Well positioned as a proud supporter of vibrant outdoor lifestyles, recreational opportunities, and a prosperous, growing economy, the City of Chilliwack in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley is a budding Lower Mainland epicentre that boasts an exceptional quality of life, family oriented neighbourhoods, and stunning natural beauty.
With a population of approximately 84,000 Chilliwack is British Columbia’s 7th largest city, nestled on the southern shore of the mighty Fraser River 100 kilometers east of Vancouver. All this combines to make Chilliwack one of the popular cities to move to!
Chilliwack History 101
Chilliwack is located in the traditional territory of the e Stó:lō people. In their ancestral tongue, Halq’eméylem, Chilliwack means valley of many streams, or quieter water at the head. Carbon dated archaeological records note that the Fraser River Valley and the site of Chilliwack have been inhabited by people for over 10,000 years, with about 40,000 living near the current site of the City when settlers first arrived. Permanent structures date back to about 5000 years ago, according to Keith Thor Carlson’s 2001 publication, A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas, probably due to the prominence of fish and choice agricultural lands.
Chilliwack saw a massive influx of settlers when in 1859, gold was discovered in the Fraser Canyon. Over 40,000 miners trekked through the Chilliwack area, prompting some to stay. By the mid 1860’s farms had begun to spring up, along with steamboat landing slips along the river’s edge. The Township of Chilliwhack was incorporated in 1873 as the third municipality in the entire province of British Columbia that relied heavily on steamboats and the Fraser for transportation of goods. The Canadian Pacific Railway arrived to town in 1885, prompting many village residents to cross the river to take the train at Minto Landing.
With little river access space left to develop, the commercial sector of the village moved to the south, at a junction called Five Corners. This popular landmark saw the development of a subdivision known as Centreville in 1881, and the name was replaced by the more popular Chilliwack in 1887. The junction village separated from the larger municipality in 1908, incorporating as an independent municipality and the City of Chilliwack. The pre-existing township and the new city co-existed until 1984 when they merged as the District of Chilliwack – until 1999 when the entire area became known, again, as the City of Chilliwack. The spelling also changed – from Chilliwhack to Chilliwack.
Geography and Climate
Located in the Upper Fraser Valley, Chilliwack is home to both the Fraser River and the Vedder River, presided over by tall mountain peaks like Mount Cheam and Sleese Mountain. A mild climate with limited extremities have provided ideal growing conditions, with farming and agriculture comprising a major sector of the City’s background – from 1981-2001, Chilliwack boasted the warmest average temperature of any Canadian city, with exceptionally long days in the summer, contributing to a great agricultural sector.
Precipitation in Chilliwack manifests predominantly as rain, with snow being hemmed in by the nearby mountains. In 2011, the World Health Organization reported that air quality in Chilliwack enjoys some of the best air quality in the world, achieving a measurement of just 4.9 micrograms per cubic metre. By comparison, Toronto recorded 7.9, and Montreal had 11.2.
Parks & Recreation
Chilliwack is renowned for its incredible access to recreational and leisure activities that support and enhance healthy, active lifestyles. The landscape of Chilliwack is home to breathtaking parks, trails, lakes, mountains, and state-of-the-art rec facilities that suit evolving needs of its residents.
It’s parks encompass everything from urban playgrounds to pristine wilderness – like Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, located just east of the Chilliwack neighbourhood of Rosedale. A 122 metre waterfall is sourced by Mount Archibald and flows into Bridal Creek, and from there into the Fraser. Bridal Veil Park encompasses 32 hectares of lush valleys and rounded mountains, and features a hiking loop that takes visitors to the falls viewing platform.
The ever-popular Cultus Lakes Provincial Park is a local favourite, located 13 km south of Chilliwack. The lake is 627 acres of freshwater paradise – making it the largest freshwater lake in the Fraser Valley – with sandy beaches, campgrounds, fishing opportunities, resorts and marinas, golfing, mountain biking, hiking, and many other recreational uses. Cultus Lake is also home to the Cultus Lake Waterpark and the Cultus Lake Adventure Park.
Chilliwack Lake rounds out the City’s third and final Provincial Park offering, a 9,122 hectare park that boasts many lakes and mountain access. The lake features wilderness, backcountry and walk-n camping opportunities as well as access to the snowfields of Mount Corriveau. The Post Creek trailhead is a popular jump-off point for Fraser Valley hiking routes that lead to both Lindeman and Greendrop Lakes. The area also features excellent fishing, with Rainbow, Coho, Cutthroat, Kokanee, and Black Crappie in abundance.
