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BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

A sketch of an overland route to British Columbia Hind, Henry Youle, 1823-1908 1862

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1862.  ERRATUM.
ne line at the bottom of the 46th page should be the sixth
line on page 4*7.
!' It is not unreasonable to look forward to the establishment of a regular
system of transit, commencing from Nova Scotia and the shores of New
Brunswick, passing through Canada, touching upon the Red River Settlement
crossing the Prairies to the Vermjixion Pass, where we know that the inclination is so moderate that nature has placed no insurmountable obstacles to
the construction of a railway, till it reaches the gold-bearing Colony of Brit,
ish Columbia, creating fresh centres of civilization, and consolidating British
interest and feelings." Eael of Carnarvon at the Presentation of the Royal
awards to Captain R. F. Burton and Captain John Palliser*—Royal Q-eooraphij
pal Society, jifay 23,1$J59P  3
A MERE sketch like the present requires no prefatory remarks.
It is sufficient to say, that my own personal knowledge of the country
extends to the Elbow of the South Branch of the Saskatchewan;
for the description of the country west of that point I am indebted
to British Parliamentary papers, and to several papers by Dr. James
Hector, published in the proceedings of different learned Societies
in England and Scotland. The large map was originally prepared
by Arrowsmith for my Report of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan
Expedition, published by command, London, Aug., 1860. The
smaller maps are from British Parliamentary papers. One word
to the reader about the North-west Territory. Glance at the map
and you will see a broad, yellow-coloured Fertile Belt, stretching
from the Lake of the Woods to the auriferous flanks of the Rocky
Mountains. That beautiful oasis is bounded on the north by a
sub-arctic, forest covered region, on the south by an arid and
uninhabitable desert, stretching to the Red River of the south and
the high plains of Texas. That belt contains forty million acres
of the richest soil. On the western limits of the Fertile Belt lies
the great gold country. Cross the low height of land, not 5,000
feet above the sea, through the Vermillion Pass, and you tread
upon the auriferous terraces of British Columbia. Cariboo and Kootanie are both just on the other side of the mountains, or between four
and five hundred miles from the Pacific coast. The whole valley
of the Upper Columbia is auriferous; the entire western flank of vi,
the mountains is a region rich in gold. It is as it were a step from
the Fertile Belt, drained by the North Saskatchewan, to one of the
richest gold fields in the world, in the midst of grand mountains,
towering precipices, and foaming rivers, but with little pasture land,
or land fit for tillage. Is there not in this a providential disposition ?
Does not that Fertile Belt point out the true path across the conti?
nent? Tbe way by which, first British Columbia, then China,
then India, may be reached from Europe. The way by which
"British civilization, laws and liberty are to be carried to the Paeific
nd thence to Asia, through British America. CON$EM&.
Distances from St. Paul to St. Cloud  IS
"       "       to Pembina ,...,.  16
" "  Fort Garry to Fort .Effioe  19
" "  Fort Ellieie to- the Elbow of the South Bfcanch
of the Saskatchewan .  20
The Kananaski Pass ... i  24
The Vermillion Pass ;  25
Howse's Pass ;;...»  29
The Kootanie Pass .... -  32
The AthabaskaPass. .,.,..  34
Known Passes of the Rocky Mountaeb*  35.
The Northern Route vid Edmonton ..;  38
The Indian Tribes of the VAiasET of the Saskatchewan  38
The Climate of the Rocky Mountains » i  40
Project of a Route across the Continent  49
The Fertile Belt in the Valley of the Saskatchewan  53
Mr. Bourgeau's Memorandum »  69
A Sketch of the Geology of the Rocky Mountains  68
Terraces in the Mountains  69
Cariboo »  7$
The Climate  Ii
Mining Claims  7i
Mining Licenses..., •  74
"Victoria to Cariboo  76
Estimated Gains  75 viii. contbkts. *a©b,
Dieect Route through British Columbia to the Pacific     75
Conclusion—The Hon. W. H. Seward, Secretary of State, U. S., on the
Future of Canada     77
Practical Observations on the Construction of a Continuous Line of
Railway from Canada to the Pacific Ocean, on British Territory, by Sandford Fleming, C. E     80
Its Character .-.     82
.Its Magnitude     87
Its Importance     89
. Scheme of Construction     82
The Road System of Canada     96
A Road System for New Terrritories  101
The London Times' Correspondent's Letter 118
Freight from St. Paul to Fort Garry. 127
List  of Necessary or Useful Articles in a Journey across the
Prairies to British Columbia  127
1. Narrative of the Canadian Exploring Expeditions     129
2. Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula     129 OVERLAND ROUTE
An emigrant or tourist, starting from any part of the valley
of the St. Lawrence, and desirous of crossing the continent
by the most direct road to British Columbia, has two lines of
route to choose from, involving very different means of communication. He may make the greater part of the long
journey in canoe or freighter's boat, or he may adopt the less
monotonous and perhaps more agreeable mode of travelling, by
traversing the prairies and mountains on horseback or on foot.
In case he choose the water communication, his point of
departure will be Fort William, on Lake Superior, and the
voyage will be made altogether through British territory. If
he should prefer the prairies, he will "start from St. Paul or
St. Cloud, in Minnesota, or from Fort Garry, at Selkirk or
Red River Settlement, which he may reach by the canoe route
from Fort. William, or the land route from St. Cloud. These
means of communication differ so widely from one another, that
^0 10
I shall describe the details of each under the separate headings
of 1 The Prairie Route," and § The Canoe Route."
I will assume that a party of twenty have made arrangements to travel in company, and share all the difficulties and
dangers of the Prairie Route.
The best mode of proceeding would be, to meet at St. Paul
or St. Cloud, in the State of Minnesota, during the last week
in April, in time for the first trip of the steamer from Georgetown to Pembina and Fort Garry. The reason why it is not
advisable to make an earlier start, will be at once apparent
when it is known that the Red River of the North does not
become clear of ice before the middle of April, and in some
years it is much later. In 1859, Capt. Blakiston crossed
Red River on the ice, with horses, near the 49th parallel, on
the 1st day of May.
If the party intend to proceed from St. Paul or St. Cloud
with horses and carts, it would not be advisable to start before
the second week in May, as there would be no young grass
on the prairies for the cattle ; and the rivers would all be
full, and much of the country flooded, in consequence of the
melting snows. When the Red River half-breeds make their
annual journey from Fort Garry to Crow-wing and St. Paul,
they usually start from the settlements between the 1st and
10th of June, which is the earliest period when they can rely
on fresh pasturage for their horses and oxen. 11
If the party should determine to take the chance of procuring horses at Pembina, St. Joseph, or the Red River
Settlement, it would be. desirable to make enquiries as to the
time when the steamers will be likely to leave Georgetown,
on their first trip down the river. The journey can be made
from Canada by rail to Milwaukee; thence to Prairie du Chien
or any other point on the Mississippi; thence by steamer to
St. Paul. From that place to Georgetown, on Red River,
about 290 miles, Burbank's stages form a regular line of com-
munication ; and from Georgetown steamers will convey the
party to Pembina or Fort Garry. If the connections are
properly made, the distance between Toronto and Fort Garry
can be accomplished in twelve or thirteen days. It is doubtful, however, whether several parties would succeed in procuring fifteen or twenty horses each in the settlements without
considerable loss of time, and paying an exorbitant price for
them. The Hudson Bay Company were so short of horses in
1858, that they allowed Capt. Palliser ,£20 sterling each for
twenty-five horses. I was compelled to pay the Company, at
Fort Garry, £50 sterling for two good horses, in June of the
same year, and only procured them through the intervention
of Sir George Simpson. Pembina and St. Vincent are very
small and scattered villages, without any resources whatever-
St. Joseph, thirty miles west of Pembina, contains about five
hundred souls; and horses may be obtained there. But, if
several parties of twenty each, propose to follow the Prairie
Route on horseback, there will be great difficulty in procuring horses at or near Fort Garry, or at St. Joseph. Both
horses and mules can be obtained at St. Paul, or in the towns 12
between St. Paul and Crow-wing. It will be a matter for
careful consideration whether it would not be advisable to
make sure of this important part of the outfit before leaving the settlements on the Upper Mississippi.
I will assume, in the first instance, that the members of a
party, consisting of twenty persons, determine to procure their
outfit at St. Paul, or between it and St. Cloud, and make that
town the starting point of their journey. They will require
at least five carts, constructed after the fashion of those in
common use in Lower Canada or at Red River, with broad
strong wheels, and with as little iron work about them as
possible. The Red River carts have no iron work, not even
a screw, nail, or tire; and they are quite strong enough,
when well made, to go to the Rocky Mountains and back
again, with one or two changes of the axle, which is the only
part liable to wear away under ordinary circumstances.
Waggons, constructed after the model common in the States
and Canada, are to be avoided, without they are provided
with a very good and strong team. There is always difficulty in getting a waggon through the swamps and bogs. I
had an American waggon with me in 1858, intending to take
it as far as the Elbow of the South Branch of the Saskatchewan, but I was glad to leave it at Fort Ellice until my return. There is no doubt, however, that a covered waggon
with high and broad wheels, made as light as is consistent with
safety, and with very little iron work about it, is a comfortable, convenient, and valuable adjunct to a journey across
the Prairies; and if constructed in the manner described,
and drawn by a yoke of well-trained oxen, or a pair of good
horses or mules, it is to be recommended. 13
Mules are very valuable, if good animals can be obtained ;
they are extremely hardy, very sure-footed, keep fat on indifferent pasture, and generally have great endurance. Oxen
are slow and sure, but must always be watched or tethered at
night, for the first three or four weeks, or else they will wander,
and endeavor to retrace their steps homeward. Instances have
-frequently been known in the praries of oxen starting off in a
direct line for their homes, and making 25 and 30 miles before
they were caught. I lost an ox for some hours on the Assiniboine, when 200 miles from Red Eiver; he wandered homeward in the night-time, and was overtaken about 10 miles from
the camp, leisurely retracing his steps to the settlements.
Oxen have the advantage over horses in being able to draw a
heavier load. The usual load for a long journey isfrom 400 to
600 lbs. for horses, and from 700 to 900 lbs. for oxen. The
usual distance travelled during the day is from 20 to 25 miles.
When the roads are good, the weather favorable, and the
loads not too heavy, oxen will accomplish twenty-five miles a
day for a month together (Sundays excepted), without diffi.
culty, and not lose condition. There are few Red River
horses that will do this without losing flesh.
The provisions absolutely necessary for the journey to a
party wholly unaccustomed to the praries or to hunting, are at
least three quarters of a pound of flour or oatmeal, and half a
pound of bacon per diem, and tea at the rate of one pound per
month. This is the minimum that should be taken. It is
assumed that most of the party will be provided with a single
or double-barrelled gun, and there will be no difficulty in procuring prarie hens and ducks on the trail after leaving the settle- I
ments, as far as Pembina. After leaving Pembina prairie hens
will be scarce, but along the whole line of route enough ducks
and geese may be procured to supply a considerable proportion
of the provisions required. When near the south branch of the
Saskatchewan, buffalo will probably be met with, and a supply
of dried meat may be laid up in store. The journey, including
stoppages, will probably require from ten weeks to three months;
consequently, the minimum amount of provisions it would be
safe to rely upon, j would be 60 lbs. of flour, and 40 lbs. of
bacon or pork, or dried beef, for each man. If pemican or
dried buffalo meat can be procured at the settlements or at
St. Joseph,—which is doubtful—no better provision can be
had ; but it would not be wise to rely upon obtaining a supply
of pemican or dried meat in the spring of the year. Captain
Blakiston, one of the members of the Palliser Expedition,
lived during the whole summer of 1858 on dried buffalo meat,
and such other casual supplies of venison and mountain trout
as he was able to procure. He had neither bread, salt nor
sugar, and did not feel the want of these apparent necessaries
of life. Tents are not necessary, but oil-cloths are indispensable, not only for protecting the supplies during rain, but also for
laying on the ground at night, and making a temporary tent
under the carts, or with three poles. Each cart should be provided with two oil-cloths; they are always useful, and sometimes
most valuable, as in crossing rivers, during thunder-storms and
prolonged rains, &c. Each member of the party should be
provided with at least one complete change of good strong
clothing, with an additional supply of flannel shirts, worsted
stockings and flannel drawers.   An india-rubber or gutta- 15
percha cloth is very valuable in crossing rivers. The mode
of effecting this operation will be described further on. At
the close of these pages, a list of indispensable and merely
useful articles are given, so that any further enumeration is
at present unnecessary.
