Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert, BC, incorporated as a city in 1910, population 12 508 (2011c), 12 815 (2006c). The City of Prince Rupert is situated on Kaien Island, at the mouth of the SKEENA RIVER in the COAST MOUNTAIN Range of British Columbia, 724 km west of PRINCE GEORGE.

Prince Rupert, BC, incorporated as a city in 1910, population 12 508 (2011c), 12 815 (2006c). The City of Prince Rupert is situated on Kaien Island, at the mouth of the Skeena River in the Coast Mountain Range of British Columbia, 724 km west of Prince George. Prince Rupert is Canada's wettest city, with 2552 mm of precipitation per year. The western terminus of the Yellowhead Trans-Canada Highway and, as Canada's deepest ice-free seaport, a link between the lower United States, Vancouver and Alaska, it is the industrial, commercial and institutional centre for BC's Northwest Coast.

Prince Rupert, Aerial
Prince Rupert, BC harbour, aerial view (courtesy Shutter Shack).
Prince Rupert, 1911
The first passenger train to leave Prince Rupert (photo by McRae Bros, courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-95633).

Kaien Island was once the meeting place of the Tsimshian and Haida and the city has preserved numerous relics of its native past. Prince Rupert (named for the first Hudson's Bay Company governor) was envisioned in the early 1900s as the western terminus of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) and as a rival of Vancouver as Canada's Pacific outlet, but the hoped-for boom never materialized. The fishing industry became important to the city's economy after World War I. During World War II the port became a shipbuilding centre and was used by the American army as a transportation base for men and materials to Alaska, the Pacific Islands and the Far East. After the war the economy received a boost with the development of a pulp mill on Watson Island.

The port of Prince Rupert (1912) was designated a national port in 1972 and later became a locally controlled Port Corporation (1984). Fairview, a general cargo and forest products terminal, was completed in 1977 (expanded in 1990). In the early 1980s new interest in the coalfields of northeastern British Columbia and strategies to speed up grain movement to the Prairies' Pacific Rim markets affected the city and led to the construction of grain and coal facilities on nearby Ridley Island (completed in 1984).

Present Day

The Pacific Rim countries are the destination for the majority of the exports through Prince Rupert. Although the city suffered in the 1990s with the closure of the coal mines of northeastern British Columbia and of its pulp mill in 2001, trade with China and other Asian countries has since rebounded. A major container port expansion is underway, which would make the port the second-largest handling facility on the West Coast. Prince Rupert is the most important fish-landing port on the northwest coast and the terminus of the BC and Alaska ferry systems.

Tourism is growing rapidly with the expansion of cruise ship traffic and locally with an emphasis on sportfishing. Kwinitsa Railway Station Museum, in one of the last remaining stations of the GTPR (built circa 1912), depicts Prince Rupert's development. The Museum of Northern British Columbia, in the award-winning Chatham Village Longhouse, and a tour of Pike Island, provide exceptional insights into the First Nations culture and history. The city's cultural venue is the Performing Arts Centre. Its daily newspaper, the Prince Rupert Daily News, was first published in 1910. Prince Rupert is home to 2 post-secondary campuses: Northwest Community College and University of Northern British Columbia.

See also Ports and Harbours.

Further Reading

  • P. Bowman, Prince Rupert (1973); R.G. Large, Prince Rupert: Gateway to Alaska (1960).