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Mighty Fraser Country at a Glance
by Angela Warner

As a European, my first visit to Mighty Fraser Country from Vancouver was almost a supernatural experience. If it were not for the spectacular mountains in the distance, I could have sworn I was back in the Garden of England. The same rolling, verdant countryside, the same peaceful fields of cattle, and raspberries galore! No wonder Abbotsford is acclaimed as the "Raspberry Capital of the World". To see the thriving, bustling region today, it's hard to believe that it was avoided by the earliest settlers, who, despite the rich soil made fertile by thousands of years of river deposits, found it too swampy to farm. There was also no way to get any produce to market, even were it to be grown.

It was the railway that put Abbotsford on the map- literally- when a train station was built there, named after Henry Abbot, a Canadian Pacific Railway superintendent for the Pacific Region. Expansion of the area was aided by a program of dyke building and swamp draining from the 1890's through to the 20th century. The low-lying land was still vulnerable to flooding by the nearby Fraser River, as the following item by Air Highways

Editor Jerry Bird attests: "On my first trip to Abbotsford, the night was pitch black, as we bumped from side to side in back of an army truck; a group of high school students on leave, caught up in the excitement of the Fraser River flood. We saw little of the landscape, only mounds of sandbags. My next view was decades later, as a visitor from Calgary on a project for the Cargill company. Heading down Mt. Lehman Road at sunrise in a rental car, white-capped mountains ringed the horizon, and nature served up its very best picture postcard vista. I thought I'd arrived in paradise.

Since then I've had many occasions to enjoy the pleasures of Mighty Fraser Country and the hospitality of the friendly people who populate this area. It never ceases to amaze and impress. Incorporated on January 1,1995, Abbotsford is British Columbia's newest city, formed by the amalgamation of the former districts of Matsqui and Abbotsford. It's location in the heart of the Fraser Valley makes it an ideal starting point for a circular tour of the area. Tretheway House at 2313 Ware Street in Clearbrook, a former farmhouse built in the 1920's, now houses the MSA ( Matsqui- Sumas- Abbotsford) museum and archives, where you can explore the history of the local natives and settlers.The nearby town of Clayburn is a living monument to the local clay mining and brick making industry that thrived there from the turn of the century into the 1960's.

Taking the highway along the south side of the Fraser River, a visit to historic
Fort Langley is well worth the stop. You can step back in time at this site of the inauguration of the Crown Colony of British Columbia in 1858, and watch staff in period costumes as they recreate daily life of the 1840's. Passing along the peaceful plain to the north of the Fraser River, through meadows where Northern European cattle breeds graze, past sturdy Dutch barns, you could almost imagine yourself in Holland- no surprise when you discover that Dutch immigrants are responsible for transforming the countryside.

Golden Ears Provincial Park: Just north of Maple Ridge, Golden Ears offers much to the avid hiker, horseback rider or water sports enthusiast. Legend has it that the mineral springs at Harrison Hot Springs, at the southern tip of Harrison Lake, were discovered when a latter-day gold miner fell from his canoe to find the water pleasantly and strangely warm. Today a popular resort, helicopter rides into the nearby Coast Mountains and the towns sandy beach are as big attractions as the health spa.

Sasquatch Provincial Park: If you decide to venture northwards into the park, be sure to take a camera with you. Even if you don't manage to get that once-in-a-lifetime snap of a certain huge and ape-like creature, you may be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle or a great blue heron. At Hope, you can pan for gold, in a good deal more comfort than the early gold rushers. Chilliwack: 'Westwards now, towards you pass by spectacular Bridal Veil Falls, a name evoked by a 25 metre curtain of water cascading down a sheer cliff. Chilliwack offers such diverse attractions ranging in theme from the botanical to the military. There are ten themed gardens as well as three aviaries at Minter Gardens and an impressive collection of memorabilia dating from the 16th century at the Canadian Military Engineering Museum at Vedder Crossing. Arriving back at Abbotsford, if it's August you may be lucky enough to catch the annual Abbotsford International Airshow, the largest Airshow in North America, which draws a quarter of a million visitors.