If the party are fully equipped at St. Paul, the route may
lie by the mail and stage road to Georgetown, thence by the
prairie road on the east bank of Red River to Pembina. It is
not advisable to travel on the west bank, in consequence of
wandering parties of Sioux Indians, who are always ready to
seize any opportunity of stealing horses, and sometimes venture to " lift a scalp." The distance between St. Paul and
Georgetown is as follows :
Miles. Total.
St. Joseph     7        7
Cold Spring  10      17
Richmond     4£     21-J-
Oak Grove . 19£      41
Sauk Centre   17      58
Kandotta     2      60
Osakis  10      70
Alexandria  12      82
Evansville   22 ......  104
Dayton (Wascata P. O.)  27   131
Breckenridge  24   155
Graham's Point   ) (     12   167
Burlington £■ by land \     26  193
Shayenne ) (     20  213
Georgetown     4  217
Total from St. Paul to Georgetown 291
But if it is desirable to take the most direct route to Pembina, the road will pass through Crow-wing, and Otter Tail 16
River. This is the route I followed in 1857, when returning
from Fort Garry to Crow-wing. The road is good and safe,
and there is a ferry at Red Lake River. The following are
the distances :
United States Military Road Surveys, 1857.
St. Anthony (opposite the Falls).
Anoka (east of Rum river)	
Orono (Elk river)	
Humboldt (Big Lake)	
Marseilles (Bear Island)	
Boyington's Tavern	
Clear Lake	
East St. Cloud (Brantford P. O.)	
Swan River	
Little Palls	
Belle Prairie	
Mouth of Nokay river (opposite Fort Ripley) ....
Chippewa Agency at Gull River	
Opposite mouth of Long Prarie River	
Commencement of Grand Marais, end of built road
Crossing of Crow Wing River—Wadena	
Crossing of Wing River	
Crossing of Bluff Creek	
Commencement of Leaf Mountain	
Outlet of Leaf Lake	
Leaf City (three or four houses)	
Otter Tail City (to left of road)	
First crossing of Otter Tail River (Rush Lake)...
Second       " " " 	
;  121
218 17
End of surveyed line, Odometer measurements.
Third crossing of Otter Tail River	
Detroit Lake—North shore 	
Lake Floyd (Eagle's Nest Lake)	
North end of small Lake to left of road *   	
Timbered Lake to left	
Buffalo River, 10 feet wide^ 1 foot deep	
Dividing ridge, lake and timber	
Junction of St. Cloud and Pembina trail	
Crossing of Wild Rice River, 85 ft. wide, 2 ft. deep
Crossing of Wild Rice Creek, 15 ft. wide, 1 ft. deep
Crossing of Sand Hill River, 80 ft. wide, 11 ft. deep
Crossing of Sand Hill Creek, 12 feet wide	
Bad Marshes	
Stony Butte and Lake	
Small Creek, water in holes'	
Crossing of Red Lake River, 175 feet wide, 31 feet
Small Lake and Marsh	
Small Lake	
Crossing of Snake River	
Crossing of Middle River, 20 ft. wide, 6 in. deep..
Crossing of Pine River, 15 ft. wide, 1 ft. deep....
Bend of Pine River	
Small Creek	
Big Point	
South fork of Two Rivers	
Mouth of Two Rivers	
A brief description of the route is given in my Report on
the Red River Expedition of 1857, page 384, 391.
Once at Pembina, two routes lie open to the travellers.
One by Fort Garry, and thence to Fort Ellice by the trail
north of the Assiniboine, the other by St. Joseph's and the
* From thia point to Pembina, the distances are those given by Colonel
Noble. 1859.
J 18
Little Souris Crossing; thence by the west bank of the Assiniboine to Fort Ellice. The first is the safest, but longer
than the route by St. Joseph. The difference in length is
however more than compensated by the safety of the route,
as the Little Souris is often frequented by Sioux, who it will
be remembered are the enemies of the half-breeds and of
white men generally. At the Settlements on Red River, it is
also extremely probable that two or three half-breeds would
be glad to accompany the party, and the knowledge they possess of prairie travelling, their familiarity with the habits of
Indians and with the language of the Crees, through whose
country the greater part of the trail runs, would be of very
great advantage to any party. With ten or twelve half-
breeds associated with the party there would be no danger in
attempting to go straight across the prairies between the north
and south branches of the Saskatchewan, through the country
of the Blackfeet and Piegans, but without these admirable
guides it would scarcely be advisable to attempt that route,
and consequently the longer and more northerly trail, by
Carlton, Edmonton, and Rocky Mountain House, would have
to be adopted.
Either at St. Joseph or at the Settlements at Red River,
a few horses may be picked up, but the price will no doubt be
high, from $70 to $100, as the demand is very great at this
time, and the half-breeds have not anticipated the requirements of the present season by procuring horses from the
Indians or from the settlers at the Mission of St. Ann, on the
Saskatchewan, who are well provided with these useful animals.   It is-not improbable, however, that a small emigration 19
may take place from Red River to the Cariboo and Kootanie
gold fields this season, and if this be the case, the half-breeds
will be glad, no doubt, to dispose of some of their stock. Hence
it may occur that horses and oxen are cheaper than usual, but
it would not be wise to rely on this contingency, more especially as many parties of twenty or more each, are now organizing in Canada and the States for a journey across th*e
Prairies to the gold fields of British Columbia.
Fort Garry.—Camp on the prairie.    Good pasturage       0
Lane's Post.—Good trail through a fertile country, partially settled. Fine prairies adapted for grazing and agriculture. Clumps
of poplar.    Heavy timber in the bays of the river     24
Camp at a stagnant pool in the shelter of a bluff of poplar. Good
grass.    Heavy timber skirting the river.     16
Prairie Portage.—200 inhabitants. Cross a level prairie with
rich soil and. herbage, but nearly destitute of trees. Good
grazing     191
Prairie Portage to Rat River.—Fine open treeless prairie. No
wood.    Splendid pasturage     161
Rat River to Ford of White Mud River.—Very fine agricultural
country, diversified with beautiful woodlands and extensive open
meadows. Grass and many varieties of plants wonderfully luxuriant.   Crossing at Rat Creek bad; deep mud     141
Crossing of White Mud River.—(55 feet wide, 4 feet deep in
August.) Fine grass and timber; trail follows bank of White
Mud River, then through a rich prairie country, with many wet
meadows, and woods of aspen     25
North Bank of White Mud River.—Fine timber. Come on the
flanks of the Riding Mountain, and traverse a rich undulating
country; excellent pasture; oak trees     23
Fine country to the Little Saskatchewan, at the foot of the Riding
Mountains. River-' 68 feet wide, 3 feet deep, current 31 miles
an hour (Aug. 28th). After crossing the Little Saskatchewan
the country is thickly covered with willows and aspen; excellent
pasturage in the valley; scenery beautiful     21 20
Fine rolling country. Ponds very numerous; duck in great abundance ; junction of upper and lower trails     25
Open country, with excellent pasturage all the way to Fort Ellice.    5Of
Fort Garry to Fort Ellice on Beaver Creek, via the White Mud
River Trail  236
It would not be safe to rely upon getting any provisions at
Fort Ellice; they are generally " starving" during the early
summer, awaiting tbe supplies of Buffalo meat from the prairies. The route from Fort Ellice will depend upon the determination of the party to take a course direct to the Kananaski
Pass, via the Qu'Appelle and the south branch of the Saskatchewan, or by the Touchwood Hills, Carlton, and the Rocky
Mountain House, to the Vermillion Pass. If tbe party is
strong, and accompanied by half-breeds, the shortest way will
no doubt be through the Blackfeet and Piegan country; but
if there are no half-breeds in company, the route should be by
the Touchwood Hills and the north branch of the Saskatchewan. I shall first describe the route via the Qu'Appelle and
the South Branch.
Light sandy prairie, with occasional clumps of small poplar, and
several marshes and ponds       71
Traverse an undulating prairie of fight sandy loam with scattered
clumps of poplar and willow. Halt to feed after travelling
nine miles. Rolling prairie of rich sandy loam, clothed with an
exuberant growth of excellent grass. Halt at the Cross Woods,
an open belt of light aspen; marshy ponds surrounded by light
p&irie succeed     251
Traverse a light rolling prairie with gravelly ridges thinly wooded
with scattered aspens, succeeded by a wide treeless plain of rich
sandy loam. Undulating prairie of light sandy loam, with occasional clumps of small poplar and many ponds. Here a vast
treeless prairie stretching to the Qu'Appelle begins      28 21
Light undulatingdpen prairie, succeeded by a treeless rolling prairie.
Weed or Bear Berry Ridge, camp on an undulating prairie, with
clumps of poplar and willows. Soil of prairies traversed, light
with gravelly ridges. Areas of rich loam with good grass in the
depressions. Abundance of water in numerous ponds dotting
the plain. Wood scarce. Trail runs parallel to the Qu'Appelle
at a distance of 12-16 miles     261
Halt after 12 miles travel over a vast treeless rolling prairie, with
soil and herbage as before. From this station on an open plain,
the woods of the Qu'Appelle, 12-18 miles off, may be seen.
"Indian Head Hills" succeed. PASS THE QU'APPELLE
FORT TRAIL, course lies over a light treeless undulating prairie, slopiag gently towards the Qu Appelle, and intersected by
several creeks flowing in deep valleys. Plenty of wood, water
and grass     261
A vast level prairie, with dark, rich soil, bearing luxuriant grass,
followed by a light, undulating prairie with many knolls, ridges,
and ponds. Church of England Missionary Post at the Fishing Lakes, Qu'Appelle Valley.    Good grazing in the Valley....    261
It is by no means necessary to go to the Qu'Appelle Mission. The trail to Qu'Appelle Fort, referred to in a proceeding paragraph, may be pursued on towards the Forks of the
Qu'Appelle, and the route to the Elbow of the South Branch
may follow either side of the river. The south is perhaps
equally as good as the north side, which I followed in 1858,
although the gullies are not so deep, but buffalo are more
numerous on the south side than the north. On approaching
the Sandy Hills it will be advisable to keep a sharp look-out
for Blackfeet and Plain Crees, especially the latter, who are
certain to be seen in considerable numbers, this being their
hunting ground during the summer months, when they employ
themselves in running and impounding buffalo, particularly at
the Sandy Hills.    The Plain Crees are by no means inimical 22-
to the whites; their chief is named Wa-GOOSH or " The Fox;"
the chief of the Sandy Hills is Mistickoos or " Short-stick."
It would be advisable to make them a small present of tobacco,
tea, powder and ball.
The following are the distances :-^—
Qu'Appelle Fort to the Forks.—Good pasturage, wood and water     45
Cross the Qu'Appelle at the Forks and ascend to the north side.
Light prairie, short grass     131
Undulating prairie of light sandy and gravelly soil, with poor short
grass. Wood and water in ravines. The trail retreats two or
three miles from the Qu'Appelle to head the deep gorges and
ravines leading into it. No wood. Prairie light sandy soil.
Herbage scrubby and scant       21
Arrive at the " Outlook" and Buffalo Pound Hill, then at Buffalo
Pound Hill Lake. Wood, water, and good grass, in the gullies
only     241
Trail keeps away from the river to head the ravines. Prairie of light
sand with numerous boulders. Grazing poor. Wood and water
scarce.   Buffalo probably visible       20
Sterile and stony buffalo plain, poor grass, no water for some miles.
