Vancouver Stories and Tips

Why You Need to Go to Steveston

Gulf of Georgia Cannery Photo, Vancouver, British Columbia

Steveston is actually part of Richmond, Vancouver’s immediate neighbor to the south. To get there, drive across the Oak Street bridge until you get to the Steveston Road turn-off or drive past the airport, the road becomes Richmond’s No. 2 Road and will take you to the Steveston Road. Why should you come to Steveston? I think that I can give you three reasons.

First, there is the International Buddhist Society’s Buddhist Temple (9160 Steveston Highway, between No. 3 Road and No. 4 Road, Buddhist Temple). The largest Buddhist temple in Canada, its surrounding gardens and water features are quite remarkable. The main temple could be in China with its graceful classical features, porcelain roof tiles, and guardian lions. Inside, the scene is even more breathtaking; it is a place of worship and a golden Buddha, perhaps 20 or more feet tall, sits behind offerings of fruit and flowers. He is flanked by four golden statues as attendants tend to and arrange the offerings in front of him. Tall pillars in red, covered with small lights soar to the ceiling. Across the courtyard there is the Ksitigarbha Buddhisattva Hall with the same features and large golden effigies. Also on the property is the Worship Hall with its Amitabha Buddha and the Thousand Buddha Hall. I admit that I have never entered a Buddhist temple previously and may not understand the symbolism or the tenets of the faith, but the sheer artistry of the buildings and their surrounding gardens was outstanding.

Continuing down the Steveston Highway, we come to the area of Steveston proper. It was once the site of a small community gathered around the harbor and the cannery that was its sustenance. Except for the fact that Richmond has encroached on it, it still is. Like so many such places with some rustic beauty, it has become a bit trendy and quite popular. Along the Steveston harbor, there is a boardwalk and any number of restaurants and small shops. With access to the wharfs below, visitors can select fresh salmon or prawns off the boats moored there. It is fairly competitive with sockeye salmon going for $4-$5 a pound. If you can ignore the turbid, green water, it is all a picture postcard.

I had mentioned the cannery. Like most of British Columbia’s early canneries, it’s closed, at least as a cannery. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery(12138 4th Ave., Richmond Cannery) is now a National Historic Site. Your visit begins with a short film, "A Journey Through Time" in a theater which was once the home to one of the operation’s two giant boilers. It is possible to take a tour through the area, but the signage is excellent and it is possible to understand the process without much further explanation. The cannery is divided into two parts: the reduction plant and the canning line. We took the reduction plant tour and did the line ourselves. Closed for salmon production in 1929, the plant canned herring during World War II, and that was when the reduction plant was built to deal with the fish and parts of fish that didn’t go into cans. That material was reduced into solids (fish meal) and liquids (fish oil and solubles). The plant would eventually close in 1979. There was a bit of mind-numbing science and engineering in the reduction plant, but the salmon canning line was interesting and easy to understand. Also on site, there is an explanation of the different kinds of salmon and fishing techniques. It was all well done.

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