Burns Lake was settled in 1911. Workers who helped build the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, the rail line that now reaches the coastal port city of Prince Rupert, settled in the area once they finished work.
The community grew as more settlers arrived, lured by the low price of land. In 1923, the town was incorporated as a village after canvas tents and wooden cabins began to form an actual community.
History of "Burns Lake"
The name Burns Lake derives from the 1800s. Before the discovery of this area, a huge forest fire had killed off and blackened most of the local forest. Packers and cattle drivers, therefore, referred to the area as "Burnt Lake." Over the years, the name developed into Burns Lake. The smallish lake immediately south of town is also called Burns Lake.
For a look at some of Burns Lake's historical buildings and items, check out the town's museum, located next door to the Burns Lake Visitor Centre. Also pick up a Walking Tour of Burns Lake brochure (featuring heritage buildings and points of interest) from the Visitor Centre and embark on a historical journey.
The pamphlet leads a tour that zig zags through downtown and takes about an hour to complete. It passes by buildings of historical significance, such as the town's old police station, now the Burns Lake newspaper office, as well as the town's notorious "Bucket of Blood," which sits in the museum's yard. The Bucket of Blood was a former fur-trading office turned gambling den. It is named for a poker dispute that ended in one player shooting another.
Burns Lake Today
Today, Burns Lake residents are of varied backgrounds; Scandinavian, Irish, Italian, Swiss, German, and American are just some of the nationalities present. The town is surrounded by six different First Nations bands and also includes a large Mennonite community.
Despite the fact that Burns Lake is divided into two geographically separate areas, the northside and southside of Francois Lake, a sense of togetherness exists among community members.