Sand Hill Lake, with good grass in the flats. Sand-Hill Lake is
salt. A spring on the south side on the hill near the east end
of Sand Hill Lake.    Wood very scarce.    Cross the Qu'Appelle,   151
Re-cross the Qu'Appelle valley after five miles. Plenty of water
among the Sandy Hills.    Grazing indifferent       8 J
North bank of the " River that Turns" to the Elbow of the South
Branch. Good wood, water and pasturage. Cross the " River
that Turns," near its mouth, and proceed to ford about half a
mile above its junction with the South Branch of the Saskatchewan        11
From Fort Ellice to the Elbow of the South Branch of the Saskatchewan, near the Qu'Appelle River  295
From Fort Gany to the Elbow of the South Branch  581
From St. Paul to the Elbow of the South Branch, via Fort Garry.. 955
After passing the south branch of the Saskatchewan at the
Elbow, the travellers enter a region in which there is not only 23
no trail, but frequently difficulty in procuring pasturage and
wood. The best course is to keep within two or three miles
of the South Branch as far as the old Hudson Bay Company's
Post, Chesterfield House, now abandoned, a distance of ninety
miles. From Chesterfield House the course is by the banks
of Red Deer River. With the exception of the deep and
narrow valley of Red Deer River,, the prairie is a sterile and
barren country, with scanty herbage and no wood, but there
is good feed on the high plateaus to the north. The country drained by the South Branch and its tributaries south of
the wooded region, shown on the map as the 'Fertile Belt,' is
an arid treeless region. On the elevations, four hundred feet
above the plain, the aspen and willows occur in patches together, with good grazing ground. The Indians who hunt on
these arid plains are the Blackfeet, the Bloods, and the Pie-
gans.    Capt. Palliser thus describes the Blackfeet:
"Owing to my having been so much in the Blackfoot country, both in
the summer of 1858 and the winter of 1858-9, all the chiefs and principal men know me, and frequently said to me, ' Desire us to do anything
you please and we will do it.' Doctor Hector has also acquired a great
influence among them by removing some trifling complaints from the
men, and a great success in his profession among the women and children. Neither is this friendly feeling confined to the Blackfeet alone, for
both Piegans and l^lood Indians, whenever they came in any numbers to
visit me, always rode unarmed into my camp, which is the greatest compliment that these Indians can possibly pay.
"We have noWtravelled through the whole of their territories, a portion of country so dangerous as to be almost inaccessible, and we have
neither had a horse stolen or a gun pointed at us by any of these tribes.
However, I do not wish to infer that a total stranger would be equally
safe, nor that any one accompanied by a military force (unless that force
were a very large one) would also be safe; I think in either case they
would run a very great risk of having all their horses stolen. These Indians tent in very large camps, from 400 to 600 tents together."—Blue
Booh, 1860. 24
Red Deer River can be followed up to the junction of a
small tributary passing to Slaughter Camp, shown on the
map, and from this place the course will be to Old Bow Fort
or Bow River.
From Bow Fort two passes are open to the Kootanie River
and the Columbia River—one the Kananaski Pass, which
leads directly to the Kootanie, the other the Vermillion
Pass, which first touches the Kootanie River, and then by the
Kicking-horse Pass leads the traveller to the Columbia. Gold
has been found on the Kootanie, and a "rush" of miners has
already taken place to the valley of this river. Capt. Palliser
thus describes the Kananaski Pass:
"On the 18th of August I started to seek*for the new pass across the
Rocky Mountains, proceeding up the north side of the south branch of
the Saskatchewan or Bow River, passing the mouth of Kananaskis
River. Five miles higher up we crossed the Bow River and entered a
ravine. We fell upon Kananaskis River and travelled up it in a southwesterly direction, and the following day we reached Kananaskis Prairie,
known to the Indians as the place "where Kananaskis was stunned but
not killed." On the 21st we passed two lakes about two miles long and
one wide. We continued our course, winding through this gorge in the
mountains among clifls of a tremendous height, yet our onward progress
•was not impeded by obstacles of any consequence; the only difficulty
we experienced was occasioned by quantities of fallen timber caused by
fires. I observed that many, indeed most of thesejremendous fires are
«aused by lightning, and in one or two places traced! their progress where
the foot of man could never have trod.
" On the 22nd of August we reached the height of land between the
waters of Kananaskis River and a new river, a tributary of the Kootanie
River. We remained here for the rest of the day, occupied with observations. Our height above the Bow Fort was now' 1,885 feet, or above
the sea 5,985 feet Next morning we commenced our descent, and for
the first time we were obliged to get off and walk, leading our horses
down a precipitous slope of 960 feet over loose angular fragments of
rock.   This portion over, our route continued for several days through 25
dense masses of fallen timber, destroyed by fire, where our progress
was very slow, not owing to any difficulty of the mountains, but on
account of the fallen timber, which we had first to climb over and then
to chop through to enable the horses to step or jump over it. We continued at this work from daybreak till night, and even by moonlight,
and at length reached the Columbia Portage on the 27th of August
Here I devoted a day to ascending some heights in search of a view of
the Columbia River. After climbing several mountains in rain, I at last
was astonished to find myself right upon the bank of the lake from
which the Columbia rises, at a height of about 2,300 feet over the surface. Climbing a high tree in order to overlook the woods which intercepted my view, I saw both the Columbia lakes, the Columbia rising out
of the southern, flowing into the northern one, out of which it bends to
the westward previous to taking its northern course to the boat encampment. The most southerly of these lakes is in lat. 50° 7/ No., long.
115° 50' W."
The Kananaski Pass is the one which Sir George Simpson
traversed, and is described in his overland journey round the
world. About fifty emigrants from Red River went through
this pass many years since, but both Sir George Simpson and
the emigrants made their way to the Columbia River in the
United States territory, far south of the Cariboo gold region,
passing through the auriferous valley of the Kootanie, little
suspecting that this mountain river would soon be alive with
"prospectors" or miners, and its deep solitudes disturbed by
the rude and motley train which generally follow the gold-
Dr. Hector travelled from Bow River to the Columbia by
the Vermillion Pass, which he describes as follows :—
" The site of Old Bow Fort is marked only by a group of mud and
stone chimneys, the remainder of the fort having been constructed of
timber, all of which has long been removed and used by the Indians as
firewood.    A small stream joins the river from the west at this place,
B (I
and the main stream itself makes a bend from a north to an easterly
course.    Bow Fort is 4,100 feet above the sea.
" On the 11th August M. Bourgeau and I started and camped together
about 11 miles up the valley of Bow River, on the banks of a lake formed
by a dilatation of the river in consequence of the valley being barred by
immense deposits of rounded shingle. Our road was rather a bad one,
on account of the fallen timber which impeded our path, the valley not
having been frequented by the Indians for many years.
" This first portion of the valley cuts through five parallel ranges of
mountains, at right angles to their axis. These are composed of beds of
crystalline and compact fossiliferous limestone (most likely of carboniferous age) dipping at 30° to W. S. W., but having several obscure plications. Two well-marked peaks occur on either side of the valley, which
M. B°urgeau named ' Grotto' and ' Pigeon ' peaks.
" After passing the former of these, the following morning (having
taken leave of M. Bourgeau, who remained to examine this mountain) I
entered a wide trough-like valley, running to S.S.E., through which I
contrived to follow up Bow River in the opposite direction for three
days. This trough continues to run through the mountains, beyond the
points where the river leaves and enters it, the latter being between
' Cascade ' and ' Rundle' mountains.
" ' Cascade' Mount which is known to the Indians as the 'place where
the water falls,' rises as a series of precipices to the height of 4,521 feet
above a small level plain at its base, and is so abrupt that its summit is
in view at a horizontal distance of 2,200 yards. It may be taken as a
type of the mountains in this portion of the chain, all being equally
precipitous and inaccessible.
" From the Cascade Mount the river valley again changes its direction
paj3sjing at right angles to the chain so as to cross the ' Saw-back' range,
which are composed of the same strata as before, but now almost vertical/having only a slight inclination to W.S.W.
"After following up the valley which then was reached, to N. W. for
three days, on the 18th I arrived at ' Castle.' Mount, opposite the entrance
to the | Vermillion ' Pass. I had already passed three small tributaries,
by following up either of which, the height of land can be crossed to the
Kootanie River, but judging from Indian report, none of these were so
promising as this one, by which I now resolved to cross the water-line
of the mountains.
" The mountains now "began to wear a different aspect, more massive,
and evidently much loftier. They are composed of white and pink
quartzose sandstone, almost passing into a quartzite in some parts, and
in others into a fine conglomerate. 27
" On the 20th I crossed Bow River, without swimming the horses and
unloading their packs; and, after a six hours' march through thick
woods, reached the height of land the same afternoon.
" By careful barometric readings I found the rise from the river to be
539 feet; and I consider the rise of the river, to where I crossed it from
the Old Bow Fort camp, to be 300 feet, thus giving for the height of
land 940 feet. The small stream along which we had ascended here
ends in two small lakes, the water of which is beautifully clear; and 200
yards further on, and at 17 feet above the level of the upper lake, we
,came on a rapid turbid stream, flowing to the S.W., which was the head
of the Vermillion River, the principal branch of the Kootanie River.
The height of the land is in 51° 8' 30" N. longitude by account 116°
85/ W. It is in a wide valley, between outlying shoulders of two snow-
clad mountains, which I named after Mr. Ball and Colonel Lefroy, the
latter being to the west. The ascent to the watershed from the Saskatchewan is hardly perceptihle to the traveller who is prepared for a
tremendous climb, by which to reach the dividing ridge of the Rocky
Mountains, and no labour would be required, except that of hewing
timber to construct an easy road for carts, by which it might be attained.
" The three following days were occupied in the descent of Vermillion
River, which, after flowing to S.W. by W. for nine miles, suddenly
changes its course to S.E. for 18 miles, when it again changes to S.,
escaping into a wide valley to join a much smaller stream, which is the
Kootanie River.
"In its course of about 40 miles, it descends 1,227 feet, so that at its
junction with the main stream it is 383 feet below the Old Fort.
" It becomes of considerable size a very short way from its source, as
it receives large tributaries from glaciers which occupy the valleys of
Mounts Lefroy, Ball, and Goodsir. The valley through which it flows
is contracted only at one point —' The Gorge,' near its lower part,
where two lofty mountains seem to close in on the stream, without,
however, in reality causing any great difficulty in passing along its base.
" A road for carts down the valley of VermUMon, Rimer, from the
height of land to the Kootanie River, could be cleared without difficulty,
,of, supposing the road to follow a straight line.along the river, and the
descent to be uniform, which it almost is, the incline would only be 40
feet in a mile, or 1 in 13&:
" The absence of any abrupt steps, either in the ascent or descent,
together with the small altitude to be passed over, form very favourable
points in the consideration of this pass as a line of route.
" Ascending the Kootanie River on the 27th, I reached the height of
land which divides it from one of the principal tributaries of the Columbia 28
River, called Beaver Foot River. The watershed is in a large morass,
with several lakes occupying the bottom of a deep wide valley, common
to the two streams, although flowing in opposite directions. The line of
watershed is so little marked that it is impossible to cross even on foot
between the two streams without going in water.
It is on the 51st parallel of latitude, in longitude 117° 10/ W. On the
north side of the valley are Mount Goodsir and Pyramid Mountain, and
on the south is the Brisco range, which although of no great elevation
(about 2,000 feet above the eye) run, as an unbroken wall, to S.S.E.
My Indian declared that the river we had now struck was the head of
the north branch of the Saskatchewan, and wished to follow it down,
but if my barometer and sympiesometer were acting with any approach
to accuracy we were now about on a level with what I had found to be
the elevation of the Mountain House during last winter, so that this could
■not be the case. In addition, the change in the vegetation, especially
the occurrence of cedar, convinced me that we were really on a branch
of the Columbia.
" I accordingly only followed it for two days, and on 29th reached the
mouth of a large tributary, to N. W. This river is much larger than the
Vermillion River, and about four times the size of the stream into which
it flows, being about equal to the south branch at the point when we
left it.
"Here I received a severe kick in the chest from my horse, rendering
me senseless, and disabling me for some time. My recovery might have
been much more tedious than it was, but for the fact that we were now
starving, and I found it absolutely necessary to push on after two days.
"Where it receives Beaver Foot, Kicking Horse River bends back on
itself, including an angle of only 20°, and after passing over a fine fall of
about 40 feet flows on to the N.W.
" The mouth of Beaver Foot River is about 318 feet below the height
of land where we first struck it
•'As I was quite unable to move, I sent my interpreter, Peter Erasmus, to ascend Mount Hunter, which is included in the angle of Kicking
Horse River. He ascended for 3,496 feet, and obtained a view, to the
west, of snow-clad peaks as far as the eye can reach. Over the tops of
Brisco's range, and all to the left of S.W, he could perceive no mountains, so that if that portion of country is occupied by any they must
be of very inferior altitude.
" While traversing this valley, since coming on the Kootanie River,
we have had no trail to follow, and it did not seem to have been frequented by Indians for many years. This makes the absence of game all the
more extraordinary.    The only animal which seemed to occur at all was 29
the panther. The Indian saw one, and in the evenings we heard them
calling as they skirted round our camp, attracted bj' the scent.
" The bottom of the valley is occupied by so much morass, that we
were obliged to keep along the slope, although the fallen timber rendered
it very tedious work, and severe for our poor horses, that now had their
legs covered by cuts and bruises.
