Stewart has a colourful past shaped by unbelievable tales, semi-nomadic First Nations presence, gold rush booms and busts, forestry development, and northern isolation. Explore this past at Stewart's Historical Museum.
Today, Stewart is an excellent destination for both summer and winter outdoor activities, and a peaceful place to discover the natural treasures of Northern British Columbia.
Before European settlers arrived, First Nations from the Nass Valley (about a two-hour drive south of Stewart) periodically travelled to the area to hunt birds and gather berries. However, the First Nations population remained nomadic and did not settle in Stewart; therefore, Stewart does not currently have a First Nations population.
"Gateway to the Klondike"
Stewart's first permanent settlement dates back to the late 1800s, when prospectors first came searching for gold. In the early 1900s, four brothers with the last name Stewart founded the town. The Stewarts promoted the town as "The Gateway to the Klondike," which attracted miners from around the world. Not all sites in the area were a success, but various discoveries of rich minerals built the area's reputation and economy. For a glimpse of the area's mining past, check out the old mining equipment scattered throughout Stewart's downtown, or drive north, past Hyder, Alaska, to see the old Granduc Mine.
The highway to Stewart was only completed in 1974; before that the town was accessible by water or air. Soon after, forestry became the number one industry in town. The industry dominated the area's economy for almost two decades, but as in other Northern British Columbia communities, it's now on the decline.
Stewart's past folklore is marked by stories of partying and wild goose chases. However, Stewart today is a mellow and charming town. Summer is a busy mix of visitors and friendly locals. Stewart residents have much in common with other Northern British Columbians: they love to fish and play in the snow.
To learn about Stewart's history and view artifacts, visit the local Historical Museum, one block south of 5th Avenue, in the town's old Fire Hall. While there, pick up a Walking Tour of Historic Houses and Buildings in Stewart booklet. The booklet includes a touring map and information on significant local residences, churches and rail houses.