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Lower Mainland, loosely defined by orange outline.

The Lower Mainland is a name commonly applied to the region surrounding Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As of 2007, 2,524,113 people live in the region; sixteen of the province's thirty most populous municipalities are located there.[1]

While the term Lower Mainland has been recorded from the earliest period of non-native settlement in British Columbia, it has never been officially defined in legal terms. The British Columbia Geographical Names Information System (BCGNIS) comments that most residents of Vancouver might consider it to be only areas west of Mission and Abbotsford, while residents in the rest of the province consider it to be the whole region south of Whistler and west of Hope.[2] However, the term has historically been in popular usage for over a century to describe a region that extends from Horseshoe Bay south to the Canada – United States border and east to Hope at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley.[3]



In 2007 there were 2,524,113 people[1] living in the communities of the Lower Mainland, of whom:

The population in the Lower Mainland was up 10.4% from the 2001 Census figures. This is among the highest trends in the continent.


Regional Districts

Regional districts were first created across British Columbia in 1966-1967 to form bodies for inter-municipal coordination and to extend municipal-level powers to areas outside existing municipalities. Today, the Lower Mainland includes two Regional Districts: the Greater Vancouver Regional District and the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). Both regional districts, however, include areas outside the traditional limits of the Lower Mainland, and the Fraser Valley as a term includes much of the GVRD.

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) is made up of 21 municipalities. The GVRD is bordered on the west by the Strait of Georgia, to the north by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, on the east by the Fraser Valley Regional District, and to the south by Whatcom County, Washington, in the United States.

The Fraser Valley Regional District lies east of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and comprises the cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack, the district municipalities of Mission, Kent, and Hope, and the village of Harrison Hot Springs. It also includes many unincorporated areas in the Fraser Valley and along the west side of the Fraser Canyon (the Fraser Canyon is not in the Lower Mainland).

Regional district powers are very limited and other forms of localized provincial governments services are delivered through other regionalization systems.

Forest Districts and Regions

Much of the Lower Mainland is in the Chilliwack Forest District , which is part of the Coast Forest Region.

Health Region

Health system services and governance in the Lower Mainlandare provided by Vancouver Coastal Health, serving Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore, and the mainland coast as far north as the Central Coast region, and Fraser Health, which serves everything in the Lower Mainland east of Vancouver and Richmond.

First Nations peoples and their territories

The traditional territories of the Musqueam and Tsleil'waututh lie completely within the region; the southern portion of Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) traditional territory is also in the region — its claims overlap those of the Tsleil-waututh, Musqueam, and Kwekwitlem. Other peoples whose territories lie within the region are the Sto:lo, Chehalis, Katzie, Kwantlen, Tsawwassen and Semiahmoo; many of their territories overlap with those of the Musqueam, and with each other. Many other peoples of the Georgia Strait region also frequented the lower Fraser, including those from Vancouver Island and what is now Whatcom County, Washington.

Sto:lo traditional territory, known to them as Solh Temexw in the Halkomelem language, more or less exactly coincides with the traditional conception of the Lower Mainland, except for their inclusion of Port Douglas, at the head of Harrison Lake which is in In-SHUCK-ch territory, and the lands around Burrard Inlet.

Lower Mainland Ecoregion

"Lower Mainland" is also the name of an ecoregion — a biogeoclimatic region — that comprises the eastern part of the Georgia Depression and extends from Powell River on the Sunshine Coast to Hope at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. The Lower Mainland Ecoregion is a part of the Pacific Maritime Ecozone[4] The provincial Ministry of Environment's Lower Mainland Region roughly coincides with this ecoregion, rather than on the traditional Lower Mainland proper (which does not include the Sunshine Coast).

