Squamish History

To fully understand the Squamish Story, one needs to look back beyond the eras of logging and adventure tourism, past the human definition of time to capture events that happened thousands or millions of years ago, and sometimes kilometers above and below us. The Squamish landscape was, and is, under a constant battle of building itself up as small Pacific plates slide under the continental margin and under gravity driven agents of running water and flowing ice. The dynamic balance is eruption and erosion; fire and ice.

About 10,000 years ago, Howe Sound was being scourged by the recession of the last ice age and received its unique geologic character. Mount Garibaldi (one of many volcanic centres in the Cascadia Mountain Range which includes Mount Cayley, 33 kilometers north of Squamish, Mount Meager northwest of Pemberton, Mount St Helens, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier in Washington) erupted forming a volcanic cone over the ice. When the ice receded the cone collapsed creating the craggy, and constantly eroding Mount Garibaldi that you see today. The Stawamus Chief, an old magma chamber of an ancient volcano and the world’s second largest granite monolith, was revealed as ice eroded the weaker rock. If you look closely, you can still see volcanic and glacial evidence in Squamish’s dynamic surroundings. There are lava flows, basalt deposits, glacial-polished rock formations and the notorious Cheekeye debris fan.

It wasn’t long after the ice receded that the human touch left its print on the Squamish Story. Descendants of the aboriginal people who made the epic journey from Asia across the frozen Bering Strait and down the Alaskan Panhandle to Howe Sound, possibly as long as 5,000 years ago, still live in the area today. For millennia, the Sko-mish or Squamish people hunted, trapped, fished and raised their families in this lush Valley.

Their adventure joins a European one on a rainy day in June 1792 when British Explorer Captain George Vancouver and his crew sailed their ship “Discovery” into Howe Sound’s Darrell Bay, just south of Squamish. He met and traded with the local native people, which was a friendly encounter of great interest to both parties. The “Discovery” set sail the following day having names the area “Head of Howe Sound” after Lord Howe a prominent commander in the British Navy.

Traders, gold seekers and adventurers followed during the next century, but it wasn’t until 1888 when Alec Robertson and his wife traveled out west from Manitoba, built a home and settled at the head of Howe Sound, that non-natives found a permanent home in Squamish. The Robertson’s so loved their new home that their daughter Catherine and her husband Allan Rae settled in Squamish later that same year. A month after the Rae’s arrival in the area they had the first non-native baby born in the valley: a son Edgar.

A year later Harry Judd and his wife Annie arrived from London Ontario. Judd cleared his land in Brackendale and built a dairy farm. With their two sons and eight daughters, their role in the Squamish Story, and in the development community, was forever etched.

Forestry quickly surpassed farming as the foundation of the economy in Squamish. The Valley was a busy and prosperous place, connected with the growing city of Vancouver only by the sea.

The next harbinger of change for Squamish was the completion of the railway from Squamish to Vancouver in 1956 and the Sea-to-Sky Highway a few years later. Strangers drove up the highway penetrating Squamish’s familiar and insular world. Adventurers like Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper, who spent six weeks in 1961 scaling the Grand Wall of the Chief, brought worldwide media attention to the Valley. The influx of outdoor revelers grew when the resort of Whistler, formerly Alta Lake, first took baby steps toward adventure tourism in the late 60s.

Today, the Squamish story continues to unfold. Changes in the viability and longevity of the province’s forest industry and the increase in outdoor recreation and tourism related economies are ringing in even more dramatic change. This beautiful Valley is slowly being discovered as North America’s premiere outdoor Mecca with unparalleled quality and quantity of outdoor activities to be explored.