The Village of Harrison Hot Springs is located on the south shore of the beautiful, glacier fed Harrison Lake in the eastern reaches of the Fraser Valley, approximately 140 km from Vancouver. Today, the Village has a population of approximately 1,900 and covers an area of just over 5 km2. The Village has spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains, Mount Cheam, and the Miami River which flows through the community. Our climate is warm in the summer and mild and rainy in the winter.
The Village is a member of the Fraser Valley Regional District with our immediate neighbour being the town of Agassiz in the District of Kent. The nearest grocery stores, medical clinic, and pharmacies are located in Agassiz. The Abbotsford International Airport is an approximate 40-minute drive (75 km) away.
The Village, and surrounding region, is a popular tourist destination known for the sandy beaches, hot springs, hiking, forest bathing, rock climbing, golfing, bird watching, and more. There are many year-round recreational opportunities for families, retirees, artists and outdoor enthusiasts that bring up 750,000 visitors to town each year. The Harrison Lake is popular for fishing, boating, kayaking, and wind surfing.
The Village is also member of the Province of British Columbia Resort Municipality Initiative.
Before Europeans arrived, Sts’ailes people lived near what is known as the Harrison Hot Springs in a traditional pithouse and plank house village known as Qwó:íls. Besides the cultural and healing properties of the hot springs, the Sts’ailes and their neighbours valued abundant local resources including a tall grass (mats’el or th’a:xey) and all species of salmon. The village of Qwó:íls was also an important nexus for movement between Harrison Lake, Harrison River, and the Fraser River.
Sts‘ailes people are a Coast Salish Halkomelem speaking tribe linked with surrounding Indigenous Peoples though kinship, language, trade, intermarriage, ceremonies, and stories. Historically, Sts’ailes was recognized as a rich and powerful tribe among their neighbours.
The Gold Rush Era
There is a story about miners returning from the Fraser River during the gold rush who “discovered hot springs" when they came ashore. The group of goldfield-bound travellers on Harrison Lake capsized into what they thought was their doom, only to discover the lake at that spot was not freezing, but warm.
When Judge Matthew Begbie made his first circuit of the mining camps in 1859, the springs were known by the miners. He reported them to Governor James Douglas who gave the settlement the name of "St. Alice's Well". The opening of the Canadian Pacific Railway brought the lakeside springs within a short carriage ride of the transcontinental mainline.
Becoming a Village
In 1889, a townsite plan along the lakefront was registered with the Land Titles Office in New Westminster. In 1899 the first school was built at the south end of Harrison Hot Springs. In the 1890's a mining boom began with the discovery of sienna and in 1926 a new subdivision plan was registered, selling lots. Excursions by sternwheeler from New Westminster to Harrison Hot Springs were frequent with cruises on Harrison Lake and around Echo Island. During the early years, many logging camps were situated on Harrison Lake, including a sawmill at Port Douglas. Logging in and around Harrison Lake continued over the years and still remains to this day.
In February 1949, the Harrison Hot Springs Property Owners Association was formed with Lieutenant Colonel Andrew McCormack Naismith appointed as temporary chairman. The first priority for this association was the incorporation of a new village. The "Corporation of the Village of Harrison Hot Springs" became official in May of 1949, the largest area of any village in the province at that time with 2,020 acres. On December 2, 2004, the municipality received approval to change its name to the "Village of Harrison Hot Springs". Harrison Hot Springs is named after Benjamin Harrison, a former deputy governor for the Hudson's Bay Company.
The Village Office was once owned by the MacPherson Family. "MacPherson House" was built in approximately 1888. The Chanaysk family bought the residential home and in 1979 donated it to the municipality. "MacPherson House" was relocated to its present site (495 Hot Springs Road) and restored, becoming the municipal Village Office. On October 16, 1979 Council adopted a bylaw designating the building known as "MacPherson House" as a municipal heritage building.
Harrison Hot Springs Resort
John Brown first undertook construction of the St. Alice Hotel in summer of 1886 and the hotel was officially opened on November 1 of that same year. In 1920, the St. Alice Hotel burned to the ground but was rebuilt sometime later and renamed as the "Harrison Hot Springs Hotel". The hotel became a famous destination for soaking in mineral pools and baths, horseback riding, hunting, boating on the lake and fishing and continues to draw visitors from around the world.