Prince George, BC, incorporated as a city in 1915, population 71 974 (2011c), 70 981 (2006c). The City of Prince George is the largest population centre in the northern part of the province. It is situated in the geographical centre of British Columbia at the junction of the Nechako and Fraser rivers. The aboriginal inhabitants, the Carrier Dene people, aided Alexander Mackenzie on his journey to the Pacific coast in 1793.
The region was called New Caledonia by Simon Fraser when the North West Company began fur trading there in 1805. Fraser established Fort George trading post, named after George III of England, at the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser rivers in 1807. From 1814 until the 1860s Cariboo gold rush, Fort George was on the Brigade route from Stuart Lake in the north to the forts in the south. It remained outside the area settled during the gold rush though the main party of the Overlanders, led by Robert B. McMicking, passed the fort in 1862 on their way down the Fraser to the goldfields. Fort George closed in 1915.
Settlement in the region was negligible until the land boom (1908-14) during construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now part of Canadian National Railways). For several years 3 neighbouring townsites vied for dominance, with the railway townsite eventually winning out. The town's name was changed to Prince George after a referendum held during the first civic election (1915), this time for a former duke of Kent who died in an air crash in 1942.
Growth of the city was slow until after World War II when a booming forest industry brought prosperity and rapid growth to the region with many newcomers from the prairies. Between 1961 and 1981 Prince George grew from a rough mill town to the major manufacturing, supply, government and education centre for north-central British Columbia.
The economy of Prince George is driven by the forestry sector with numerous sawmills, 3 pulpmills, plywood manufacture and other value-added forestry products. Other industries include chemical plants, an oil refinery, brewery and some secondary manufacturing. The city is also a staging centre for mining and prospecting.
As well as its continued role as a regional trade, administrative and education centre, Prince George is a regional transportation centre. There are large railway yards and locomotive repair shops to service grain, coal and lumber trains to the coast. It is the divisional headquarters for Canadian National Railways (CN) and is its main operations hub for northern British Columbia. CN also operates a VIA Rail passenger service out of Prince George. The city is a major highway junction and the airport is served by the major national airlines as well as other smaller airlines serving regional and smaller centres.
The city has many cultural, sports and educational facilities including a public art gallery, civic and convention centre, regional museum, symphony orchestra, performing arts theatre and multipurpose arena, home to a Western Hockey League team. Post-secondary institutions include the College of New Caledonia and University of Northern British Columbia. Prince George is also a centre for sportfishing and moose hunting. Four provincial parks in the region provide downhill, cross-country and heli-skiing.