News & Updates

Squamish: from then to now

Posted on Jun 10 2014

Squamish is a quiet town nestled between the Howe Sound fjord and sheer mountains forged by volcanoes and polished by the ice sheets of the last Glacial Period. The region’s human history is almost as ancient: 5,000 years ago the first nomadic people arrived by canoe in search of salmon, shellfish, and shelter.

The second wave of settlers arrived by water too. In 1888 a community started to grow around logging, agriculture, and, nearby in Britannia Beach, mining. The fertile land was perfect for growing hay, potatoes, and hops. Hop farming became Squamish’s first major industry and the Squamish Valley Hop Company Ranch supplied hops throughout the British Empire.

Horse logging, then steam-donkey logging thrived. By 1926 full-scale logging was taking place in Valleycliffe and Crumpit Woods, then moving north towards Alice Lake. Before long, train lines were needed to transport the logs. In June 1914 construction began on a line north. By fall the line had already reached Pemberton, and would go on to reach Prince George in 1952.

More recently, Squamish’s landscape has attracted attention for different reasons. After the Seaview highway opened in 1958, a stream of visitors arrived for outdoor recreation. Hikers and then mountain bikers wove their way through forest trails, and climbers scaled the Stawamus Chief, the second largest granite monolith in the world.

The Chief, Shannon Falls and the ocean all feature in ancient First Nations tales. One tale — the Seal and the Princess — attributes Squamish’s prosperity to the marriage of an unfortunate princess from the village of Stawamus to Asth-que, the Seal.

Stories are part of Squamish Nation’s rich cultural history. The Squamish People, with their vast history, are linked with the Salmon Peoples and Coast Salish Aboriginal Peoples in Greater Vancouver. In 1923 the 16 regional villages signed an Amalgamation and became the Squamish Nation.

This year Squamish celebrates a series of historic milestones: It is 100 years since the townsite was completed and the community adopted the name Squamish (after running through Skow-komish, Squamisht, Squawmish, Skwawmish and Newport), and it has been 50 years since the incorporation of the District of Squamish.

By Penelope Buswell, Special to The Province