Natural threats



The Lower Mainland is considered to have a high vulnerability to flood risk. There have been two major floods, the largest in 1894 and the second largest in 1948. According to the Fraser Basin Council, scientists predict a one-in-three chance of a similar-sized flood occurring in the next 50 years.[5]

In the spring of 2007, the Lower Mainland was on high alert for flooding. Higher than normal snow packs in the British Columbia Interior prompted the municipal governments to start emergency measures in the region. Dikes along the Fraser River are regulated to handle about 8.5 metres at the Mission Gauge (the height above sea level of the dykes at Mission). Warmer than normal weather in the interior caused large amounts of snow to melt prematurely, resulting in higher than normal water levels, which, nevertheless, remained well below flood levels.[6][7]

Flooding can cover much of the Lower Mainland. Cloverdale, Barnston Island, Low-lying areas of Maple Ridge, west of Hope, White Rock, Richmond, parts of Vancouver and parts of Surrey are potentially at risk. In 2007, the Lower Mainland was largely spared, although northern regions of the province, along the Skeena and Nechako Rivers experienced floods. Climate scientists predict that increasing temperatures will mean wetter winters and more snow at the high elevations. This will increase the likelihood of snowmelt floods.[8]

The provincial government maintains an Integrated Flood Hazard Management program and an extensive flood protection infrastructure in the Lower Mainland. The infrastructure consists of dikes, pump stations, floodboxes, riprap and relief wells.[9]


While earthquakes are common in British Columbia and adjacent coastal waters, most are minor in energy release or are sufficiently remote to have little effect on populated areas. Nevertheless, earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 7.3 have occurred within 150 kilometres of the lower mainland.

Based on geological evidence, however, stronger earthquakes appear to have occurred at approximately 600-year intervals. Therefore there is a probability that there will be a major earthquake within the next 200 years within the region.[10]

In April 2008, the United States Geological Survey released information concerning a newly-found fault line south of downtown Abbotsford, called the Boulder Creek fault. Scientists now believe this fault line is active and capable of producing earthquakes in the 6.8 magnitude range.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Municipal Population Estimates 2007". Province of British Columbia Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2007-12-01.  
  2. ^ Lower Mainland in the BC Geographical Names Information System
  3. ^ Gentilcore, R.L., ed. 1993. Historical Atlas of Canada, Vol II, The Land Transformed 1800-1891. Plate 36, "Lower Mainland 1881." Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3447-0.
  4. ^ Environment Canada "Narrative Descriptions of Terrestrial Ecozones and Ecoregions of Canada". Accessed 2006-06-08.
  5. ^ "Flood Hazard Management on the Fraser River". Fraser Basin Council. Retrieved 2008-06-18.  
  6. ^ "Fraser Valley prepares for possible flooding". CBC News. 2007-06-05. Retrieved 2007-06-24.  
  7. ^ Nguyen, Linda (June 7, 2007). Lower Mainland at flood risk for weeks yet. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved on: June 18, 2008.
  8. ^ Drake, Laura (2007-06-16). "Flooding in future may be more frequent, scientists say". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2007-06-24.  
  9. ^ Ministry of Environment. "Lower Mainland Dike and Emergency Maps". Retrieved 2007-06-24.  
  10. ^ British Columbia. Provincial Emergency Program. (1999). British Columbia Earthquake Response Plan, Appendix 2-The Earthquake Threat. ISBN 0-7726-3924-8. Retrieved on: April 7, 2008.
  11. ^ McClatchy Washington Bureau. Earthquake risk. Retrieved on 2009-05-12.

Coordinates: 49°05′00″N 122°21′00″W / 49.0833333°N 122.35°W / 49.0833333; -122.35

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Lower Mainland is in British Columbia, Canada. The official tourist information site [1] calls the area "Vancouver, Coast and Mountains".

The term "lower mainland" can have different interpretations; for some people it is equivalent to a "Greater Vancouver", while others would include everything out to Abbotsford or even Hope in the east. Here we use it to describe the area from Vancouver in the west to Hope in the east, and from the American border to the south, to the town of Whistler and the Sunshine Coast to the north.

