History of Pemberton

Pemberton has undergone many transformations in its relatively short history. Prior to becoming home to European settlers, the greater Pemberton Valley area was home to the Interior Salish tribe who settled at the head of Lillooet Lake in the shadows of majestic Mount Currie.

In recent times farming has become the foundation of the Pemberton community, but this was not always the case. Pemberton, by the name we know it today, first appeared on the map in 1859 when the gold rush was in full swing.

The town was a stopping point for gold seekers heading north to find their fortunes. Originally called Port Pemberton, the area was named after Joseph Despard Pemberton, a Surveyor General for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1850’s.

Spud Valley

During the 1880s as gold fever dwindled, a large influx of European settlers chose to make the area their home, instead of continuing north due to the rich farmlands. Since this point Pemberton has depended greatly on agriculture and forestry as mainstays of the local economy.

Known for its seed potatoes, Pemberton has been nicknamed Spud Valley by the locals, and in 1967 the Pemberton Valley became the first commercial seed potato in the world to grow virus-free seed Potatoes. Today, Pemberton is a major supplier of seed potatoes for British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, Washington and California.

Connecting the dots

Although the region was first settled via the Lillooet Lake waterways with the first passenger train arrived in the town in 1914, It was not until 1975 that highway access between Whistler and Pemberton was granted.

Finally, in 1980 a second highway into the town connected Pemberton and Lillooet via the Duffey Lake Road. Completion of this leg of the highway created a scenic circle tour called the Coast Mountain Circle Tour and thus tourism came to be another thriving industry in Pemberton.

The town of Pemberton was incorporated in 1956 and today, located 8,000 feet below the rugged peak of Mount Currie, the Village is the hub for the Pemberton Valley area and home to just over 2,500 residents. The town was also named BC’s fastest growing community in 2005, a sign that it remains a growing and thriving are to this day.

With unlimited access to BC’s wilderness and a rich agricultural history,  Pemberton is a strong and vibrant place that recognizes the importance and benefits of being engaged and in synch with the surrounding environment.


To find out more please visit the Pemberton and District Museum and Archives.