Lying some 780km north of Vancouver, and 380km northwest of Jasper, rough-edged PRINCE GEORGE (pop. 78,000) is the general area's services and transport centre. Forestry, in the form of pulp mills, kilns, planers, plywood plants and allied chemical works, is at the core of its industrial landscape – if you ever wanted the inside story on the lumber business, this is where to find it.
The town is a disorienting open-plan network of roads and sporadic houses between Hwy 97 and a sprawling downtown area at the junction of the Fraser and Nechako rivers. Simon Fraser established a North West Trading Company post here in 1805. As a commercial nexus it quickly altered the lives of the local Carrier Sekani people, who abandoned their semi-nomadic migration from winter to summer villages in favour of a permanent settlement alongside the fort. Little changed until 1914 when the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway – later the Canadian National – spawned an influx of pioneers and loggers. The town was connected by road to Dawson Creek and the north as late as 1951, and saw the arrival of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1958, two developments that give some idea of how recent the opening up of the far north has been.