Cities and regions in the Lower Mainland
Cities and regions in the Lower Mainland
A beautiful, vibrant city with diverse neighbourhoods, a very multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city — and the political core of the Lower Mainland and economic core of the province.
Vancouver eastern suburbs
A series of towns north of the Fraser River and east of the Pitt River, all fairly urban and defined by their relationship to Vancouver. This region includes Burnaby and New Westminster; the Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody ("PoCoMo"); and Anmore and Belcarra villages.
Vancouver southern suburbs
The area between the Fraser River and the US border, where much of the Lower Mainland's population growth and suburban sprawl takes place. It includes the towns of Surrey, Richmond, Delta, and White Rock.
North Shore
Where dense urban meets dramatic tall mountains. Contains the separate municipalities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, but they are in practice one destination. The mountains provide attractions like Grouse Mountain ski resort. At the west of the North Shore is Horseshoe Bay, ferry terminal to the Sunshine Coast.
Fraser Valley
The Fraser River, which gives the valley its name, is the world's greatest salmon producing river, and a focus for the region's economy, transportation and culture. The valley also has lush fertile farmland, which contributes a large portion of the local produce. The towns of Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Langley (British Columbia)
Sea to Sky
The region stretches from Lions Bay (just north of Horseshoe Bay), up the east side of Howe Sound past getaway destination Bowen Island to Squamish, the gateway to BC's magnificent alpine country of forests, lakes, and year round world class outdoor activities. The Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99) clings to the mountainsides, letting you drive from Vancouver to Whistler, one of North America's top ski resorts, in two hours. Further in is Pemberton. The area is rich with archaeological sites and historical lore of the Salish Indians.
Sunshine Coast
Located north-west of Vancouver, a 40 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, the region is named for its 2,400 hours of annual sunshine. It is a 180 km (110mi) stretch of rainforest, seashore and mountains. This is the secret destination of many individuals, where the island life is found on the mainland. Here is a slower pace of life, where those who appreciate the beauty of outstanding marine parks and marshland bird sanctuaries, old growth forest and alpine peaks will find this the perfect destination.
Vancouver -- center of the Lower Mainland region.
Vancouver -- center of the Lower Mainland region.


This area is home to Greater Vancouver, the largest metropolitan area west of Toronto. It is also home to the mainly agricultural Fraser Valley and the outdoor playground of the Whistler environs.


The de facto language is English, though you may be able to find official services in French. Chinese (mostly Cantonese) speakers can also be found relatively easily; Cantonese is the second most-spoken language in the city.

YVR, Vancouver International Airport
YVR, Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport, or YVR as locals sometimes refer to it, is located in Richmond. It serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the United States, Asia and several to Europe . There are a number of ways to get to various Lower Mainland towns from YVR. For more on this airport see "Vancouver International Airport" in the Vancouver article.

There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (CXH) and at Vancouver International's South Terminal. Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Baxter Aviation, Salt Spring Air and West Coast Air fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Gulf Islands, Seattle and other local destinations. Finally, Helijet operates helicopter service from the downtown heliport next to Waterfront Station, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and YVR. For more on these options see "Floatplane and heliport" in the Vancouver article.

Abbotsford International Airport (YXX), located about 80 km east of Vancouver in Abbotsford, is Vancouver's alternate airport. It handles mostly domestic flights and, with an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 minutes (with no checked in baggage).

Flying in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, most notably for US destinations, and then using the bus for travel to and from Vancouver city is an often less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX due to tariffs and "other" reasons. However depending on your nationality, a US visa may be required and could take some time to procure. For budget travellers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 5 hours one way and driving time is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.

By car

There are five land border crossing points, between the Lower Mainland and the Northwest Cascades region of Washington state, USA. They are referred to by different terms in Canada and the US.

