Fort St. James – Home Of World Class Chicken Racing

Imagine you are going on your vacation and you drive by this. What do you do?

Photo credit – Linda Glover twitter @GloverLindaJ

You immediately get your copilot to Google what the hell that sign means.

Turns out that there is daily chicken racing in Fort St. James, BC. A place that I only knew of because my Mastercard got sent to their bank instead of the Fort St. John branch that I was supposed to pick it up at.

I totally see the mixup. Really.

We found out that we had missed race day and would have to come back by 11:45 AM any other day. We decided that we would stop in on our way home and see what this was all about because we do love us some chickens.

So we passed the Shovel Lake fire after we left Burns Lake, but the highway was absolutely choked out with smoke. We were afraid that we would miss the races as the fires seemed to be in the direction we were going. We stopped in Endako and called the district office in Fort St. James. We were assured that the skies were blue there and we believed them. This is what it looked like over the lake as we pulled into town.

And this is what it looked like an hour later.

We camped at Paarens Beach Provincial Park and it was lovely, except for the wasps and the smoke. Had a chilly dip and a scrub up and then sat around the fire (camp, not forest) for a beer and to look at the stones we found in the opal beds that morning.

The campsites were spacious and the cost was much less than the cramped site we had a few nights earlier in Port Arthur. We highly recommend staying here when you inevitably come to see this really cool piece of Canadiana.

While out about town, we found out that the chicken races were held at the Fort St. James National Historic Site.

Did you know that they have the largest collection of restored wooden buildings in Canada? Did you also know that those buildings are in danger now from the wildfires?

Well, they weren’t when we were there so this post will be happy in nature because we only thought it was a bit of smoke at the time.

On to the tour!

So after paying and all that good stuff, we went into the museum part where we learned of the Carrier people and how they fit into the fort and the town.

The museum is full of interesting artifacts and stories but the coolest thing about it is how it sort of glosses over how they had to assimilate.

Sure, there was an infographic that told a bit about it…

… but they never delve into what the consequences of the white man’s actions were. It’s a good thing because nobody wants a depressed tourist walking around, bringing everybody down.

In case you couldn’t read that, here is a closer shot.

Well, that’s a bit of an understatement, but also a loaded compliment.

To take our minds off of the injustices, they let us play dress up with a bunch of old looking clothes.

I don’t think it worked, but we need to boost our spirits for the rest of the day. Maybe some deluxe hard candies will do the trick. Happy, happy, happy!

We leave the museum and go outdoors. We are then greeted by the red chairs of last year’s 150th birthday of our great nation. A nation that is founded on the freedom of its authoritarian, Christian people.

Wow, this post is getting too dark.

Okay, well, on with the fun times!

We walked around and took a bunch of photos. One of them was a 360° panorama, but I probably can’t put it in here. I’m going to try it though.

Wow, that worked great. Thanks, Google.

Here are some common people photos. I’m not even going to try anything fancy anymore.

Pretty sure that this is the dock. I’m not an expert or anything, just going on a hunch.

The building on the left is the warehouse, the tall one at the back is the food cache, the short one in the middle is the men’s cabin and the one in the foreground is the market. I guess we were mad at the girl in the warehouse for marking our quiz question wrong, so we didn’t take any photos inside. This was outside though.

Take that, stickler.

Next, we went to the food cache.

Mmmmmm, salmon and hams. Or, if we ship the names it’s halmon.

I just learned about shipping names like Brangelina and Bennifer. I’m a little bit slower on the trends.

 

This house behind the tree is the commander’s, or whatever you call him’s, house. We’ll get to that later.

In the men’s house, we got the question wrong, but the guy was cool so Gerri took a bunch of photos.

And where would we be if we didn’t have an old photo of native peoples dressed in white man’s clothes celebrating Dominion Day by performing an ancient Scottish game?

Sorry, it just spurts out of my brain sometimes.

This one below is the market and the scene for our first video.

I think that was the only one we got right, but to be fair, they used a lot of trick questions. They just didn’t want us to win.

We went to the tanning cabin and met Nicole, who was very engaging and educated on the subject. She was doing some very intricate beadwork when we got there and we were having such a good talk that we forgot to take any photos. Either way, it was one of the better and more informative stops on the tour, so we recommend you going in and talking with her.

After that, we went to the commander’s, or whatever he is, house. It’s the one behind the tree.

It was my favourite place of all because after the boring stuff inside, there were…

Goats and Chickens!

Yep, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

The world-famous, Fort St. James Chicken Races

First, we had to place our bets.

 

They forgot the -ed on the end. Just kidding. It’s just what all the kids say now. Incessantly.

Notice how confident I am? I’m using both of my hands to show you the winner and my favourite way to have chicken prepared.

We really enjoyed the level of interaction there was with the crowd.

And then there was the comedy routine that was probably just to keep us occupied while they fed cocaine to their favourites.

The second race had a bit of a troubled start and we found out who got the cocaine. Luckily for them, they were disqualified and didn’t have to get tested. The third race was my favourite. I just love the hesitation at the end.
Here’s another reason it was my favourite race.
I might have lied when I said I wasn’t spending them. Too bad my phone was getting buggy and needed a restart.
So in the end, we got to look at a lot of history, good and bad, talk to some interesting folks and watch some world-class chicken racing. We won some, we lost some, but we went home with big smiles and a button…

Oh, and a few bucks as a souvenir.

We also did some quests and I almost forgot to tell you that we got to shoot slingshots.

So, in conclusion, go to Fort St. James. We’ll be going back and hopefully for a bit longer and to possibly do a bit of rockhounding. Rumour has it that there is jade around there. Well, not so much rumour as a geological survey.

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