" The timber along Beaver River is mostly young, but there are the
remains of what had been a noble growth of forests, consisting of cedar,
pine, and spruce, among the latter of which is the magnificent prusche,
which sometimes reaches four yards in circumference. I also saw a few
young maples (Negundo fraso.) Berries of many kinds were very abundant, and, indeed, had it not been for this we would have suffered much
from hunger."
In 1859 Dr.  Hector crossed the mountains by Howse's
Pass, and went up the Columbia to a point within a few miles
of the Boat Encampment,  near to the Athabasca Pass.
Howse's Pass is thus described by Dr. Hector.
"From the site of Bow Fort I followed up my track of the preceding
summer, along the valley of Bow River, until I reached Castle Mount,
opposite the Vermillion Pass. Instead of crossing the watershed at this
place, the hope of procuring game and adding to my stock of provisions,
to which up to this time we had avoided having recourse, induced me
to get to the north-west as far as possible, keeping on the eastern slope
of the mountains. I accordingly passed from the South to the North
Saskatchewan by the Pipe Stone Pass, which is further to the east
than the Little Fork Pass, by which I crossed this tranverse divide
in the preceding summer. This pass follows up a small tributary to
Bow River from the north, and after having traversed a height of land
at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, descends what I name the Siffleur
River to the north branch of the Saskatchewan at the Kootanie plain.
Here I left my Indians, as they had by their hunting added 70 lbs. to
my store of pemmican, and they were now likely, from the nature of the
country I was about to traverse, to consume more than they would kill.
" Altering my course to the S. W., I followed up the Saskatchewan to
its source, and searched for a pass to the Columbia, of the existence of
which I had been informed by the Indians.
" Choosing the middle fork, I found it to rise in three branches, two of
which are derived from immense glaciers, while the third is merely a f
small stream, issuing from a wide valley, the bottom of which is level
and heavily wooded, and without any perceptible dividing ridge gives rise
also to a branch of the Columbia flowing to the south.
" This height of land is at an altitude of about 4,800 feet, and is in
lat 51° 46' N., long. 117° 30/ W. In reaching it the ascent is imperceptible, but the valley of the great fork is closely hemmed by lofty preci-
. pices, its whole width of about half a mile being occupied by shingle
deposits, showing that during the floods the channel of the river must
be of great breadth, and the valley almost impassable.
" One of the glaciers in which this river rises is of magnificent dimensions, even exceeding those of the one at the Glacier Lake, which was
examined the preceding summer. It must be at least nine miles long
and three wide, and descends from the same ' mer de glace' that envelopes the higher portions of the mountains for a considerable way to the
" On 7th September I commenced the descent to the Columbia by
Blueberry River, a stream which rapidly increases in size, and descends
about 2,000 feet through a very contracted valley in its course of about
35 miles. At various points we found traces of an old trail, which had
evidently been out of use for many years, so that I have no doubt that
this was the pass traversed by HoWse in August 1810, as laid down in
Mr. Arrowsmith's most recent maps. It was at that time used as a
portage route from the east to the West side of the mountains, but was
abandoned in favour of the more northerly route by the boat encampment.
" The difficulties of descending this valley are very great, arising from
the density of the forest growth, and the contraction of the vaHey at
various points by rocky barriers. We were occupied nine days in descending a distance of 35 miles to its mouth, which is in lat 51° 26N N.,
long, about 117° 50' W. Where it enters the valley of the Columbia
River, Blueberry River winds over immense flats of rounded shingle,
testifying to the amount of material brought down from the mountains
by the spring floods.
"The Columbia at tiie point where we5struck it is flowing to N.W.,
about 210 yards wide, and very sluggish and deep. Its valley is from
three to four miles wide, and bounded by mountains, which to its right
rise from 3,000 to 4,000 feet above its level, but on the left axe 1,000 feet
" A range of low hills occupy the centre of the valley, through which
Blueberry River passes in a deep rocky canon before joining tbe main
stream. It was now my wish to follow the Columbia River down to its
great bend at the boat encampment, and thence following up the valley 31
of Canoe River, endeavour to pass to the head waters of the Thompson's
River, and so reach British Columbia. The valley of the river appears
to be wide, and the mountains seem so open with rolling outline that I
did not anticipate any great difficulty in following such a course, if it
had not been for the density of the forest. I spent some time in searching for any trace of a trail leading in the direction I desired to to follow,
but failed, as the Shooshewap Indians who inhabit this region of country
travel solely by canoes, and keep the very few horses which they possess
in the neighbourhood of the Upper Columbia Lakes."
There appears to be little doubt that with the use of the axe
a party could without difficulty make their way with horses, if
not with carts from the point where Dr. Hector returned from
the Columbia, after having gone through Howse's Pass, (or
what would be better still, through Vermillion Pass,) towards
the Boat Encampment and the mouth of Canoe River. The
Columbia is navigable with boats far above this point, and
Canoe River comes from the boundary of the present known
limits of the Cariboo gold region, and there is every probability that it is also auriferous. Canoe River and its valley
must become an all important point, for it leads directly to
the Cariboo country. It has been visited, and part of it described by Mr. Ross in his " Fur Hunters." He visited this
river from the Sbe-waps on the Thompson River, coming across
the land, in 1816. Canoe River is 40 yards broad at its
All the passes through the Rocky Mountains, with the
single exception of the Vermillion Pass, are distinguished
by a gradual slope to the east and an abrupt and difficult
descent to the west. This fact points out the Vermillion
Pass as the one which will probably be ultimately adopted as
a waggon route across the mountains.    Although Howes's 32
Pass is much obstructed with timber, yet it possesses one
advantage—the road to it lies through the valley of the North
Branch of the Saskatchewan, and it may be approached by
the northern or wood route, via Carlton, Edmonton, and
Rocky Mountain House. For a distance of seventy miles of
its course through the mountains, this great river flows in a
wide valley deeply filled with drift, which, by the way, is, very
probably highly auriferous, as gold has been found in several
localities. On the banks of the North Branch in the mountains there is always level ground owing to the deep drift, and
it sometimes expands into wide plains, as the Kootanie Plains,
where pasturage is good and game very abundant. The valley of the North Branch cuts through the mountains more
directly than that of the South Branch, and is accordingly
much shorter.
The direct approach to the Kootanie Pass, near the 49th
parallel, is through a very poor country, between longitudes
109° W. and 113° 40'. It is a level, sandy, arid plain, with
little water, and even that doubtful supply, brackish. The
herbage is poor and scanty. The Kootanie Pass is practicable for horses, and is frequently used, being approached from
Bow Fort; it is not so good as the Kananaski or Emigrant
Pass. One trail from it leads to'Kootanie Post in the United
States Territory, another trail goes up the Kootanie River and
thence to the Columbia by the Columbia Lakes, and a third
to Flat Bow Lake and thence to Fort Shepherd. The country between the Kootanie River and Flat Bow Lake is very favourable for a road, but is much obstructed at the present
tiine with fallen and burnt timber. There are no sudden rises
or descents, and were it not so near the boundary line, and
so far removed from the accessible portion of British Columbia, it would probably become a valuable line of communication. It is, however, 200 miles south of the Cariboo Gold
The leading dimensions of the Kootanie Pass are stated by
Captain Blakiston to be approximately as follows :—
The extremity of the Kootanie Pass on the east side of the Rocky Mountains is 40 and on the west side 18 English miles to the northward of the
international boundary. ' 'Its length is 40 geographical or nearly 47 English
miles, extending from longitude 114° 34' to 115° 24' west. It leaves the
Saskatchewan Plains where they have an altitude of about 4,000 feet
above the sea, rises 2,000 feet to the watershed of the mountains,
descends to Flathead River, again to an altitude of 4,000, follows up
this river to its head waters, then crosses a precipitous ridge, reaching
an altitude of 6,000 feet; it then descends the great western slope, falling 2,000 feet in two miles of horizontal distance, after which, by a
nearly uniform grade of 100 feet per geographical mile, it gains the
Tobacco Plains at the point where the Wigwam branch enters Kootanie
or Elk River.
" On the Kananaski or Lake River are the remains of many wooden
carts which were abandoned by a party of emigrants from Red River
Settlement, under the late Mr. James Sinclair, on their way to the
Columbia in 1854, who found it impossible to drag them further into the
mountains. This pass follows the course of the river to its source, and
is the one by which Sir George Simpson, governor of the territories of
the Hudson's Bay Company, as well as another party of emigrants,
crossed the Rocky Mountains in 1841.
" The forests consist of spruce, a small pine, also a few balsam poplar
and aspen. In travelling through these mountain forests, the greatest
obstruction is the fallen timber, which, lying about in all directions,
causes much exertion to the. horses, and confines them to a slow pace."
Ihiring the traverse Capt Blakiston noticed the devastating effects of a
tempest: " numbers of trees had been blown down, and many broken
short off. The work of destruction had evidently been of that year, but
there were also signs of former work of the same character." 34
This is the most northern pass practicable for horses; it is
very abrupt on the western side, and leads to the mouth of
Canoe River or Boat Encampment. It may be approached
from Rocky Mountain House, from which place a Hudson's
Bay Company's trail leads to and through it. Mr. J. Miles went
through this Pass on horseback as far as Boat Encampment,
in 1854, but he describes it as " very hard riding." Although
this Pass leads directly to Canoe River, the nearest approach
to the Cariboo region, yet the country by which it is approached is thought not to be so favourable nor so short as the
approach to the Howes's or the Vermillion Pass.
A full description is given of the Athabasca Pass in Ross's
<l Fur Hunters." He traversedit in the spring when the snow
was deep, also on returning on horseback. There is ah immense difference between the journey in Spring and in
Autumn. When the snows melt the rivers are full, the rocks
are slippery, melting ice meets the eye in all directions, and
everything is cold, wet and comfortless. In autumn or the
close of summer all is changed. For foaming torrents vou
have rippling brooks ; for cold, storms and clouds, a bright
clear sky and warm genial nights ; ice and snow far above on
the mountain tops.
"To give," he says, "a correct idea of this part of our
journey let the reader picture in his own mind a dark narrow
defile, skirted on one side by a chain of inaccessible mountains, rising to a great height, covered with snow, and slippery with ice from their tops down to the waters edge. And
on the other side a beach comparatively low, but studded in 35
an irregular manner with standing and fallen trees, rocks and
jfee, and full of drift-wood, over which the torrent everywhere
rushes with such irresistible impetuosity that very few would
dare to adventure themselves in the stream. Let him again
imagine a rapid river descending from some great height,
filling up the whole channel between rocky precipices on the
south and the no less dangerous barrier on the north. And
lastly, let him suppose that we were obliged to make our way
on foot against such a torrent, by crossing and re-crossing it
in all its turns and windings from morning till night, up to
the middle in water, and he will understand that we have not
exaggerated the difficulties to be overcome in crossing the
Rocky Mountains."
Such is the description given of part of the Athabasca
Pass in the Spring. Ross says that at the proper season the
Athabasca Pass can be travelled from one end to the other on
horseback, with the exception of one or two steps on the
Grand Cote.
The following enumeration shows all the known passes in
the Rocky Mountains, between the plains of the Saskatchewan and British Columbia:—
1. Cow Dung Lake Portage, or " Leather Pass" Latitude 54°   0/
2. Boat Encampment or original Athabasca Portage..        "       53°   0'
3. Howse's Pass         |       51° 45'
4. Kicking Horse Pass, from South Branch to the
Columbia   "       51° 25'
6. Vermillion Pass, from South Branch to the Kootanie River         i       51° 10'
6. Kananaski or Emigrant Pass, from South Branch to
the Kootanie River         "       50° 40'
7. Crow Nest Pass         "       49° 40'
8. Kootanie Pas&         "       49° 25' 36
To these may be added: From the Kootanie River to the
Columbia, the Lake Pass and Beaver Foot Pass ; from the
South Branch of the Saskatchewan to the North Branch, the
Little Fork Pass and the Pipe-stone Pass.
