White Rock & South Surrey Information
With a population of 19,735, White Rock is located in the southwest corner of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada, forty-five kilometers from Vancouver and is flanked on the south by the Canada/US border and Blaine, Washington . It is a seaside community clustered around an eight kilometer sandy beach and the warm shallow waters of Leslie Bay . It is famous for its 1,500 ft. long pier, its 2.5km long beach promenade, being the home of the Walrus, and of course the large white rock.
The city of Surrey, British Columbia surrounds White Rock on four sides, with the dividing lines between the two municipalities set at 136th Street ( Bergstrom Street) to the West, 16th Avenue ( North Bluff Road) to the North, 160th Street ( Stayte Road) to the East, and 8th Avenue to the south. Even though the area to the south from 160th Street westward to where 8th meets the water is Semiahmoo First Nations Reserve land, it lies within the bounds of the City of Surrey . From the point where 8th Avenue meets tidewater, the boundary between the two then heads south to the US border within Semiahmoo Bay , and the remainder of the southern border is (technically) the US border.
Because of its moderate, almost Mediterranean climate, White Rock is a preferred place to live. The average summer temperature is twenty-three degrees Celsius while the average winter temperature is six degrees Celsius. White Rock is often referred to as either 'the gem' or 'one of the gems' of the Lower Mainland, in local real estate advertising. Pilots accustomed to flying around the area often refer to it as 'the hole in the sky’; referring to the fact that White Rock is often bright and sunny, while the rest of the Lower Mainland peers through rain and cloud.
White Rock is named for a distinctive large white boulder found on its beach near the promenade. A glacial erratic that migrated from Hudson Bay in past ice ages due to continental glaciation. How it got over the Rocky Mountains remains a mystery. The 486-ton granite boulder was kept white by shellfish-eating seabirds, whose guano covered the rock, so much that sailors in the 19th century used it as a beacon. However, it now remains white through frequent applications of white paint by the city parks department, as it has been a popular graffiti target for over thirty years.
White Rock is located just off Highway 99, immediately north of the Canada/United States border at Peace Arch/Douglas, 32 miles (45 km) south of Vancouver . Neighbouring communities are Ladner and Tsawwassen, location of the ferry terminal for the ferry service to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands
The Straits Salish people dominated the region from Boundary Bay in the north to Birch Bay in the south (in the U.S. ). Semiahmoo first nation permanent encampments were known to exist between 1791, the first white contact, and the 1850’s, the beginnings of white settlement. These were at the extreme east and extreme west on the water of the present site of the City of White Rock . The Semiahmoos also constructed "forts" as lookouts for raiders from the northern first nations; one is located in the Ocean Park area.
The Oregon boundary dispute culminated in the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which settled the outstanding border issues between Great Britain and the United States . Previously, these issues had been put on hold through a shared occupancy agreement of the Oregon territory by the two nations in the Treaty of 1818. The International Boundary Survey Commission in turn began in 1857 to set the boundary between the United States and British North America, roughly along the 49th parallel which runs straight through Semiahmoo Bay and Boundary Bay to Point Roberts, Washington .
The Semiahmoo Trail still exists in White Rock and South Surrey, which runs from the site of the Boundary Commission Camp at the estuary of the Campbell River, overland to Mud Bay north of Crescent Beach . A survey map of 1865 calls this the 'Telegraph Trail'. During the real estate boom of the 1980s and 90s, the City of Surrey kept the trail as open as possible, extending it from the White Rock beach all the way to the Mud Bay crossing only two major avenues. On 148th Street, there is a specially constructed "Semiahmoo Trail" pedestrian overpass keeping the trail intact.
The original town site was homesteaded in 1886 by a family named Smith, who promptly subdivided their property and sold the lots. By 1887, the British Columbia Directory was promoting Semiahmoo Bay as the " Naples of B.C.," predicting that it would one day become "a popular resort".
The modern history of White Rock is directly tied to the railway, linking British Columbia to Washington State , which runs along the shore of Semiahmoo Bay to the border. The rail is currently owned by Burlington Northern and runs alongside the promenade at the beach. This was originally the Great Northern line, and it opened up both White Rock and Crescent Beach to tourists coming from Vancouver and New Westminster in the early 1900s. The White Rock border crossing (at Douglas, B.C., and Blaine, Washington ) was officially opened in 1908, and the Peace Arch at the Douglas/Blaine border crossing constructed in the 1920s.
The white rock as seen from the pier, with Washington's Mount Baker in the background; White Rock's proximity to the United States has played a big role in its history.
In 1913, the present railway station was opened, and the Fox and Hunter Shingle mill began operation. The Campbell River Mill also opened somewhat to the east, bringing a minor boom in the local economy. The now famous pier was opened in 1914 to provide a deep water mooring facility.
In the 1950s, White Rock began to feel isolated from the rest of the (then) District of Surrey, where development was being concentrated elsewhere ( North Surrey , Cloverdale). On April 15, 1957, a special warrant from the Government of British Columbia created the City of White Rock within its present boundary. In the 1960s, Peace Arch Hospital opened and continues as a major employer in the city and health facility for the region.
Development continued to be concentrated by the waterfront until the 1960s and 1970s. Many small cliff side dwellings became affordable housing to those who could not pay the cost of living closer to Vancouver . White Rock gained a reputation for being a 'retirement centre'.
The development of Highway #99 and the opening of the Deas Island Tunnel (now the Massey Tunnel) created a second boom for the White Rock area, providing relatively easy commuter traffic into Vancouver . No longer so dependent upon the railway, development crept up the hillside. In the 1980s, the City of Surrey began developing its "South Surrey" area as a 'town centre' comparable to Guildford, Cloverdale, and Newton . The Semiahmoo Mall opened in Surrey on the north side of 16th Avenue (which is North Bluff Road on the White Rock side). In 1979, friends Tom Kirstein, a chartered accountant, and Chip Barrett, an architect, organized an annual sandcastle competition, which became internationally famous. It took advantage of the long, sandy beach exposed at low tide, giving enough time for enterprising souls to construct elaborate displays. Prizes of up to $10,000 were awarded, and crowds of 150,000 were estimated at the competition's height. In 1987, the contest ceased because of security costs, and the inevitable party-spoilers.
The 1980s were the beginning of the White Rock-South Surrey area as a suburban, bedroom community within the Lower Mainland. The real estate market heated up and many younger families moved into the area attracted to homes aimed at the young professional market. By the middle 1990s, the race for real estate and upscale housing was on.
Activities & Attractions
Discover White Rock's history at the White Rock Museum and Archives, located in a designated heritage Train station on the Promenade at West Beach .
*Source for this information was Answers.com & British Columbia.com