In the City, the Chilliwack Heritage Park is the region’s premiere location for fairs, festivals, motor-sports and family events. The park is a 65 acre building that accommodates motocross races, rodeos, the ABA BMX Grand Nationals competition, as well as a 7-acre field for outdoor concerts and family camping. Chilliwack is also home for four skateboard parks, three off-leash dog parks, and three state-of the-art recreation facilities; namely the Chilliwack Landing Leisure Centre that’s home to an aquatic centre, competition pool, sand volleyball courts, an aerobics studio, fitness centre, wellness shop, pro-shop, and a restaurant.
Arts & Culture
The City of Chilliwack is home to some serious public art and cultural institutions, making it a formidable hub for artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and actors. The overarching Chilliwack Community Arts Council has a mandate to enrich the quality of life in the City through art and culture. Chartered in 1960, it continues to support local arts and cultural initiatives with resources and expertise.
The Chilliwack Cultural Centre is a $22 million facility that is home to a 500 seat performance theatre and a 150 recital rehearsal space that doubles as a dance studio and/or meeting space, music instruction room, or artists studios. The Cultural Centre works to bring dynamic and diverse events and programming to Chilliwack.
The city is also home to a Metropolitan Opera, founded in 2008. The Chilliwack Metro Opera performs full symphonies, concertos, and orchestral work within the community with Artistic Director, Greg Douglas, leading the charge. Furthering the musical sphere, the Chilliwack Academy of Music provides exemplary music instruction and is a member of the BC Association of Community Schools. Since 1979, the Academy has enjoyed an annual enrollment of about 650 students, taught by professional artists and musicians. The Academy recently relocated to the Cultural Centre.
The Chilliwack Visual Artists Association is another not-for-profit group that works together to help exhibit and showcase the talents of numerous local artists and artisans through various mediums. The group also curates that Chilliwack Art Gallery and participates in other local arts-based initiatives. Lastly, the Chilliwack Museum has been in operation since 1958, collecting and exhibiting objects and archival documents relevant to the history of Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley area.
Transportation & Healthcare
Chilliwack is located about 113 km from the Vancouver International Airport, while the Abbotsford International Airport is only about 42 km away, making cross-Canada or international flights from the City a simple ordeal to accommodate. Chilliwack has its own airport as well, with about 70% of air traffic stemming from pilot training and recreational flights from all over BC and the nearby USA.
Chilliwack employs use of a public transit system comprised of nine buses that operate on a regular route throughout the city, and is accessible via the six-lane Horseshoe Bay-Hope Highway, as well as the Trans Canada Highway. The Agassiz-Rosedale Highway connects Chilliwack to Highways 1 and 7 north/south where a ferry had traditionally run. A bridge replaced the ferry in 1956. Chilliwack also still enjoys rail-connection via the Chilliwack Rail Station, served by Via Rail’s The Canadian 3X daily. The station is also served by a westbound train to Abbotsford and Vancouver. Chilliwack also features 175 km of designated bike lanes throughout the city’s limits, with additional lanes added annually.
The City has been serviced by the 148-bed Chilliwack General Hospital and Fraser Health since 1912. The facility provides care in 945 beds across Chilliwack in the hospital, residential care facilities, hospice, as well as mental health and substance abuse program facilities.
The City of Chilliwack is home to 31 public schools under the district of School District 33 Chilliwack. The district has an enrollment of over 14,000 students, and about 1,800 teachers and support staff. The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique operates one Francophone school in the city; école La Vérendrye.
Post secondary institutions in the city include the Chilliwack Education Park, an 86-acre campus that houses the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre, and the Justice Institute of British Columbia. UFV is the largest post-secondary school in Chilliwack and the 7th largest in BC.
A part of the Lower Mainland-Southwest economic region, Chilliwack is well-positioned as one of the fastest-growing regions in the province, consistently outpacing neighbouring cities and municipalities. The economy of Chilliwack is segmented as follows:
- 45% retail
- 13% manufacturing
- 9% Forestry-related products
- 29% agricultural
- 4% public sector
The city also receives top nods for having the lowest taxes and fastest approval ratings in both 2015 and 2016 NAIOP reports (Commercial Real Estate Development Association). Of a 44,750 strong workforce, 42% have a post secondary degree or diploma, 4.6% higher than the provincial average. The average income in Chilliwack (2005) is $24,882.
Whether it’s a firm foot in the outdoors and recreation, or a penchant for economic stability and growth, Chilliwack is a growing community that embraces everything it has been, and everything it’s destined to become.