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Cranbrook, British Columbia

Motto: Mountains of Opportunity
Coordinates: 49°30′49″N 115°46′7″W / 49.51361°N 115.76861°W / 49.51361; -115.76861
Country  Canada
Province  British Columbia
Regional District East Kootenay
Established 1898
Incorporation 1905(city)
 - Mayor Scott Manjak
 - City 30.15 km2 (11.6 sq mi)
Elevation 921 m (3,021 ft)
Population (2006)
 - City 18,947
 Metro 27,229
 - Demonym Cranbrookian
Time zone Mountain Standard (MST) (UTC-7)
 - Summer (DST) Mountain Daylight (MDT) (UTC-6)
Postal code span V1C
Area code(s) 250, 778
Telephone Exchanges 250-417, 250-420, 250-421, 250-426, 250-464, 250-489, 250-581, 250-919, 778-517, 778-520, 778-963
NTS Map 082G05
Website City of Cranbrook

Cranbrook, British Columbia (49°30′40″N 115°46′2″W / 49.51111°N 115.76722°W / 49.51111; -115.76722) is a city in southeast British Columbia, seat of the Regional District of East Kootenay. As of 2006, Cranbrook's population is 18,947, and the metro population is 27,229.

Cranbrook is home to the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel which presents static exhibits of passenger rail cars built in the 1920s for the CPR and in the 1900s for the Spokane International Railway. It is also the home of the Kootenay Ice, a WHL hockey team; Cranbrook has also been home to many NHL players.

In the middle of the broad Rocky Mountain Trench, Cranbrook boasts more sunshine than anywhere else in British Columbia, and it has a feeling of openness that is reminiscent of the Canadian prairies. Cranbrook is a railway town, a mill town, a commercial centre, and an island in a sea of golf courses. It has a modern theatre and a lively arts community, a professional hockey team, and a remarkable museum that captures the experience of the golden age of rail travel in Canada. The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is the largest rail museum in Canada.

For people who live in the small towns of the Kootenay Rockies, however, Cranbrook is the closest thing to a big city. There's a strip that runs through town - an avenue of distractions packed with fast food outlets, hotels, automotive businesses and big-box stores, and a shopping centre.



First a summer location used by the Ktunaxa Nation and known as Akisq'aq'li'it, Cranbrook became a stop on Joseph’s Prairie in 1864 for miners traveling to the Wild Horse Creek gold claims. First pre-empted by John Galbraith and then purchased from him in 1885 by James Baker, the site eventually became known as Cranbrook which was the name of Baker’s birth place in England. Deeding half of the townsite to the Canadian Pacific Railway, Baker secured the divisional headquarters of the CPR and the new Crownsnest line built through Cranbrook in 1898.


The site now known as Cranbrook has been seasonally occupied by the Ktunaxa Nation for more than 10,000 years. This fertile grassland developed in the basin of an ancient glacial lake. It was a productive place with excellent berry crops good fishing streams and abundant hunting opportunities. Akisq'aq'li'it was a favoured camp site for the Ktunaxa Nation.

In 1865 the Dewdney Trail was completed from Hope to Galbraith’s Ferry, crossing Joseph's Prairie in the vicinity of where Galbraith would build his store. Arthur T. Bushby, in his 1864 journal had this to say:

“Monday 26 Sept. 1864 – Camped 3 m. this side of St. Joseph's prairie making 15 m. lost our horses and out of grub. B.E. & myself started on foot for St. Joseph's prairie where we expected to find Haynes horses in charge of a halfbreed. B’s shoes gave out and he had to take to his stockings. St. Joseph's prairie 12 m. did not find the horses but some packers camped. Waited for our animals. Had a fine view of the Rocky Mountains. St. Joseph's Prairie is a fine piece of land.”

When the Ktunaxa people obtained horses Akisq'aq'li'it became an important pasturage. The name changed to "Joseph’s Prairie", after an early leader of the group that used this area, Chief Joseph Chief Isadore, a leader of the St. Mary’s band in the late 1880s, used the prairie extensively in the summer to graze his large herds. When the Reserve Commission established reserves for First Nations people in 1884 access to grazing resources became a flashpoint.

John Galbraith, who had purchased the land from the government in the 1870s, had always pursued a policy of sharing access with the Ktunaxa. When he sold the Joseph’s Prairie property to Colonel James Baker the Ktunaxa were fenced out of their traditional lands. The land use of this particular section was one of the central difficulties that led to the "Kootenay Crisis" of 1887.

