Photo © Courtesy of Town of Princeton
The Bronze Sculpture Capital of Canada is a not-to-miss destination for B.C. Interior travellers this spring and summer, featuring art and nature in harmony.
Princeton, B.C., is a town blessed by natural beauty, with fresh mountain air, streams and lakes, wildlife and more for visitors to explore and enjoy.
Four years ago, the Princeton town council decided to enhance the area’s natural attractions with stunning art, approving the production of more than a dozen bronze sculptures featuring native animals for visitors and locals alike to enjoy.
To say the least, the project has been a hit.
“It was our number one tourism draw in 2022,” said Gary Schatz, Princeton Economic Development and Tourism Director, explaining it has attracted visitors from all over B.C. and beyond looking to experience the town, specifically visitors from the Lower Mainland.
“People are doing the day trip and taking the time to do the statue walk and just enjoy the statues and appreciate some of the artwork that we have here.”
Currently, more than a dozen sculptures are located throughout the downtown area of Princeton, all reflecting the history, wilderness and wildlife that make Princeton unique.
They are located on an easy, accessible, roughly one-kilometre walkable loop. Visitors can lead themselves on a tour thanks to a free guide available at the Princeton Visitor Information Centre and online.
“We’ve got a little walking map that people can pick up, and the Visitor Centre also has all kinds of souvenirs and different products that are unique to the area,” Schatz explained. “It’s a great overall tourist experience.”
The self-guided walking tour is also very accessible, given the land is flat and the loop is relatively short. It’s a fun option for families and solo visitors alike, offering plenty of photo-worthy moments.
Visitors will see beautiful bronze depictions of native animals like cougars, owls, wolves, foxes, and many more.
And one unique statue is known as “The Mountain Man,” depicting an Iroquois trapper in a dramatic pose atop his horse, making their way together down a steep slope.
Any previous visitors to the sculpture walk may want to stop in again—the town is adding more bronze statues in the near future.
“We’ve got a mountain goat coming, a golden eagle going in at our RV park this year. And we also have some bear cubs coming, being custom-made by an artist for us right now,” Schatz said.
Those and others will bring the total to 23 incredible statues, all of which Schatz hopes will be in place in 2023.
“It’s becoming a legitimate collection,” Schatz said.
“I’m excited about it. Hopefully, we can continue to add to that and make it a true international attraction, that’s what the goal is.”
It’s a great way to get to know the animals that call the Princeton region home. Located at the junction of the Similkameen and Tulameen rivers and surrounded by majestic mountains and wilderness, the town is a unique gem in the Southern Interior and a natural stop for many travellers heading both to and from the Lower Mainland.
“The nice part is if you’re leaving the Okanagan, and you’re going towards Vancouver, we’re the last stop for you at the mountains. And if you’re going the other way, we’re the first stop as you come through the mountains. So we’re very conveniently located,” Schatz said.
A few of the statues are easily visible from the road through town, but others require a little hunting, which is why anyone wanting the full experience should take a lengthier stop and make sure to spot them all.
Plus, the sculpture walk meanders through Princeton’s main streets, offering plenty of opportunities to enjoy the town’s many local shops.
The Visitor Centre has information available on each of the sculptures, and the Town of Princeton website has a detailed interactive map with interesting facts about the animals depicted, for an educational experience.
Each statue is beautiful in its own right, and favourites vary.
“Our German tourists probably like the bears the best. The bears are big in Germany. A lot of people like the moose in front of the Visitor Centre. Same with the elk at one of our other gateways. When you ask people, you get a whole mix of opinions,” Schatz said.
Outside of the sculptures, there is plenty to explore in Princeton. Schatz recommends checking in with the Visitor Centre for ideas on enjoying the natural beauty right on Princeton’s doorstep.
“We’ve got some nice walkways along the river, we have a beautiful piece of the Kettle Valley Rail trail that people can walk along the river. We’ve got Swan Lake, a nature preserve; a lot of birders go there,” Schatz said.
“That’s one of the nice things about Princeton, is we have some very unique species of birds here and the birding community often can take advantage of that too.”
The Princeton Visitor Centre offers a guidebook that describes all of the bird species that can be spotted in the area.
Schatz added there are roughly 50 lakes in the region, popular with fishing enthusiasts. Other activities subject to seasonality include gold panning, golfing and time-travelling to the past through a visit to the Princeton Museum.
Visit the Town of Princeton website, princeton.ca, to learn more about the bronze sculptures and everything else the community has to offer.
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