The following are the altitudes of the principal passes above
the sea:—
Kicking Horse Pass  Above the Sea 5,420 feet
Vermillion Pass  "        "        4,944   "
Kananaski Pass  "        "        5,985   "
Kootanie Pass  "       "        6,000   "•
Starting from Fort Ellice, this route passes through the
beautiful scenery of the Touchwood Hills by a well beaten
trail, and thence on to the South Branch of the Saskatchewan, south of the Lumpy Hill of the Woods, shown on the
map. The river here is deep and rapid, but not more than
180 yards broad. It cannot be forded, but supplies can be
ferried across by means of a temporary boat made out of a
cart wheel, or two tied together, and oil cloths. The horses
will swim across without trouble. The carts must be floated
and towed across. The distance from Fort Ellice to the
crossing of the South Branch is about 280 miles, or 516 from
Fort Garry. The road is excellent, wood and water abundant,
and in the Touchwood Hills, and north and west of them,
ducks and geese are innumerable. If this route is selected, the
Assiniboine should be forded above the mouth of the Qu'Appelle, as the Qu'Appelle crossing is bad, the river being r*
deep and the hanks muddy. It will probably be unnecessary
to touch at Carlton, no advantage is to be gained by doing so
except assistance in crossing the North Branch of the Saskatchewan, if the north side should be preferred to the route
by the Eagle Hills. From Carlton there is a Hudson Bay
Company's trail all the way to the Rocky Mountain House,
via Fort Pitt and Edmonton. It lies chiefly on the north side
of the river, and is the safest route, as the Blackfeet do not
generally cross the river, but in the summer keep to the open
plains following the buffalo. The route by Battle River to
Rocky Mountain House is much the shortest, but Battle River
is frequented by Blackfeet and Plain Cree Indians, and it
would be desirable, if possible, to procure a guide at Edmonton or at the R. C. Mission at St. Ann, fifty miles west of
Edmonton. From Edmonton the route would lie to Rocky
Mountain House and thence to the selected pass, the most
favourable being the Vermillion Pass.
It is to be observed that Rocky Mountain House is not
tenanted during the summer months. Edmonton is a large
establishment, and the residence of a chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company. In 1859 it numbered 40 men, 30 women,
and 80 children. St. Ann is a village of free men containing
about 45 houses. Rocky Mountain House is about 100 miles
from the main chain of the mountains, but their snow-clad
peaks are visible from it. A subordinate range is 45 miles
from the post, and the country between the two points is
densely covered with a pine forest, through which Dr. Hector
vainly endeavoured to penetrate. 38
It is of some importance that travellers through the Saskatchewan plains should be familiar with the number, habits,
and character of the Indians they may chance to meet. There
is far less to fear from these wandering tribes, than is generally supposed, if they are approached without any signs of
alarm, and treated with respect and reasonable consideration.
The Plain or Prarie Indians belong to the following principal tribes:
Blackfeet, Crees,
Bloodies, Assiniboines,
Piegans, Sioux.
Fall Indians, or Gros Ventres.
The Wood Indians of the Saskatchewan VaRey belong to the great
family of Crees and Ojibways.    The Sioux, Blackfeet^ Bloodies, and
Piegans are Dakotahs.
Mr. Harriet a chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, who had
passed his life among the Blackfeet estimated the six or seven tribes
going by tfiat general name as mustering 1,600 to 1,700 tent$, at eight
per tent, 13,000.
Mr. Rowand, one of the oldest resident traders, estimated the Blackfeet tribes as follows:—
Blackfeet proper  300
Piegans  400
Bloods  250
Gros Ventres^ or Fall Indians  400
Circees  45
Cotones           ) •,.•      , -    m ., __„
SmallRohes   } Mountain Tribes  250
At 8 persons per tent, 13,000  1,645 tents.
The Assiniboines are divided into Strongwood and Plain Assiniboines,
or Sitonys.
Mr. Hamet in 1842, estimated the
Strongwood Assiniboines  at, 80 tents —=    640
Mr. Rowand, the Plain Assiniboines "  300    "   =- 2,400
380 tents— 8,020
y 39
The Strongwood Crees about Edmonton
Mr. Rowand estimated at 400 tents, at 10 per tent = 4,000
Crees of the Plains  200      " " "    = 2,000
On the North Branch of the Saskatchewan, where the Prairie Indians
assemble, the following enumeration is given in the Parliamentary Blue
Locality. No. of Indians.
Edmonton  7,500
Carlton  5,000
Fort Pitt 7,000
Rocky Mountain House  6,000
On the west side of the Rocky Mountains are the Kootanies, the Flatheads and the Shoushaps.
The Kootanies are not a numerous tribe; they are quiet,
honest and brave, but peaceable towards the whites; their
chief enemies are the Blackfeet. The Kootanies cross the
Rocky Mountains every year in the spring and fall to hunt
buffalo, and cure the meat for their winter supplies. They
are rich in horses, and not unfrequently trade with the Blackfeet. Nearly all the Kootanies are Roman Catholics. Capt.
Blakiston says,—" They are perfectly honest, and do not
beg, qualities which I have never yet met With in any
Indians." The Flatheads seldom come north of the 49th
parallel. The Shoushaps travel on the upper part of Frazer's
River, and on the north fork of the Columbia; they have
generally conducted themselves peaceably towards the whites,
and it is with these Indians that a party crossing the mountains of the Vermillion Pass would come in contact as they
approached the Cariboo gold diggings. The Blackfeet are
like their neighbors the Stonys and the Crees, great thieves*
Capt. Blakiston thus describes the Blackfeet: 40
" On the 10th of September I turned my face towards Fort Edmonton,
the previously appointed winter quarters of the expedition, which lay
more than three hundred miles to the north, and as will be seen on the
plan, passed several creeks, and over a country mostly prairie. I
remained at'the Forks of Belly River on Sunday the 12th. From this
place I visited a camp of forty-five tents of Blackfoot Indians, accompanied by one of my men and 'James,' the Cree Indian. I was received
with the usual hospitality, and having expressed a desire to change a
horse or two, I had no trouble the following morning in exchanging one
and buying another for ammunition, tobacco, blankets, old coat, &c.
This tribe has the credit of being dangerous, but what I have seen of
them, I consider them far better behaved than their more civilized neighbors the Crees. I made it a rule never to hide from Indians, and,
although I had but a small party, to go to them as soon as I knew of
their proximity. I also always told them for what reason the British
Government had sent the expedition to the country; and I never failed
to receive manifestations of good-will, neither was there one attempt made
to steal my horses, a practice too prevalent among the Indians of these
The Piegan Indians alone of all the tribes met by Dr.
Hector showed any disposition to be "more than importunate."
On the 18th September, 1858, Dr. Hector encountered
several snow storms on the Upper Columbia, when searching
for a trail up that river towards the Frazer, in the direction of
Canoe River, a most important tract of country, connecting as
before stated, the Plains of the Saskatchewan directly' with
the Cariboo gold diggings by the Howse's Pass or the'Kicking
Horse Pass and the Vermillion Pass.
"The winter of 1858-9 was unusually severe, as far as the quantity
of snow is concerned, and yet the average depth of snow, when undisturbed, as in the woods, was only about eight to twelve inches throughout a large district between Battle River and the North Saskatchewan at
Edmonton.    Towards the mountains, in a south-west direction, the
y 41
quantity is still less ; but during the early part of April, after the snow
had nearly disappeared from Edmonton, a series of storms from the north
visited the neighbourhood of Fort Pitt, so that in the middle of April
there were from three to four feet of snow on the ground."—Hector.
<l It is the belief," says Dr.Hector, "thatthe Columbia Valley is continued to the north, following the course of Canoe
River that makes me so sanguine that by this route a passage
could be effected into the valleys of either Thompson or Fra_
zer Rivers." As far South as 51° N. this great valley is
traversed with difficulty, on account of the spruce forests,
which are of a northern character. After passing a bend
which occurs in' this latitude^ the forest suddenly assumes a
Californian aspect, free from Underwood, and with stretches
of open prairie clothed with bunch grass.
Daring the first week in September, 1858, Capt. Blakiston
crossed the mountains of the Kootanie Pass. He found
snow two feet deep 6,000 feet above the sea level. The following is his description of the journey :—
" After two or three miles we began a steep ascent, and were soon on
ground entirely covered with snow, in which the tracks of the Kootanies
who had gone before us were visible. We passed along the edge of a
very steep hill, and it was as much as the horses or ourselves could do
in some places to keep footing. We now descended, crossed a thickly
wooded gully, and then commenced the ascent to the water-shed through
thick woods. The snow increased in depth as we ascended, until, on arrival at the crest it was two feet on the level, and in places heaped up to
double that depth. It was cold work trudging through the snow in thin
leather moccasins without socks; and, to make matters worse it was
blowing and snowing all the time. I, however, on arriving at the watershed, with the assistance of the Indian ' James,' whom I always found
most Willing, unpacked the horse with the instrument boxes, and obtained a reading of the barometer, which gave an altitude of 6,030 feet
We ascended along the ridge about 100 feet more, and then by a zig-zag
track commenced a deep descent It was not however, very bad, and
we soon arrjved at a small mountain torrent flowing (eastward, thus
c 42
regaining the waters of the Atlantic after an absence of sixteen days.
The trail continued mostly through woods down the valley due east.
The rocks on the tops of the mountains on either side were often of very
curious shapes, and the strata in places much contorted; there were
also some magnificent cliffs, and the cascades of snow water falling down
the narrow gullies added motion to the grandeur of the scene. The
snow gradually decreased as we descended. On arriving at the spot
where the valley joins another I found the Indians camped on a patch of
prairie, where I was glad enough to let my horse free, as we had travelled this day from six to six, with a halt of only 1$ hours."
In 1859 Capt. Palliser crossed the Kootanie Pass and encountered a heavy snow storm on the 8th September at the
height of land.
In 1858 Dr. Hector had severe weather on and about the
3rd September at Kicking Horse Pass. On the 8th September, when ascending the South Branch, near its head waters,
the mountains on each side were covered with snow, those on
the south side having their valleys covered with glaciers, some
of great size. At the water-shed, 6,347 feet above the level
of the sea, snow was lying under the shade of trees, notwithstanding the clear mid-day sun.
East of the mountains, in lat. 62° 20' N., several inches of
snow fell in the last week of September, and in the first week
of October snow fell between Rocky Mountain House and
Edmonton to the depth of 18 inches.
"Along the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains there is a
narrow tract close to them where there are never more than
a few inches of snow on the ground, and the rivers when rapid
remain open during the winter. In consequence of this a few
ducks are found to linger throughout the whole season in the
mountains, while from the Plain Country, in latitudes much 43
farther south, they are necessarily absent from October till
May. Forty miles east of the mountains the snow-fall is
much increased, but during the depth of winter rarely exceeds
two feet."*
" The weather experienced in the Rocky Mountains was
very irregular, with a great daily range of temperature.
Thus, in the end of August the thermometer during the night
was as low as 14° at an altitude of 6000 feet, and almost
every night it fell considerably below the freezing point,
although during the day it often reached 70° to 80°. In the
valleys of the eastern slope the amount of rain-fall is very
small compared to that on the first part of the descent to the
west, when fine weather is the rare exception even in September. This only applies, however, to the mountains north
of the fifty-first parallel of latitude, south of which, for some
reason, the rain-fall on the western slope in the valley of the
Kootanie River must be much less, judging both from the experience of two seasons and from the nature of the vegetation, which is of the arid type.
" On the eastern slope, throughout the entire summer, there
are occasional falls of snow at altitudes above 5000 feet; but
snow never lies deeply at any season. It is only on the various 'heights of land' which have an altitude of from 6000
to 7000 feet, and for the first few miles of the western descent,
that snow appears to accumulate in the valleys in large quantities—sometimes to the depth of 16 to 20 feet."
* Dr. Hector on the Physical Features of the centralhpart of British Forth
America.   Edin. Few PfuL Journal. 44
The project of a direct line of communication between
Canada and the valley of the Saskatchewan, entirely through
British territory, engaged the attention of the Canadian government during the years 1857-8 and 9. Since that period
the question has been allowed to remain in abeyance, and no
steps have been taken to open any one of the different routes
explored, or to encourage private enterprise in this important
undertaking. The inactivity af the Canadian government
has no doubt arisen in great part from the undefined position
and status of the proposed new Colony between Canada and
British Columbia. The Imperial government have not yet
taken any steps to organize the valley of the Saskatchewan
into a separate Colony, and it still remains under the juris.
diction of the Hudson Bay Company.
The extraordinary discoveries of gold in British Columbia,
must soon lead to the adoption of some form of government
for the people inhabiting the valley of the Saskatchewan, as
well as to the opening of a direct line of communication
across the continent through British Territory. Such a communication does in fact exist, but it is only capable of being
used during the summer months, and at the best affords but a
tedious and expensive mode of travelling through the wilderness which separates Lake Superior from Red River. The
expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money, when the
great object in view is taken into consideration, would enable
the communication to be made with ease and expedition, and
the works would be a necessary preliminary to a general route
capable of being used throughout the year.