Land border crossings between the Lower Mainland and the Northwest Cascades
Canadian name US name Location Hours Comments
Douglas (Peace Arch) Blaine (Peace Arch) Surrey/White Rock, BC (Hwy 99) – Blaine, WA (I-5) 24 hours, daily (Nexus: daily, Canada-bound 7am–12am, US-bound 7am–9pm) Primary border crossing point for passenger vehicles. No commercial traffic allowed. Best Nexus lane access. Canadian side is undergoing major street and building construction (July 2008).
Pacific Highway Blaine (Pacific Highway) Surrey, BC (Hwy 15) – Blaine, WA (WA-543) (From Hwy 99 southbound take exit 2A and go along 8 Ave for 1.5km to Hwy 15. From I-5 northbound take exit 275 for WA-543.) 24 hours, daily (Nexus: daily, Canada-bound 2pm–6pm, US-bound 10am–6pm) Also known as "Truck Crossing". Primary border crossing point for trucks and buses. Passenger and foot traffic also welcome, with waits usually shorter than at Peace Arch. Canadian and US Customs offices here are better places to ask questions than Peace Arch. US side has just finished major street improvement (early 2008).
Aldergrove Lynden Aldergrove, BC (Hwy 13) – Lynden, WA (WA-539, the Guide Meridian) Passengers 8am–12am daily. Commercial 8am–4pm Mon–Fri (exc. hols) Due north of Bellingham. Often has shorter lines than Peace Arch and Pacific Highway, but if you are going to or from Vancouver or the western suburbs the longer drive to Aldergrove usually eliminates this benefit.
Huntingdon Sumas Huntingdon, BC (Hwy 11) – Sumas, WA (WA-9) Passengers 24 hours, daily. Commercial 8am–5pm Mon–Fri (exc. hols) Convenient to Abbotsford.
Boundary Bay Point Roberts Delta, BC (56th St) – Point Roberts, WA (Tyee Drive)   (Nexus: daily; Canada-bound 9am–9pm summer, 10am–6pm winter; US-bound 11am–7pm) This crossing is only useful for reaching Point Roberts, the US tip of a Canadian peninsula which extends just south of the 49° N latitude. There is no land access from there to the rest of the USA.

Visitors travelling to Vancouver by car across the U.S. border should be aware that there are often lengthy lineups at the border, in either direction. During summer, waits at the border can exceed three hours during peak times.

Inform yourself about the waits, and you can either delay your crossing until the lines subside, or choose the quickest crossing, or at least set your expectations. You can see official wait time forecasts for both directions on the Canada Border Services Agency website[2], and for US-bound traffic on the US Customs and Border Protection website[3]. It can be helpful to view webcams of the border lineups; Canada-bound on I-5 [4] and US-bound at most crossings[5][6]. Two AM stations give regular updates on border lineups in both directions: News 1130 (1130 on the AM dial) every 10 minutes beginning at one minute past the hour, and AM 730 every 10-15 minutes.

The Nexus Land program[7] lets travellers who fill out an application and pass a security check use express lanes through US-Canada land borders by presenting a Nexus card. However, you may only use the express lanes if everyone in your car has a Nexus card. There are also Nexus programs for air and marine travel.

By bus

The Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver is well served by bus service. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. Here are a couple of examples:

Pacific Central Station, Vancouver
Pacific Central Station, Vancouver

Unlikely to be the cheapest option, but travelling from Edmonton or Jasper by rail makes for a good way to see the Canadian Rockies. VIA Rail [11] has the Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with 3 weekly departures. Rocky Mountaineer Vacations also operates trains to Whistler, Banff, and Jasper from April to October.

Amtrak [12] runs a service between Seattle and Vancouver called Amtrak Cascades [13]. Trains depart Seattle daily at 7:40AM and 6:40PM, arriving in Vancouver at 11:35AM and 10:45PM respectively. The return trips leave Vancouver at 6:40AM and 5:45PM.

By boat

There are two ferry terminals serviced by BC Ferries in the Lower Mainland.

Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into any regional city from them (and vice-versa). In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services are recommended over public transit. Public buses to and from the ferry terminals are time-consuming and frustrating.

