While travellers to Vancouver typically first notice the spectacular beauty of the North Shore Mountains, the active, hearty citizens of North Vancouver have also built up their own intriguing culture and history over the years.
First Nations Settlers
The North Shore, located directly north of downtown Vancouver across Burrard Inlet, was originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples such as the Squamish First Nation, the Tseil-Waututh First Nation, and the Musqueam First Nation. For centuries, Aboriginal peoples hunted, fished, traded, created striking totem poles and bentwood boxes in their traditional village sites. All three nations were included among the Four Host First Nations for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
On June 13, 1792, captain George Vancouver became the first European to enter Burrard Inlet, travelling with his crew aboard small boats from HMS Discovery. As more European settlers flooded into the region with the mid-19th Century Fraser River Gold Rush, logging operations began on the North Shore in the 1860s.
Building a North Vancouver Community
Moodyville Sawmill Company(former Pioneer Mills) was set up in 1863, delivering lumber to local buyers. In the decades that followed, a post office and church were built, and electrical service and ferry service were instituted. The first incarnation of the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge was constructed in 1889.
North & West Vancouver
North Vancouver was incorporated as a district in 1891, encompassing the whole North Shore from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. Over time, however, new boundaries would be drawn. A year after street car service began, the city of North Vancouver was created in 1907 on the lower hillside and waterfront, and West Vancouver was incorporated separately in 1912.
However, for today's visitors, such distinctions have little significance. The North Shore continued to grow, buoyed by suburban communities like Capilano, Deep Cove, Lynn Valley, and Northlands.
Bridges to North Vancouver
The North Shore's ties to the urban metropolis of Vancouver were solidified with the construction of two major bridges. The Second Narrows Bridge (1925) connected east Vancouver to the North Shore, and the Lions Gate Bridge (1938), resembling San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, offered access from downtown through Stanley Park. The Lions Gate Bridge, opened in 1938, officially known as the First Narrows Bridge, is a suspension bridge that crosses the first narrows of Burrard Inlet and connects the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the North Shore municipalities of the District of North Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver, and West Vancouver. The term "Lions Gate" refers to The Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver. Northbound traffic on the bridge heads in their general direction. A pair of cast concrete lions, designed by sculptor Charles Marega, were placed on either side of the south approach to the bridge in January 1939.
North Shore Ski Resorts
This area came into its own with the construction of the Upper Levels Highway, part of the Trans-Canada Highway, in the 1960s. Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Mount Seymour exploded as popular destinations for skiing as well as mountain biking in the 1970s and 1980s.
An active living and tourism mecca, Vancouver's North Shore has seen plenty of glitz and glamour in recent years. Cypress Mountain was a venue for the 2010 Olympics (freestyle skiing and snowboarding).
Movies & TV Series
Both in huge local movie studios and at outdoor locations, many Hollywood movies and TV series have been filmed here: The 6th Day (Arnold Schwarzenegger), The X-Files (David Duchovny), and Smallville (Jessica Alba) are some notable ones.
Forests & Urban Life
Yet the ancient spirit of North Vancouver endures in its deep mountainside forests inhabited by black bears and deer. The yellow sulphur piles on the waterfront show that North Vancouver still plays a key role in Canada's main working West Coast harbour. The marriage between urban life, industrial development, and accessible yet pristine wilderness makes this a truly distinctive community.
North Vancouver Museum & Archives
If you would like to learn more about North Vancouver's culture and history, you can visit the North Vancouver Museum and Archives. Featuring colourful dioramas and artifacts (like replicas of the stone lions at the Lions Gate Bridge), the museum offers exhibits on topics like First Nations culture, the early logging industry, and North Vancouver landmarks that no longer exist.