Tensions between the Ktunaxa people and the incoming gold miners, ranchers and traders grew. With the coming of the North West Mounted Police in 1887 talks were held between the Ktunaxa, Colonel Baker and other competing interests. In the negotiated settlement the grazing land was replaced and the Ktunaxa under Chief Isadore were compensated for development work at what was now Colonel Baker's "Cranbrook" estate.

The Ktunaxa people continue to be part of the place now called Cranbrook. Members of the Nation live here, attend school and participate in the community. The impacts on this property since John Galbraith first filed a pre-emption in 1885 on a portion of the present townsite have been enormous.

Joseph's Prairie

'Joseph's Prairie' was the next name for the place now called Cranbrook. During the Wild Horse Creek gold excitement in 1865 the Dewdney Trail was built across the flat grasslands used as grazing land by the Ktunaxa. Chief Joseph had appropriated the small knoll now known as Baker Hill. Relatively mosquito free, he considered it a fine place for his summer camp.

This area was included in John Galbraith's pre-emption and he constructed a small house and store in the area now known as Baker Park. He was successful in co-existing with the Ktunaxa and sharing land use access.

When Colonel James Baker bought Galbraith out in 1886 for $21,000 he asserted his ownership by fencing the property. This inflamed relationships with the Ktunaxa. In the subsequent negotiations led by Supt. Sam Steele of the North West Mounted Police Baker finally secured what he deemed clear title and proceeded with development plans for the property.

Colonel Baker employed a Vancouver surveying firm to divide up the townsite and commenced negotiations with the Canadian Pacific Railway. This culminated in the building of the Crowsnest Pass Railway (the BC Southern). Baker's place at Joseph's Prairie was renamed Cranbrook after his ancestral home in Kent, England. He subdivided the townsite, giving half to the CPR, and Cranbrook became the CPR's divisional point.


After Colonel James Baker’s coup of stealing the CPR away from Fort Steele he returned to his home in Cranbrook, Kent, England. His son Valentine Hyde Baker continued at Cranbrook, B.C., living in the family home in 'The Park,' now Baker Park. It was under Hyde Baker’s tenure that 'The Park' flourished as the social centre of Cranbrook. The fetes and other social occasions, the continual auto touring and the gathering of young, socially conscious townsfolk brought to Cranbrook an excitement it had never felt before. It was under the influence of the Bakers that Cranbrook forged the unique character that would take it forward to the present time.

In 1905 the city incorporated and quickly became the trading centre of East Kootenay. Electrical and telephone systems were installed and Opera Houses and Auditoriums built. The first City Council was elected and soon after that School Boards and other community administrations.

Cranbrook became a strong lumbering centre with both American and British investors attracted by the huge stands of first growth timber. Gradually Baker Street expanded and filled in. Many fine and attractive business blocks were constructed. Slowly tourism also became an industry of note, along with mining. The community experienced slow and sustained growth.

In the 21st century Cranbrook and the Columbia Basin have been ‘discovered’ by the world. Large recreational and housing developments began to appear everywhere. The shape and fabric of Basin communities began to alter. In Cranbrook, as elsewhere in the Columbia Basin, an examination of local history is being encouraged so that we can move forward, building on the best our community has created in the past. A bright future that recognizes and pays homage to our hardworking roots is anticipated.

Canadian Pacific Railway

It couldn't be argued that without the CPR Cranbrook would never have been more than a private estate. In the 1890s Fort Steele, 20 km north of Cranbrook, was the centre of regional trade. The Provincial offices and jail were located at Fort Steele and all river transportation on the Kootenay River was centred there. The rumoured railway was expected to go through Fort Steele. It was THE centre for mining, ranching and commerce.

Colonel James Baker, owner and developer of Cranbrook and MLA for East Kootenay, had other ideas. He made a deal with the Canadian Pacific Railway to develop the B.C. Southern Railway (the Crowsnest Pass railway) and make Cranbrook the divisional point. Baker gave the CPR half the commercial lots in Cranbrook to develop and sell as their own. Fort Steele was bypassed and commerce inevitably fled to Cranbrook followed, in 1905, by the government offices. Cranbrook blossomed and Fort Steele faded.

The Canadian Pacific Railway has been a dynamic part of Cranbrook since 1898. It is a major employer and, due to the mining and lumbering industries, the Cranbrook division continues to be a high freight point for the CPR.