Get around

Depending on how much you want to see, there may be a number of ways to get around the Lower Mainland. Within Vancouver and many of its suburbs, the Translink public transit system can get you to most places. Regional bus companies can take you further afield to places like Whistler and the Sunshine Coast. Vancouver is the hub for these services.

The most convenient means of getting around the region is by car. Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada highway) is the main thoroughfare, providing freeway travel through Vancouver's suburbs into the Fraser Valley and the interior of BC. Highway 99 connects Vancouver with the US border to the south and Whistler to the north. Car rentals are readily available throughout the region.

A number of small airlines operate float planes from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast and Whistler. These are more expensive than other options, but are faster and more scenic.

Some parts of the Lower Mainland (Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island) can only be accessed by boat. BC Ferries provides ferry services to these areas and visitors can walk on or take their car.


There is so much do and see in the Lower Mainland, the following are only suggestions based on the regions.

Greater Vancouver, home to Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and many more. To see all the sights, take a day tour to become familiar with all the sights. There are a number of sightseeing companies who run trips daily. And also the public transportation is also any easy way to see everything and get into the surrounding commuities. You also can't miss out on the dining experiences, you name it and there is a restaurant in Vancouver to serve it. With award winning and internationally known restaurants, there is always something new to try.

In the Fraser Valley, you are entering into an amazing region which has plenty of stops to fill your stomach. Here you can find a number of award winning wineries and family owned farms. You can sample the fresh fruits and vegetables at a number of stands along the highway or pop into a local restaurant and have a wild salmon dish. You can spend the day driving from each community or you can make a whole weekend of it. The valley offers a great opportunity to relax in the warm waters of Harrison Hot Springs.

Whatever you do while visiting the Sea to Sky region, it will most likely involve some form of adventure outdoors. Here you will find some of the best golfing, skiing, hiking and many other outdoor activities. You can head up to the vibrant Whistler village or find your own mountain paradise.

The Sunshine Coast is your place to relax. Now relaxing means different things to everyone, this could mean sitting on your private B&B patio watching the sunset, or bobbing up and down while waiting for the fish below to take a bit of your bait, but whatever your image of relaxation it is found on the Sunshine Coast. Take a drive up the Sunshine Coast Highway and stop off at the galleries and farmer's markets to pick up some local goodies. But don't bother looking at your watch because here time is no of a concern.


The Lower Mainland is the scene of a quickly exploding food and wine revolution! Adjectives like diverse, fresh, delicious, unique don't even begin to describe the true nature of the region's bounty. World class cuisine from every corner of the globe is readily available throughout the region. West Coast cuisine shares the bill with Asian Fusion, Sushi, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Vegetarian, Chinese, Thai, French, Fish & Chips, Micro Breweries and Fruit Wineries.

Naturally, the region is so close to the Pacific Ocean that it provides a steady supply of the freshest of the fresh seafood. The catch of the day graces the plates of restaurants with famous BC salmon, halibut, cod, crab, scallops and oysters. Prepared simply, fantastically or fantastically simple...enjoy your 'catch of the day' in a fine dining establishment, a trendy eatery, a casual pub or right on the docks.

Farm fresh is a phrase heard repeatedly in the Lower Mainland. Just east of Vancouver is the Fraser Valley, a lush picturesque and productive valley which is home to a multitude of farms working diligently to deliver produce from the farm directly to the plate or to the visitor. Find fresh fruit and vegetables in season, farm-raised meat and eggs and extra special treats like home made jams and jellies.


The Fraser Valley has recently become a popular wine touring destination. Domaine de Chaberton Winery, a fixture in the beautiful south Langley countryside, has recently been joined by a number of other wineries (Township 7, Fort Wine Company, Glenugie Winery, Lotusland Vineyards and the Blue Heron Fruit Winery), all within a short drive of each other and from any location in the region. You can be in wine country in less than one hour drive from downtown Vancouver!

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