\ 45
At present this communication is only available during tHe
season of navigation, but there are many important facts
which are daily coming to light respecting the north shores of
Lakes Huron and Superior, and many developments taking
place which will render the winter eommuaacafcions through
these apparently inhospitable wastes a commercial necessity,
before many years have passed away.
There are three eanoe routes which have been surveyed
between Lake Superior and Rainy Lake. The fia?st is the
old Nor-West Company's route, via Pigeon River, and the
boundary line between the United States and Canada, The
SeeDnd is the Kaministiquia roiete, via the Savanne Portage,
Milles Lacs and Sturgeon Lake, followed by the Hudson's
Bay Company. The third is- the one surveyed by Mr. Simon
Dawson, via Dog Lake, the Savaftne Postage, Milles Lacs,
and the River Seine to Rainy Lake.
In view of a permanent communication across the continent, to be constructed entirely through British territory, the
Pigeon River route is open to the objection, that it lies on
the boundary line, an objection which at the juncture will be
considered insuperable. The Seine route is shorter and no
doubt superior to that by Sturgeon Lake, it also possesses the
great advantage that it is not only removed some distance
from the boundary line, but it lies in the direction of a land
communication north of the deep indents of Rainy Lake,
which will be ultimately adopted, if a land route, entirely
through British territory, available at all seasons of the year,
should be constructed.
The idea of a land communication between Canada and Red 46
River, passing altogether through Canadian territory, is far
from being so visionary as it is the fashion to represent; as
before stated, events of singular importance are fast hastening
the establishment of the route. The north shore of Lake
Huron is attracting settlers, the north shore of Lake Superior
is known to possess immense mineral wealth, and there is
every probability that in view of the national importance of
a route across the continent, in consequence of the amazing
gold wealth of British Columbia, the auriferous character of
the Eastern Slope of the Rocky Mountains, and the remarkable fertility of forty million acres in the valley of the
Saskatchewan, a British American Overland Route, open
throughout the year, will be an established fact within the next
ten years. This route will not necessarily approach, except in
certain points 'the north shores of Lakes Huron and Superior,
and it will ultimately turn to the north of the deep indents
of Rainy Lake, cross tbe Winnipeg at or near Rat Portage,
and not approach the boundary line within thirty miles.
Some portion of the summer canoe route, via the River
Seine, will probably form part of this great line of communication, and I shall therefore introduce an abstract of Mr.
Simon Dawson's suggestions in a brief description of the
Canoe Routes to Red River.
The Hudson Bay Company's route, via the Fort William
and the Kamministiquia, has been so fully described in the
reports of the Canadian Red River expedition that a detailed
notice is here unnecessary. Since 1857, various improve-
mens have been made on the line of communication proposed
led the route, and practised canoe men are indispensable in 47
by Mr. Dawson as far as the Savanne Portage, which render
it the most desirable route to be pursued. A guide, however,
would be absolutely necessary for any party wishing to travel
with expedition, as the beginning of the different portages are
by no means easily discovered by those who have not travel-
many of the rapids, the alternative involving a portage round
them, which would greatly increase the time occupied in making the voyage. Assuming that canoes, guides, and good
canoe men could be procured without delay at Fort William,
according to the number of the party, the question of provisions is the most serious item. There would be small chance
of any supplies being obtained on the route, and the exertion
required induces extraordinary appetites, which must to a
certain 'extent be satisfied or the severe labour involved can
not be long endured. A pound and a half of potk and a
pound of flour per man per diem, with a plentiful supply of
tea is the least which would be required. A north canoe can
accommodate nine persons, and the voyage would take twenty
days by the Winnipeg, and 450 lbs. of provisions would be
required as the minimum it would be safe to embark with.
Smaller canoes carrying four or six persons are more convenient than north canoes, but there would be always a difficulty
in the present state of afflairs in procuring canoes and men
for a large party, without steps were taken some weeks in
advance of the opening of navigation.
Mr. Dawson's plan, it will be seen, contemplated a complete
organization of boats, waggons and steamers, besides the
darning of rivers, the opening of roads, and the establishment
of provision stores on the line of route. ft
By opening the communication in the way proposed by
Mr. Dawson, the total distance from Lake Superior to Red
River Settlement, by land and water, would be as follows:
Land carriage,   Navteable
miles. miles.
From Thunder Bay to Dog Lake     28
Through Dog Lake and River to the Prairie Portage. 35
Land road past Prairie and Savanne Portages to Sa-
vanne River       5
Through Savanne River, Lac des Mille Lacs and the
River Seine to the Little Falls  65
Broken navigation on River Seine  5&i
Land carriage past the twelve portages on River Seine     7
From the Seine to the western extremity of Lac Plat,
navigable with only one break at Fort Francis .... §08
Thence to Fort Garry by land     91$
Total  131i 367*
"Waggons or carts would be required on the road between Thunder
Bay and Dog Lake.
" On Dog Lake and River, boats such as are used by the Hudson's
Bay Company, or even a steamer might be employed.
"At the Prairie Portage, carts or waggons would be necessary.
" On the Savanne River, Lac des .Mille Lacs, and the River Seine as far
as the Little Falls, after a dam was constructed at the last mentioned
place, there would be an unbroken reach of 65 miles, and on this section
it would be advantageous to have a small steamer.
" On the 5&J- miles of broken navigation, on the River Seine, between
the Little Falls and the Twelve Portages, boats should be used, while at
the land road past the twelve portages, carts or waggons, as on the other
sections of road, would be necessary.
" From the River Seine to Fort EVances a steamer would have a clear
run of fifty miles.
" From Fort Frances to Lac Plat, steamers would have an uninterrupted run of 158 miles.
From the latter place to Fort Garry no provision would have to be
made, as the means of transport are to be had in abundance at the Red
River Settlement"*
* For full particulars respecting the various routes from Lake Superior to
Red River, see the "Reports of the Red River Expedition for 1857 and 1868. 49
In the present state of affairs it is not advisable for any
party desirous of crossing the continent to the gold fields of
British Columbia, to attempt the Canoe Route. The road by
St. Paul is more expeditious, less expensive, and would.admit
of the necessary supplies being procured without loss of time,
and far cheaper than they could be conveyed in canoes or
obtained at Red River Settlement.
The region north of Lakes Huron and Superior has hitherto been the great bugbear in the way of a land route across
British America. Several important changes have taken
place during the last few years in the government arrangements for the exploration and colonization of this vast area
of country, which will ultimately lead to the establishment of
a great inland line of communication, following in the first instance the Colonization Roads stretching from the settled parts
of Canada towards Lake Nipissing, and thence to Sault St.
Marie. In order to afford greater facilities for those who are
disposed to take advantage of the vast mineral wealth of the
North Shores, the government, by an order in Council, dated
March 15,1860, adopted the following important Regulations :
" That for mining purposes, tracts comprising not more than
also the " Reports of the Assinniboine and Saskatchewan Expedition," and
"A Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857, and
of the Assinniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858," by the
Author.    Longman & Co: London, 1860. 50
four hundred acres each be granted to parties applying for
the same, at the rate of one dollar per acre, to be paid in full
on the sale, the applicant furnishing a plan and description
of the locality to the Crown Lands Department, and on condition that such mineral location be worked within one year
from the date of the grant.
I The patent to issue two years from date of sale; the fee
for permission to explore is abolished, and the locations are to
be sold to the first applicant agreeing to the conditions.
These regulations do not apply to 'mines of gold or silver.' '
It is also proposed to block out into Townships the whole
of the mining region on Lakes Huron and Superior, opening
well the exterior lines of the townships. The facilities for
exploration will no doubt induce great additional efforts to de-
velope the mineral wealth of that country, and the opening of
a road at the rear of the townships will be the commencement of a great line of communication connecting the whole
of the north shores of these inland seas with the Colonization Roads between the Ottawa and Lake Huron. A
surveying party has already been for more than a year engaged in exploring and surveying the shores of Lake Superior and the country in the rear, to the depth of about twenty
five miles. The Colonization Roads are rapidly penetrating
the wilderness, and one of them, the Babcaygeon Road, al-
ready extends to Lake Nipissing, and the tract through
which it passes is found to contain much good land fit for
settlement. The great Northern Road, extending from Gou-
lais' Bay, easterly, to Spanish River, is already located and
part of it constructed.    The completion will provide a means 51
for both winter and summer communication by land between
the eastern portions of Canada and the rapidly advancing
settlements around the Sault St. Marie. The price of lands
within the limits of the territory of the Free Port at Sault
St. Marie, has been reduced to 20 cents an acre, a step which
will probably induce a large influx of emigrants adapted to
the industry of mines, forests, and fisheries.
The difference between the American side of Superior and
the north or Canadian side, is remarkably shown in the following tables, although the opinion is general among " prospectors" that the mineral wealth on the north side is very
great, and the geological survey, which was confined to the
coast and principal rivers, indicates an extensive metaliferous
In the Spring of 1860 the white population on the north
shore of Lake Superior, exclusive of the Hudson Bay's Company's Posts, was nine; at the same time that of the American side was 19,695. The Canadian vessels engaged in trade
were two steamers and two schooners. On the American
side there were six side-wheel steamers, ten propellers, one
small steamer between Superior City and Bayfield, nine
steamers and steam ferry boats on Portage Lake, four steam
tugs between White Fish Pond and Detour Channel, upwards
of one hundred first-class schooners, and two revenue cutters.
The trade through the Sault Ste. Marie Canal amounted in
1859 to—
Exports from Lake Superior $3,071,069
Imports, &c  5,228,640
Passengers        11,543
to" 52
The American mines are not on the coast, the nearest being
2| miles distant, the greater number 12 to 14 miles from the
waters of th« lake. The " ancient mines of Lake Superior"
have been found on the north shore, at Mamanise and on the
I-sfend of St. Ignaee. On the American side, deep and narrow depressions, the remains of the works of the ancient miners are numerous, and vast numbers of native green-stone
hammers, from 5 pounds to 39 pounds in weight, are constantly dug up in these depressions, besides copper chisels,
sleepers of oak, charcoal, spear heads- and knives of copper.
On the Canadian shore of Lake Huron, the success of the
proprietors of the Wellington Mine is very encouraging. The
dividend for 1859 being ,£6,350, the capital invested ,£20,000.
The new regulations established by the Canadian government
in relation to mining locations throughout this extensive region,
is already attracting the attention of Americans, and a rapid
settlement of several very promising locations is more than
probable. During the season of navigation the facilities for
reaching any port of Lake Superior by steamer are such that
a vessel from Liverpool, of a capacity fitted to go through
the locks of the Welland Canal may discharge her cargo at
Fort William or any port on this vast inland sea without
breaking bulk. Hence, for a summer communication, say
from May to November, the starting point of the Overland
Route would be Fort William or some other port on Lake
The next step in the overland communication through British America, is from Lake Superior to the Settlements on
Red River.    The water parting.is not more than S90 feet 53
above Lake Superior, and the country is thickly wooded with
valuable trees, as far as the Lake of the Woods. There does
not exist any difficulty in the construction of a road between
Thunder Bay and the most easterly indent of Rainy Lake, a
distance of 200 miles. Between Rainy Lake and the northwest angle of the Lake of the Woods the country in the rear
of Rainy River, a distance of 120 miles, is unexplored, and
its facilities for a direct land communication unknown. From
the north-west corner to Fort Garry, 90 miles, is a level
country which has already been travelled with horses, although
the swamps near Lac Plat are formidable. The third step is
the valley of the Saskatchewan, which even in its present
state is constantly traversed with horses and carts from Red
River to the Rocky Mountains, and contains not less than
forty million acres of excellent agricultural soil, which form
a vast Fertile Belt from the Lake of the Woods to the
Rocky Mountains.
The basin of Lake Winnipeg extends over twenty-eight
degrees of longitude and ten degrees of latitude. The eleva-
tion of its eastern boundary at the Prairie Portage, 104 miles
west of Lake Superior, is 1,480 feet above the sea, and the
height of land at the Vermillion Pass is less than 5,000 feet
above the same level. The mean length of this great inland
basin is about 920 English miles, and its mean breadth 380
miles, hence its area is approximately 360,000 square miles,
or a little more than that of Canada. 54
Lake Winnipeg, at an altitude of 628 feet above the sea,
occupies the lowest depression of this great inland basin,
covering with its associated Lakes Manitobah, Winnepego-
sis, Dauphin, and St. Martin, an area slightly exceeding
13,000 square miles, or nearly half as much of the earth's
surface as is occupied by Ireland.
