The Mighty Fraser River

(By Ron Hawkins) There are seven river systems flowing in the British Columbia portion of the Rocky Mountain Trench! However, the only river completely in BC is the largest one, the mighty Fraser. It flows from its source high in the mountains, about 50 km from the Yellowhead highway near Lucerne, thence westerly to where it drops into the trench at Tete Jaune. It continues in a northwesterly direction through the beautiful Robson Valley to Prince George and its confluence with the Nechako River. From there it travels in a southwesterly direction through the Fraser canyon. At Hope, it turns and flows west to Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean.

Simon Fraser, after whom the river is named, was made a partner in the North-West Company (fur traders) in 1801. As a partner, Fraser was selected to oversee the extension of the Company’s activities to the land west of the Rocky Mtns from 1805-1808. His mandate from the North West Company was to cross the Rockies and establish trading relations with the Indians in the interior of what is now British Columbia, but which Fraser called New Caledonia. Here he established Fort Mcleod in 1805, Fort St. James & Fort Fraser in 1806, and Fort George in 1807.

In the meantime, discovering a trade route to the Pacific had become a priority for the North West Company. Its officials gave Fraser the task of exploring a river believed to be the Columbia to its ocean outlet. It is ironic that this river which he so successfully navigated turned out to be not the Columbia, but rather an unknown river which fellow Nor’wester David Thompson would later name the Fraser River. It is to this voyage that Simon Fraser owes his fame.

The Fraser River subsequently became a major transportation route. The Overlanders came in search of the gold fields in 1862. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway used the river to transport materials and supplies for construction. The Fraser has been pivotal in the growth of the beautiful Robson Valley: farming, forestry and most recently, tourism. One of the greatest salmon rivers in the world. 1375 km (854 miles) long 5th largest river in Canada, by volume Area 220,000 km2 (almost area of Britain).