History Comes Alive at Fort William Historical Park
As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, there’s no better place to visit than Fort William Historical Park – the world’s largest fur-trading post!
by Mary Wimmer
Did you know that Canada’s largest living history attraction is just a short drive from home? Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay is the largest of its kind in Canada, if not North America. The beautiful Park is devoted to re-creating the days of the North West Company and the Canadian fur trade, making it the perfect entertaining and educational weekend road-trip destination for families.
In fact, Parks Canada recently presented what was once the world’s largest fur trading post with its National Cultural Tourism Award, in recognition of the Park’s commitment to visitor satisfaction, as well as its vital role as a regional economic promoter and its social impact on the community.
As Canada gets set to celebrate its 150th birthday, there’s perhaps no better place to visit than Fort William Historical Park. After all, some of Canada's most famous explorers were connected to the North West Company; including Simon Fraser, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson. There’s no doubt that the fur trade played a key role in forming the foundations of the country we all call home.
Fort William Historical Park is a multi-functional operation, offering a variety of programs including overnight experiences, education programs, artisan workshops, conferences, banquets, festivals and recreational opportunities. With 57 heritage and modern buildings on 250 acres, the park offers a vivid portrait of what life was like during the fur trade; from the business of buying and selling fur to domestic life, crafts and medicine – even heritage farming.
Its numerous historic buildings have been reconstructed to show the Park’s range as a trading post, with costumed actors recreating the site as it was in the year 1815. Fort William was not then a settlement, but a transport depot in the North West Company’s network of outposts. Because of its central role, Fort William was much larger than the average trading post, with more facilities than most. To illustrate that, Fort William Historical Park has reconstructed 42 buildings, as well as an Ojibwa village and a small farm.
Aside from its comprehensive historical program, the Fort also has an Amphitheatre that plays host to a variety of events all year-long. It has the distinction of being one of Canada’s largest purpose-built outdoor entertainment venues and can hold up to 50,000 people. The venue is capable of featuring six regulation-size hockey ice surfaces in the winter and a full-service campground during special events and concerts in the summer. It was designed to be able to host multiple independent events at the same time, so there’s a good chance that you can catch an interesting show while you’re there.
For the Park’s hours of operation and admission fees, click here; and be sure to visit your nearest CAA Travel Store for your FREE Discovery Pass to access the Fort William and other national parks and national historic sites for free all year-long, courtesy of Parks Canada.