The outlet of Lake Winnepeg is through the contracted
and rocky channel of Nelson River, which flows into Hudson's Bay.
The country possessing a mean elevation of one hundred
feet above lake Winnipeg is very closely represented by the
outline of Pembina Mountain, forming part of the eastern
limit of the Cretaceous Series in the north-west of America.
The area occupied by this low country, which includes a
large part of the.valley of Red River, the Assiniboine, and
the main Saskatchewan, may be estimated at 70,000 square.-
miles, of which nine-tenths are lakes, marsh, or surface rock
of Silurian or Devonian age, and generally so thinly covered
with soil as to be unfit for cultivation, except in small isolated
Succeeding this low region there are the narrow terraces of
the Pembina Mountain, which rise in abrupt steps, except in
the valleys of the Assiniboine, Valley River, Swan River,
and Red Deer's River, to the level of a higher plateau, whose
eastern limit is formed by the precipitous escarpments
of the Riding, Duck, and Porcupine Mountains, with the detached outliers, Turtle, Thunder, and Pasquia Mountains.
This is the great Prairie Plateau of Rupert's Land; it is 55
bounded towards the south-west and west, by the Grand
Coteau de Missouri and the extension of the table land between the two branches of the Saskatchewan, which forms
the eastern limits of the Plains of the north-west. The
area of the Prairie Plateau, in the basin of Lake Winnipeg,
is about 120,000 square miles ; it possesses a mean elevation
of 1.100 feet above the sea.
The plains rise gently as the Rocky Mountains are approached, and at their western limit have an altitude of 4000
feet above the sea level. With only a very narrow belt of
intervening country, the mountains rise abruptly from the
plains, and present lofty precipices that frown like battlements over the level country to the eastward.* The average
altitude of the highest part of the Rocky Mountains is 12,000
(about lat. 51°) feet. The forest extends to the altitude of
7000 feet, or 200) feet above the lowest pass.
The "Fertile Belt" of arable soil, partly the form of
rich, open prairie, partly covered with groves of aspen, which
stretches from the Lake of the Woods to the foot of the Rocky
Mountains, and is coloured yellow on the accompanying map,
averages 80 to 100 miles in breadth. The North Saskatchewan flows through the Fertile Belt, in a valley varying from
one-fourth of a mile to one mile in breadth, and excavated
to the depth of 200 to 300 feet below the level of the prairie
or plains, until it reaches the low country some miles east of
Fort a la Corne. The area of this extraordinary belt of rich
soil and pasturage is about forty millions acres.    It was for-
* Dr. James Hector on the Physical features of the central part of British
North America.   Edin. Nat Phil Journal 56
merly a wooded country, but by successive fires it has been
partially cleared of its forest growth, but abounds with the
most luxuriant herbage and generally possesses a deep and
rich soil of vegetable mould.- | This region in winter is not
more severe than that experienced in Canada, and in the western districts, which are removed from the influence of the
Great Lakes, the spring commences about a month earlier
than on the shores of Lake Superior, which is five degrees of
latitude further to tae south. * * * * The depth of
snow is never excessive, while in the richest tracts the natural pasture is so abundant, that horses and cattle may be left
to obtain their own food during the greater part of the winter."*
The Fertile Belt of the Saskatchewan Valley does not
derive ics importance from the bare fact that it contains
64,000 square miles of country available for agricultural
purposes in one continuous strip 800 miles long and on an
average 80 broad, stretching across the continent; it is rather
by contrast with an immense sub-arctic area to the north and
desert area to the south that this favoured "Edge of the
Woods" country acquires political and commercial importance.
A broad agricultural region, capable of sustaining many millions of people and abundantly supplied with iron ore and an
inferior variety of coal, and spanning the eight hundred miles
which separate Lake Winnipeg from the Rocky Mountains^
more than compensates for the rocky character of the timbered
desert between the Lake of the Woods and Lake Superior.
* Dr. James Hector on the Capabilities for Settlement of the Central part
of British North America. 1
Capt. Palliser thus describes the Fertile Belt:—"It is now a
partially wooded country, abounding in lakes and rich natural pasturage, in some parts rivalling the finest park scenery
of our own country. Throughout this region of country the
climate seems to preserve the same character, although it
passes through very different latitudes, its form being doubtless determined by the curves of the isothermal line. Its
superficial extent embraces about 65,000 square miles, of
which more than one-third might be considered as at once
available for the purposes of the agriculturist." The " Great
American Desert," which stretches from the south branch of
the Saskatchewan to the Gulf of Mexico, is altogether uncul-
tivable not only from aridity of climate but from sterility of
The physical geography of the arid region in the United
States has been rvery admirably described by Dr. Joseph
* Meteorology in its connection with Agriculture, by Professor Joseph
Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.
" The general character of the soil between the Mississippi River and the
Atlantic is that of great fertility, and as a whole, in its natural condition,
with some exceptions at the west, is well supplied with timber. The portion
also on the western, side of the Mississippi, as far as the 98th meridian, including the States of Texas, Loisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota,
and portions of the territory of Kansas and Nebraska, are fertile, though
abounding in prairies, and subject occasionally to droughts. But the whole
space to the west, between the 98th meridian and the Rocky Mountains, denominated the Great American Plains, is a barren waste, over which the eye
may roam to the extent of the visible horizon with scarcely an object to
break the monotony.
" "From the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, with the exception of the rich
but narrow belt along the ocean, the country may also be considered, in comparison with other portions of the United States, a wilderness unfitted for
the uses of the husbandman; although in some of the mountain valleys, as at
D 58
Major Emery, of the United States and Mexico Boundary
Commission, says :—
" The term 'plains' is applied to the extensive inclined surface reaching from the base of the Rocky Mountains to the shores of the Gulf of
Mexico and the valley of the Mississippi, and from a feature in the geography of the western country as notable as any other. Except on the
borders of the streams which traverse the plains in their course to the
valley of the Mississippi, scarcely anything exists deserving the name of
vegetation. The soil is composed of disintegrated rocks, covered by a
loam an inch or two in thickness, which is composed of the exuviae of
animals and decayed vegetable matter.
" The growth on them is principally a short but nutritious grass,
called buffalo grass (Sysleria dyctaloides). A narrow strip of alluvial
soil, supporting a coarse grass and a few cotton-wood trees, marks the
line of the water-courses, which are themselves sufficiently few and far
" Whatever may be said to the contrary, these plains west of the
100th meridian are wholly unsusceptible of sustaining an agricultural
population, until you reach sufficiently far south to encounter the rains
from the tropics."
Salt Lake, by means of irrigation, a precarious supply of food may be obtained sufficient to sustain a considerable population, provided they can be
induced to submit to privations from which American citizens generally
would shrink. The portions of the mountain system further south are
equally inhospitable, though they have been represented to be of a different
character. In traversing this region, whole days are frequently passed without meeting a rivulet or spring of water to slake the thirst of the weary
" We have stated that the entire region west of the 98th degree of west
longitude, with the exception of a small portion of western Texas and the
narrow border along the Pacific, is a country of comparatively little value to
the agriculturist; and, perhaps, it will astonish the reader if we direct his at
tention to the fact that this line, which passes southward from Lake Winnepeg to the Gulf of Mexico, will divide the. whole surface of the United States
into two nearly equal parts. This statement, when fully appreciated, will
serve to dissipate some dreams which have been considered as realities as to
the destiny of the western part of the North American continent. Truth,
however, transcends, even the laudable feelings of pride of country; and, in
order properly to direct the policy of this great confederacy, it is necessary
to be well acquainted with the theatre on which its future history is to be enacted and by whose character it will mainly be shaped." 59
The opinion of Mons. Bourgeau, who was appointed by Sir
William Hooker to accompany Capt. Palliser's expedition as
Botanist, is of the highest value: it assigns to the prairies of
the Saskatchewan their proper agricultural position without
reference to political advantages or the all absorbing gold region of British Columbia.
" I submit the following remarks on the advantages for
agricultural settlement in Rupert's Land and the Saskatchewan prairies of British North America, having been appointed
by Sir William Hooker to accompany Captain Palliser's Expedition as botanist.
".I had especially to collect the plants that grew naturally
in the country traversed by the Expedition, and also their
seeds. Besides my botanical collection, Dr. Hooker advised
me to make thermometrical observations at the various stations, and, above all things, to take the temperature of the
earth at certain depths, as well as that of the interior of forest
trees ; also to notice the richness and poverty of the vegetation of the country, and the maladies to which plants are
exposed. In the second letter and notes addressed to Sir
William Hooker, which have already been published,* I have
treated these questions with all the care that was permitted
to me by observations taken in the midst of the harassment
and fatigue of a long journey, but it remains for me to call
attention to the advantages there would be in establishing
agricultural settlements in the vast plains of Rupert's Land,
* Lin. <8oc. Proceedings.    1859, HO
and particularly on the Saskatchewan in the neighbourhood
of Fort Carlton.    This district is much more adapted to the
culture of staple crops of temperate climates—such as wheat,
rye, barley, oats, &c.—than one would have been inclined to
believe from its high latitude.    In effect, the few attempts at
the culture of cereals already made in the vicinity of the
Hudson's Bay Company's trading posts, demonstrate by their
success how easy it would be to obtain products sufficiently
abundant largely to remunerate the efforts of the agriculturist.
There, in order to put the land under cultivation, it would be
necessary only to till the better portions of the soil.    The
prairies offer natural pasturage as favourable for the maintenance of numerous  herds   as  if they had  been  artificially
created.    The construction of houses for habitations by the
pioneers in the development of the country would be easy,
because in many parts of the country, independent of wood,
one would find fitting stone3 for building purposes; and in
others it would be easy to find clay for bricks, more particularly near Battle River.    The other parts most favourable for
culture would be in the neighbourhood of Fort Edmonton, and
also along the south side of the North Saskatchewan.    In the
latter district extend rich and vast prairies, interspersed with
woods and forests, and where thick wood plants furnish excellent pasturage for domestic animals.   The vetches found here,
of which the principal are Vicia, LTedysarum, Lathyrus, and
Astrag ilus, are as fitting for the nourishment of cattle as the
clover of European pasturage.    The abundance of buffalo,
and the facility with which the herds of horses and oxen increase,- demonstrate that it would be enough to shelter animals 61
in winter, and to feed them in the shelters with hay collected
in advance, in order to avoid the mortality that would result
from cold and from the attacks of wild beasts, and further to
permit the acclimatising of other domestic farmyard animals,
such as the sheep and pig. The harvest could in general be
commenced by the end of August, or the first week in September, which is a season when the temperature continues
sufficiently high and rain is rare. In the gardens of the Hudson's Bay Company's Posts, and still more in those of the
different Missions, vegetables of the leguminous family, such
as beans, peas, and French beans, have been successfully cultivated ; also potatoes, cabbages, turnips, carrots, rhubarb,
and currants. No fruit tree has as yet been introduced; but
one might perhaps, under favorable circumstances, try nut-
trees, also apple-trees belonging to varieties that ripen early.
Different species of gooseberries, with edible fruits, grow wild
here; also different kinds of Vacciniacse are equally indigenous, and have pleasant fruits that will serve for the preparation of preserves and confectionary. The Aronia ovalis
(Amelanckier canadensis must be meant) is very common in
this country ; and its fruit, commonly known as the Poire, or
service-berry, is dried and eaten by the Indians, who collect
it "with great care ; and it also serves for the purpose of making excellent pudding, recalling the taste of dried currants.
The only difficulty that would oppose agricultural settlements
is the immense distance to traverse over countries devoid of
roads, and almost uninhabited. The assistance of government
or of a well-organised company, would be indispensable to the
colonization of this country.    It would be important that 62
settlements should be established in groups of at least fifty
householders, for protection against the incursions of the Indians, who are, however, far from being hostile to Europeans.
It stands to reason, that the colonists ought to be taken from
the north of Europe or from- mountain districts, being those
accustomed to the climatological conditions and culture of the
soil most resembling this interesting country, to the resources
of which I call attention. The produce of agricultural settlements thus established would yield subsistence to the Indians,
whose resources for food, supplied only by hunting,, tend to
diminish every day. The presence of European settlers would
form a useful model for this primitive people; who, notwithstanding their native apathy, still appreciate the benefits of
(Signed) | E. Bourgeau."
