated by a local trapping family. Eclectic collection of Canadiana.
- Gourmet Girl, 107-5415 50 Avenue N, ☏ . Daily 7AM-7PM.
- ONE Restaurant & 1 Lounge, 3995-50th Avenue South, ☏ . M-F 6-9AM, daily 5-10PM.
- Down To Earth, 5003 51st Avenue West, ☏ . M-W Sa 8AM-6PM, Th F 8AM-9PM, Su 1PM-5PM. Health food store and cafe
- Simply Savoury, 5201 Simpson Trail (Northern Lights College campus), ☏ . M-F 9AM-2PM.
- Dan's Neighbourhood Pub & Beer, Wine Store, 4204 50th Ave N, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-midnight, F Sa 11AM-2AM.
- Lakeview Inns & Suites, toll-free: . Hotel with mix of standard hotel rooms and suites. The Guest rooms have two queen beds, microwaves, small fridges and in-room coffee. The suites have more space, one or two bedrooms, and some have full kitchens and jacuzzis. Amenities include an exercise room and free Wifi.
- Woodlands Inn & Suites, 3995-50th Ave S, ☏ , toll-free: . Standard rooms have two queen beds and in-room coffee. Executive rooms and suites have two queen beds or one king, and fridge and microwave. All rooms include free Wifi and there is a fitness center on site.
- Kacee's Northern Suites, 4807 50th Ave S. Free WiFi throughout the property, pet-friendly accommodation. Free private parking is available on site. Every room at this motel is air conditioned and features a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. The rooms are equipped with a private bathroom. From $79.
- Muncho Lake Provincial Park — Hiking, camping, boating, wildlife and some beautiful scenery, 200 km west of Fort Nelson on the Alaska Highway. Nearby are the Liard Hot Springs, a natural hot spring in the forest of the Northern Rocky Mountains, and Stone Mountain Provincial Park.
|Routes through Fort Nelson|
|Whitehorse ← Muncho Lake Prov. Park ← Jct ←||N S||→ Fort St John → Dawson Creek|