City to city to city story

The first town in the East Kootenay was established in 1864, and it was called Fisherville, the towns population was 5,000 which was very big for that time, even almost double the size of Vancouver, and Toronto had a population of 25,000. Fisherville was well settled. Fisherville was a perfect example of a mid 1800's boom town. The town had numerous buildings including six general stores, four saloons, two butcher shops ,a brewery, a blacksmith’s shop, a boarding house, a post office, a sawmill, and provincial government offices. Fisherville was a gold rush boom town, and people burned down their buildings believing that there was gold under them. Then Fisherville slowly died, and everyone began moving to Fort Steele on the banks of the Kootenay River that connects with the Columbia River to make it a great connection route to the United States. Fort Steele boomed into the regions major transportation, and commercial hub with a population of 4,000 in 1890.

There was rumors going around that the Canadian Pacific Railway was going to be setting up in Fort Steele, but sadly that was not the story, Fort Steele was bypassed by the C.P.R. and they set up in Cranbrook. When Cranbrook flourished, and Fort Steele then died like Fisherville. People and businesses moved to Cranbrook, and so did the provincial government offices, and jails. Other towns were then sprouting like Kimberley, and Fernie after the beginning of the 20th century. This leaves it all to one question, what would Fisherville have been like if it didn't die, would it have been one of Canada's largest cities? Or what would Fort Steele have been like, on the banks of the Kootenay River, and with the backdrop of Fisher Peak.

Public schools and colleges




While much of the city is relatively flat, Cranbrook is surrounded by many rising hills where many residential homes are located [1]. In addition Cranbrook faces the Purcell Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the north and east.


Cranbrook had a population of 18,267 people in 2006, which was a decrease of 1.4% from the 2001 census count. The median household income in 2005 for Cranbrook was $46,862, which is below the British Columbia provincial average of $52,709.[1]


Environment Canada reports Cranbrook as having the most sunshine hours of any BC city at approximately 2228.6 hours annually. Because of that it is a fairly dry city throughout the year, and when precipitation does fall a good percentage of it will be in the form of snow. Environment Canada also states that the city experiences some of the lightest wind speeds year-round, has few foggy days, and has among the highest average barometric pressure of any Canadian city. (See link) Frost-free days average 110 days, typically occurring between May 26 to September 14. Mean daily temperatures range from −8.3 °C (17.1 °F) to 18.2 °C (64.8 °F). However, temperatures can range from −30 °C (−22.0 °F) in the winter to 35 °C (95.0 °F) in the summer months.

Climate data for Cranbrook
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 10
Average high °C (°F) -2
Average low °C (°F) -9.7
Record low °C (°F) -36
Precipitation mm (inches) 33.3
Source: Environment Canada[2] 2009-07-10


The East Kootenay city is home to the main campus of the College of the Rockies, which has over 2600 full and part-time students from over 21 countries[2].

Public schools are run by School District 5 Southeast Kootenay, consisting of seven elementary schools and two middle schools that feed into the city's only high school: Mount Baker Secondary School, home to approximately 1500 students. Prior to 2004 the middle schools were referred to as junior high schools housing grades 8-10 rather than the current 7-9. However, due to declining enrollment the school district adopted the new system.

There is also a local home-school network.


Cranbrook is home to a major Canadian Pacific Railway yard, which serves as a key gateway for trains arriving from and departing to the United States.

Cranbrook is at the junction of major highways 3 and 93/95, and due to its close proximity to the borders of Alberta and the United States it is an important transportation hub.

The McFee Bridge also known as the St.Mary's Bridge rises high above the St. Marys River and is near the Canadian Rockies International Airport and the Shadow Mountain Golf Community. It supports over 12,000 cars every day. The bridge is on highway 93/95 towards Kimberley.

Approximately 9 km north is the Canadian Rockies International Airport. The airport is served by Air Canada Jazz to Vancouver and Calgary, Pacific Coastal Airlines to Vancouver, and Delta Air Lines to Salt Lake City. The Canadian Rockies International Airport is classified as an Airport of Entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Cranbrook also has a public transit system, operating buses on seven different routes.

On February 11, 1978, Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314, a Boeing 737-200, crashed in Cranbrook, killing 44 of the 50 people onboard. It is one of the worst airline disaters in Canadian History.

Notable residents

The following notable people come from or were born in Cranbrook:

Local media


  • Cranbrook Daily Townsman - Daily paper
  • Kootenay Advertiser - Weekly paper , Monday, and Friday

Radio stations

  • 101.3 FM - CBC Radio One
  • 102.9 FM - CHDR, Classic Rock
  • 104.7 FM - CHBZ, Country
  • 106.5 FM - VOAR, Religious

Television repeaters

Local television

Sister cities

Cranbrook is twinned with


External links

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