One of the advantages of living in the Pacific Northwest is just how quickly you can slip over the boundary from urban life into complete wilderness. And one of the best examples in terms of going from one extreme to the other can be found just over the border in Vancouver British Columbia. And one of the most luxuries way to see this transition is on the VIA Rail Canada railroad which you can travel from coast to coast. A few years back we had to pleasure of traveling up the Fraser River drainage through the Canadian Rockies and then across the plains to Winnipeg before reversing course. Truly a special treat to see the country side from a moving train.
This is the longest river within British Columbia, Canada, rising at Fraser Pass near Mount Robson in the Rocky Mountains and flowing for 854 miles, into the Strait of Georgia at the city of Vancouver.] It is the 10th longest river in Canada. The river’s annual discharge at its mouth is per second 125,000 cu ft./second and it discharges an incredible 20 million tons of sediment into the ocean. The river is named for Simon Fraser, who led an expedition on behalf of the North West Company from the site of present-day Prince George almost to the mouth of the river.
Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. — Saint Augustine
On June 14, 1792, the Spanish explorers Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés entered and anchored in the North Arm of the Fraser River, becoming the first Europeans to find and enter it. The existence of the river, but not its location, had been deduced during the 1791 voyage of José María Narváez, under Francisco de Eliza.
The upper reaches of the Fraser River were first explored by Sir Alexander Mackenzie in 1793, and fully traced by Simon Fraser in 1808, who confirmed that it was not connected with the Columbia River.
In 1828 George Simpson visited the river, mainly to examine Fort Langley and determine whether it would be suitable as the Hudson’s Bay Company‘s main Pacific depot. Simpson had believed the Fraser River might be navigable throughout its length, even though Simon Fraser had described it as non-navigable. Simpson journeyed down the river and through the Fraser Canyon and afterwards wrote “I should consider the passage down, to be certain Death, in nine attempts out of Ten. I shall therefore no longer talk about it as a navigable stream”. His trip down the river convinced him that Fort Langley could not replace Fort Vancouver as the company’s main depot on the Pacific coast.
Much of British Columbia’s history has been bound to the Fraser, partly because it was the essential route between the Interior and the Lower Coast after the loss of the lands south of the 49th Parallel with the Oregon Treaty of 1846.