Fort Nelson was established first as a Hudson Bay Trading Post in 1805 and named after Admiral Nelson of the British Navy. Fort Nelson remained a small outpost until the US Army arrived in early 1942. They named Fort Nelson, “Zero”, because on their maps Fort Nelson was the beginning of two very important roads: the Alcan leading to Delta Junction, Alaska and the other to Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories (now called the Liard Highway, part of the Deh Cho Route). The Fort Simpson, Mackenzie River Route was an alternate highway built in the event of Japanese attack on the Alaska Highway.
When the troops heading south met the troops heading north, at Contact Creek on September 24, 1942, it marked the completion of the Highway between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse. It was only after the opening of the Highway that Dawson Creek was officially named Mile 0, as it was the Highway’s southernmost point.
Fort Nelson’s economy has always been based on forestry, oil & gas. In 2021 a new Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant opened in Fort Nelson, making it the most northern LNG production facility in Canada. North America’s largest gas processing plant and one of the largest deposits of shale gas in North America can also be found here.
Tourism has become a very important part of the local economy as Fort Nelson is a major transportation hub and the largest city in the Northern Rockies Regional District. There are regularly scheduled flights with Central Mountain Air, it is the northern railhead of CN Rail, and the world famous Alaska Highway doubles as Main Street.