Fraser River Lowland | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Fraser River Lowland

The Fraser River Lowland is a triangular area in southwestern British Columbia. The eastern apex of the triangle is at Hope, about 160 km inland from the Strait of Georgia. From here, the lowland broadens to the west to a width of about 50 km. The international boundary between British Columbia and Washington State crosses the southwestern part of the lowland. The Coast Mountains form the northern boundary of the delta-lowland. The Fraser River Lowland is the largest area of level land with suitable agricultural soils in coastal British Columbia.
Fraser River Lowland

(“Map of fraser lowland and location of se2 project” by Pat Buckley, John Belec, and Jason Levy at ResearchGate is licensed under CC BY 4.0.)


The Fraser River Lowland formed from glacial and alluvial deposits laid down more than 10,000 years ago. Originally, the lowland was a delta at the mouth of a Fraser River much larger than the one known today. Due in part to the land rising following the glacial period, today these older delta deposits are about 100 m above sea level. Lower-level lowlands, almost at sea level, are the result of recent alluvial deposition along the floodplain of present Fraser River channels. Dikes protect these lowlands from flooding.


Stó:lō and Nooksack peoples have lived in the Fraser River Lowland since time immemorial. Both nations are part of the Coast Salish cultural group. The Nooksack’s territory is in what is now considered the northwest corner of Washington State, while the Stó:lō’s is in British Columbia.

White settlers established Fort Langley, located in the northcentral portion of the lowland, in 1827. Agricultural settlement came after the Fraser (1858) and Cariboo (1862) gold rushes. The full agricultural use of the lower lands with better soils came with improvements in drainage and diking in the early 20th century.

Population and Economy

More than half the population of British Columbia live in the Fraser River Lowland. Locally, the area is often called the Lower Fraser Valley or the Lower Mainland. Metropolitan Vancouver now occupies much of the western section of the delta-lowland. In other parts of the lowland, agricultural land is protected from urban encroachment by zoning regulations.

Dairy farming is typical on the alluvial soils of the lowest areas. The poorer soils of the postglacial, raised delta are used for small fruits, berries, poultry farming and forests.