Fort Nelson Heritage Museum home page
A Brief History of Fort Nelson
Museum Collections and Photos
Local Events

Fort Nelson History

Recent News; in 2013 the old Anglican Church building was moved from its former site to the museum grounds.


The non-aboriginal history of Fort Nelson, BC goes back to 1805 when the Northwest Company first established a fur trading post near its present day location. There is evidence that the community has had five separate locations, with the fifth being the current location.

Fort Nelson is named for Admiral Horatio Nelson after his success at the Battle of Trafalger in 1805.

The community was essentially a fur trading post from 1805 to 1941. It was first served by the Northwest Company which was later absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company.

Old Fort Nelson Post Office

Life in Fort Nelson began to change drastically in 1941 and 1942 mainly as a result of World War II. The Northwest Air Staging Route established an airport in 1941. The population of Fort Nelson increased substantially in 1942 with the arrival of US Army troops to begin construction of the Alcan Highway, now called the Alaska Highway.  With so many people working on the highway, it only took 9 months to survey and build the 1500 mile stretch of road.

Since 1942 Fort Nelson's history is a history of modern experiences. The economy has expanded to include more than just fur trapping. It now includes guide outfitting, the forest industry, oil and gas industry, farming, transportation and tourism.

Fort Nelson's population is normally around 5,000 people year round. Due to the muskeg in this area of British Columbia, oil and gas activities wait until winter when the ground is frozen solid, to carry out the majority of their work.  During this time, the population can easily double to 10,000 people in town and in the work camps in the immediate surrounding area.

Much of this history of Fort Nelson, BC can be found in an online account through the Fort Nelson Public Library's website. This account reflects the history of two major northeastern BC watersheds, the Fort Nelson River and the Liard River.


Your contributions are needed!

The Fort Nelson Public Library is creating an online local history archive on Facebook. The archive is accessed at Fort Nelson - NRRM Public Library Historical Project.

This site will be developed to preserve local family and district history. Future writers will use this searchable database for reference.

All submissions should be fact based, accurate and if a date isn't available give an "approximate" date.

To submit your articles or ask questions:

Due to staff/time constraints submissions must be in electronic format only.

Visit the library's website at:




All Rights Reserved are © property of the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum
and can not be used without their express written permission.