This place was really difficult to find. The roads here are very confusing, but we eventually found it, by just driving up random roads.
I'm really glad we found this place. I love visiting these types of places. It doesn't get any more authentic than this.
Located on the banks of the Frasier River, is the tiny community, of Finn Slough. The village was established in the early 1890s, by a small group of Finns, who were looking to escape oppression, in Russian occupied Finland. They worked mainly as coal miners and loggers, but later turned to farming and fishing.
The Finns chose to settle in this region, because at the time, when the area was more forested, the area was similar to the environment of Finland. The place did feel more like Finland, than Canada.
Most of the wooden stilt homes, were built between the 1890s and 1950s. Though most of them have severely decayed, a lot of them have been carefully restored, and today the village is home to around 30 people, all of who are descendents of the original Finnish settlers.
The village even has a small school. During the early days, the only mode of transportation they had, were boats. Though the villagers still own boats, most of them work and shop in the city, so the main method of transportation these days is the car.
Because of its uniqueness, the village has become a popular spot for photographers, and is commonly featured on Vancouver postcards.
Though the village has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, most visitors avoid coming here, because they regard the area as a slum. That is not the case. The houses are simply dilapidated, because of the moist conditions. I honestly don't know why anyone would want to live out here.
The houses are connected by a series of dilapidated, wooden boardwalks. There is a small section that is open to visitors, but it is really easy to forget that these are people's homes, not a museum. The residents don't want nosy tourists, snooping around their homes, therefore, tourists can only venture up to a certain point. Please be respectful of signs that say, not to disturb the residents. As interesting as the buildings are, they are people's homes, so observe them from a distance, and don't encroach on people's privacy.
Unfortunately, there really isn't a spot, where you can get a picture of the whole village. You would either have to trespass, or walk through some serious swamp.
I read somewhere that this village is actually in danger of being destroyed. Officially, Finn Slough is not part of Richmond, but a separate city, but because of its size, and location, the local government can't recognize it as such, therefore, they cannot force them to pay taxes. For this reason, there have been talks of relocating the residents, and destroying the village. They are currently fighting to have the village added to the city's historical registry, as a protected heritage site of historical significance. The faith of Finn Slough, remains to be seen.
Unfortunately, it started to rain just as soon as we arrived. We only drove past one girl on a bike. Aside from that, the streets, boardwalks, and patios were completely empty. Quite a shame. It would've been interesting to talk to the residents, and learn how they live, especially since I’ve never met any Finns in person, and my cousin really wanted to see some "Swamp People".
- Arts and Culture
Finn Slough is one of the most unique places in Richmond, and one of the oldest residential communities. It was established by Finnish immigrants back in the late 19th century. Their stilt homes were built on the intertidal zone of a Fraser River slough as it was an ideal location for mooring boats. Back then, the Fraser River was the primary form of transportation.
Finn Slough is a community symbiotic with the Fraser River estuary wetland ecosystem. It is home to a variety of indigenous flora and fauna species. However, because of its location on an intertidal zone, it was never zoned as a proper residential community, and was never subject to the same rules and regulations as properly zoned residential areas within the City of Richmond. Technically, intertidal zones are Federal jurisdiction, not municipal, so this is why Finn Slough has had a very complicated history.
For many reasons, over the past century there has been a lot of controversy over Finn Slough. Some people cite its lack of zoning (and thus lack of property tax, lack of city infrastructure, etc) to be a legitimate reason to destroy the community. Others simply feel that Finn Slough's an eyesore. And then there are much more complicated issues. Years ago an Ontario company purchased farmland adjacent to the slough in hopes of developing it into multimillion dollar mansions. The development company wanted to evict Finn Slough of its residents, even though Finn Slough is protected by Environment Canada and would never be allowed for development anyway. At the moment, Finn Slough's future is uncertain, but it has always been this way.
Many Richmond residents mistake Finn Slough as a community of poverty and squatters, however, this is not the case. While only 3 families who currently live there are descendents of the original Finnish immigrants who founded the community, the majority of people living in Finn Slough are regular every day people - artists, teachers, and such, who have chosen to live there as a lifestyle. They wish to live sustainably with the environment, to protect this fragile habitat for future generations, and to show that humans can indeed live harmoniously with nature. Finn Slough has also become an inspirational place for artists, and each year the Richmond Art Gallery hosts an exhibit on art about Finn Slough.
Finn Slough, though not a tourist attraction, can be accessed from the south foot of No 4 Road in Richmond. The boardwalks are open to the public - just be respectful of the community and the environment.
Most visitors to Richmond will visit Sea Island, whether they realize it or not. That's because the island is almost entirely taken up by the Vancouver International Airport. But there are a couple of other things on the island. One is Iona Beach. Apparently this is technically on Iona Island, but you don't cross any bridges to get there.
Iona is wild beach, left in its natural state. It is a major bird habitat (indeed, a sanctuary is nearby but not open to the public). There are expansive tidal flats, wildflowers and a mile-long jetty. If you take a bike you can avoid the early closing and enjoy a sunset picnic.
The park is open from 8am to 9pm. On the way out there you pass by two houses, right beside the runway, at the Sea Island Equestrian Centre. What a strange place to live.
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