Five places to see the mighty Fraser River in action

Tugboats docked in front of New Westminster's River Market. Carolyn Ali photo.

Tugboats docked in front of New Westminster’s River Market. Carolyn Ali photo.

In Vancouver, the ocean gets all the glory. While tourists and locals alike stroll Kits Beach and cycle Stanley Park’s sea wall, nobody mentions the Fraser—yet it’s an integral part of West Coast life. Many people live along the river’s banks and enjoy it daily, walking their dogs and jogging along its shores.

The Fraser is a working river, and you’d be amazed to see what kinds of things travel along it. Flowing 1,375 kilometres from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, it merges with the Pacific Ocean and acts as a highway for people and industry. It’s always a treat to watch the tiny tugboats chug by, pulling everything from heavy log booms to shipping containers. (How do they do it?)

The view is always changing, and it’s always inspiring. Here are five places to see the Fraser shine.

Westminster Pier Park stretches along the Fraser River. Carolyn Ali photo.

Westminster Pier Park stretches along the Fraser River. Carolyn Ali photo.

Westminster Pier Park and the River Market, New Westminster

Easily accessible by SkyTrain from downtown Vancouver, New Westminster has grown up a lot over the last five years. Built on pilings over the river, the Westminster Pier Park opened in 2012. Combined with the Waterfront Esplanade, the boardwalk offers a lovely 2.5-kilometre stroll.

Stop in at the Fraser River Discovery Centre to learn about the working river, and grab a coffee or lunch at the River Market.

From September 21 to 27, RiverFest celebrates the Fraser with live entertainment, a work-boat parade, and more.

Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours give a different perspective of the Fraser. Image from Paddlewheeler's website.

Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours give a different perspective of the Fraser. Image from Paddlewheeler’s website.

Take a Paddlewheeler cruise, New Westminster

Modelled on the ships that used to travel the Fraser River 100 years ago, the M.V. Native paddlewheeler docks at New Westminster Quay.

During the summer season, which runs until the end of October, there are a variety of cruises on offer. These include a sunset dinner cruises and a two-and-a-half hour Discover the Fraser voyage that travels up to the Douglas Island Wildlife Preserve and the mouth of the Pitt River. In December, look for carol cruises.

A view of Mt. Baker from the River District Vancouver. Image by Duncan McFarlane from the River District's Facebook page.

A view of Mt. Baker from the River District Vancouver. Image by Duncan McFarlane from the River District’s Facebook page.

River District, Vancouver

Located at the foot of Kerr Street in Vancouver, the River District is a growing residential neighbourhood along the Fraser River. Visit on a Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the Farmers Market, which happens until October 18 in the area in front of the pier.

There’s a nice walking trail west along the water here. If you’re feeling lazy, Romer’s Burger Bar has an excellent view of the river from its deck.

The Gulf of Georgia Cannery delves into the area's history. Image from the Cannery's Facebook page.

The Gulf of Georgia Cannery delves into the area’s history. Image from the Cannery’s Facebook page.

Steveston, Richmond

Located in Richmond, the community of Steveston lies where the south arm of the Fraser River meets the ocean. At the tip of Garry Point Park, a 75-acre waterfront park, you can look out on both the river and the ocean: two views in one!

Nearby, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery delves into the area’s historical importance for the salmon-canning industry. At Fisherman’s Wharf, you can buy fresh seafood off the docks or fuel up on fish and chips.

Rowers on the Fraser River. Image courtesy of UBC Rowing.

Rowers on the Fraser River. Image courtesy of UBC Rowing.

John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse, Richmond

This elegant floating building on the middle arm of the Fraser River in Richmond is home to rowing teams from the University of British Columbia, as well as various community rowing programs.

The private facility rents out for weddings and other functions, but if you time things right you can catch the rowers in action.  For example, the 8th Annual Head of the Fraser regatta takes place on October 5.

The West Dyke Trail has a good view of this stretch and offers several beautiful seating areas to watch the river action.

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