Dr. Hector says of the Fertile Belt:—
" The most valuable feature of this belt of country,which also stretches
from Touchwood Hills, Carlton, and Fort Pitt south of Fort Edmonton
to the old Bow Fort at the Rocky Mountains, is the immense extent it
affords of what I shall term winter pasturage.
" This winter pasturage consists of tracts of country partially wooded
with poplar and willow clumps and bearing a most luxuriant growth of
vetches and luxuriant grasses. The clumps of wood afford shelter to
animals, while the scrubby brush keeps the snow in such a loose state
that they find no difficulty in feeding; the large tracts of swampy
country, when frozen, also form admirable feeding grounds; and it is
only towards spring, in very severe winters, that cattle and horses cannot be left to feed in-well chosen localities throughout this region of
" The proportion of arable land is also very considerable, and even
late in autumn, which is the driest period of the year, and when the
Saskatchewan for some weeks is fordable at Edmonton, there seems to
be no want of water in the form of small- streams and lakes. In spring
[ found the snow deeper in the neighbourhood of Fort Pitt than at
Edmonton." 1
Very incorrect ideas have been formed respecting the fitness of the prairies of the Fertile Belt for the immediate
construction of a railway, as merely involving the laving of
rails and the bridging of rivers. The really level prairies
cease after passing Prairie Portage on the Assiniboine, 90
miles from Fort Garry. The country then becomes undulating and often intersected by deep gullies or ravines, forming
the narrow valleys in which rivers and brooks flow from
100 to 300 feet below the prairie level. These physical peculiarities present formidable obstacles in a pecuniary point of
view to the construction of a railroad where timber for constructive purposes is scarce, and building material of any description not easily accessible west of the great lakes.
A post road as a preliminary to a railway could be established without difficulty or considerable expense. Indeed
there are only two or three points which would require more
than the labour of a few men between Red River and Carlton. But it would be necessary to have a ferry on some of
the rivers, and particularly on the Qu'Appelle, and one on the
South Branch of the Saskatchewan.
It would not be doing justice to the noble river which drains
the Fertile Belt if no allusion were made to its fitness for
steam navigation. This has been generally assumed to be the
case, but without sufficient grounds.
It is sometimes recommended by persons who have not experienced the difficulties of the router that Lake Winnipeg and
the Saskatchewan afford an easy means of traversing a large 64
part of the country between Red River and the Rocky Mountains. There can be no doubt whatever that if a party were
coming prom British Columbia to Canada the South
Branch op the Saskatchewan, the QuAppelle, and
the Assiniboine would opper a most desirable and
PACILE route, but going west against the current, the journey is tedious, harrassing, and fatiguing. The boats which
long experience has proved to be the best adapted for the navigation of the rivers of the North-west, are very strongly built,
but they are subjected to severe strains and much rough usage
in crossing the portages. A boat for the voyage through
Lake Winnipeg and up the North or South Branch of the
Saskatchewan, need not be nearly so heavy as the Hudson
Bay Company's barges, and if provided with a slip keel, great
progress might frequently be made by sailing in the lake and
up many reaches of the Saskatchewan. With the present
kind of boat in use the whole ascent of this great and rapid
river involves much labour and fatigue. The current is so
swift, as its name implies, that the voyageurs are compelled to
track wherever there is footing on the banks. The same objection holds good with regard to the South Branch, the current is very swift, from 2| to 6 miles an hour, so that the
ascent of either branch in boats or canoes, without the aid of
steam power, is pot to be recommended to any party desirous
of reaching the Rocky Mountains in one season. The obstacles which are encountered in the way of rapids, portages,
shallows and mud banks, will now be described in considering
the capabilities pT the Saskatchewan for steamboat communication.
1 65
From one of the mouths of lied River, where there is 18
feet of water in the channel, and from 4 to 6 feet on the bar,
there is no obstacle to a continuous navigation for a steamer
as far as the Grand Rapids at the mouth of the Saskatchewan.
A steamer drawing when light 18 inches of water might, it
is thought by many, be warped up the Grand Rapid with the
assistance of the power it could supply, but in all cases it
would be necessary, until a canal about three miles long, with
four locks of 12 feet lift were constructed, to have a tramway
round this formidable impediment.* There are two other rapids, four and five miles respectively, above the Grand Rapid.
The length of the first is one mile—it is a long and gradual
slope, with a fall of 7J feet, and a broad channel of deep
water in the middle. Loaded boats of 4 or 5 tons are tracked
up this without difficulty. The next rapid is 10 chains long,
with a fall of 2J feet. These rapids would not present any
difficulty to a steamer. All the impediments above the
Grand Rapids might be avoided by taking the route
through the little Saskatchewan and St. Martin's Lake to
Lake Manitobah, thence through Water-Hen River and Win-
nipegoosis Lake to the Mossy Portage,f which is four miles
in length.    Lake Winnipegoois is only four feet above Cedar
* The Grand Rapid, four miles from the mouth of the Saskatchewan, is 2
miles and 56 chains long. The total fall is 44 feet. The Hudson Bay Company's boats run this rapid with full cargo. In ascending they are tracked
from the foot of the rapid to the east end of the portage with half cargo, they
are then run back again empty, and again tracked up with the other half.
Fremthe east to the west end of the portage, boats are traced up vid the south
side of the rapid with a load of 1,300 lbs. The remainder of the load is
generally carried over the portage.
| For a description of this route see Mr. Dawson's Report for 1858. 66
Lake, through inlands. The Saskatchewan flows at this point
westward to Thobon's Eapids, 180 miles from Cedar Lake.
There is no impediment to a steamer drawing two feet water
beyond mud banks and shallows, which can always be avoided
by a good pilot.
Captain Blakiston, who went up the Saskatchewan in 1857
at a period of low water, states that Thobon's Rapid is certainly not navigable for a steamer in low water, and he doubts
whether it would be when the river is high, " but the difference caused by the state of the water in a rapid is so great
that it is hardly safe to give an opinion." It will be borne
in mind that powerful steamers can be constructed to draw,
when loaded, no more than two feet of water, it is therefore
very probable that this rapid would not present any serious
impediment even at low water which might not be removed at
small expense, or avoided by the construction of a wing.
From Thobon's Rapids to the Grand Forks there is no
impediment whatever which a good pilot might not avoid.
The " Coal Falls," on the North Branch, are formidable, and
would require to be cleared of some immense boulders which
obstruct the passage. The current is from 5 to 7 miles an
hour, and the channel in its present condition very intricate,
and in low water probably unnavigable. Captain Blakiston
expresses his opinion respecting the navigation of the Saskatchewan above the Coal Falls in the following terms.
" From the head of these rapids the bed of the river is
filled with batteurs or sand bars as far as the mouth of Vermillion Creek, about 25 miles above Fort Pitt, after which the
bottom is usually of a strong nature, which continues to Fort 67
Edmonton, some distance below which there are small rapids
and shoal places in the fall of the year. Of the distance to
which a steamer would ascend in high water I can give no
positive information, but I should suppose that one adapted
for that kind of navigation might possibly reach Fort Edmonton, but in low water little could be accomplished in most
The South Branch, about 150 miles from its junction with
the North Branch, is much obstructed with shoals and sand
bars, but in descending it from the Elbow in August, 1858, I
found then no impediments which would obstruct the passage
of a steamer of shallow draft. The same remark may in all
probability be applied to this branch as far as the mouth of
Red Deer River.
When travelling from the Rocky Mountains to Red River
the North and South Branches of the Saskatchewan will be
most advantageously used. A boat or canoe can drift down
these swift currents at the rate of 50 or 60 miles during a
long summer dav, and the voyage from the Old Bow Fort
might be made with great rapidity and ease down Bow River
and the South Saskatchewan to the Elbow or mouth of the
I River that Turns." A portage of twelve miles involving an
ascent of 80 feet would then have to be made to the sources
of the Qu'Appelle, down which stream the traveller can float
to the Assiniboine at Fort Ellice, and thence to the Red
River Settlements. Indians and Half-breeds not unfrequent-
ly make long journeys down the South Branch in canoes made
from buffalo hides, which are called " Bull-boats." I have no
doubt that the distance between Old Bow Fort and Fort Garry, 68
about 900 miles, might be accomplished in 20 days in a small
canoe or skiff, via the South Branch, Qu'Appelle, and Assiniboine, except during a very dry season.
The Rocky Mountains rise suddenly from the great prairie
plains of the Saskatchewan Valley. These sometimes present
cliffs 2,000 to 3,000 feet in height. They are formed of
broken folds or plications of strata, and are disposed in parallel groups, the great valleys in the length of the chain
occupying fractures or huge cracks in the summit of the folds.
These wide valleys are more or less connected by deep narrow
defiles, so that the river flowing through the valley either north
or south makes short breaks through the connecting defiles to
the east or west, and the courses of the rivers in the mountains are consequently zig-zag. Proceeding westward from
Bow Fort the first range of mountains is composed of carboniferous strata, so also is the second range, the valley
between them beiug occupied by mesozoic strata. The valley
between the second and third range shows rocks of Devonian
age, while the central range consists of quatzites and conglomerates, probably Silurian, which rests on Talcose Slates
with Quartz veins. The occurrence of quartz veins is
important, as will be shown hereafter.    In crossing the moun-
* The reader is referred to No. 68 of the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society for a description of the geology of the Rocky Mountains in British
America, by Dr. Hector. The sketch in the text is a summary of part of Dr.
Hector's paper. 69
tains from Bow River the traveller passes successively over
the upturned edges of the great fossiliferous central basin of
North America, and the rocks occur in correct sequence from
the first range to the central.
The section along the North Saskatchewan within the
mountains shows the following sequence of rocks :—
1. Brazeau Range, Mesozoic strata resting on Carboniferous.
2. Sheep River, " " " "
3. First range of mountains, Carboniferous, much folded, and followed
by Devonian rocks on west flank.
4. Valley, Mesozoic strata.
5. Second range, Carboniferous resting on Devonian, and the Devonian
on Silurian. (?)
Section on the west slope of the mountains,
1. Height of land, Carboniferous strata.
2. Blueberry Pass, Carboniferous resting on Silurian. (?)
3. Columbia Valley, east side, Carboniferous resting on highly tilted
4. West side of Columbia Valley, Schists.
5. Kootanie Mountains, Schists.
6. Paddler Lakes, Granite.
The carboniferous rocks consist of thick bedded limestones
of a dark and light blue colour, crystalline, compact, or
cherty. They are associated with beds of gritty, sandy shale
generally of a dull red or purple colour.
In the valley of Vermillion River, and also of Blueberry
River, talcose shales occur, forming the floor of the valley.
The Columbia Valley, known to be auriferous, is excavated in
these shales.
At the distance of 90 miles from the Rocky Mountains the
valleys of the river flowing to the east commence to exhibit 70
terraces composed of rounded fragments of quartzite and
limestone, such as would form the rounded shingle on a rocky
shore. On approaching the mountains the terrace deposits
spread out, and at last cover the whole country along the base
of the mountains, filling up the hollows and valleys to the
depth of several hundred feet.
In the. mountains the terraces on the North Saskatchewan
are remarkably developed, so also on Bow River -and on the
Athabasca River. If the drift of this valley should prove to
be auriferous, as is stated, the base of the Sand-Dunes might
be prospected for fine gold with favourable chances of success.
The terraces on the western slope are very important. It
is from these great natural auriferous deposits that the precious metal will be procured in the greatest abundance at the
commencement of mining operations in the country. They
occur in the lower part of the Vermillion River, where they
are formed of the same glistening white calcareous mud, that
is found in the valley of the North Saskatchewan.
In the wide valleys of the Kootanie and the Columbia rivers these terraces are best developed on the Rocky Mountains.
The examination of the base of these terraces, and in
localities similar to those indicated on the next page, should be
prosecuted carefully in search for the precious metal. The
importance of the terraces as Gold fields may be inferred
from the following extract from Dr. Hector's paper :—
"Terraces in California.—Before leaving these shingle-deposits,
which are so largely distributed throughout the mountain-valleys of
British North America, I may mention that in California I found these
terraces ranging on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, at least to
the height of 3,000 feet, and there they are extensively worked by the "\
hydraulic method for the sake of the gold they contain. At Nevada
City, and also on the Yuba River, I saw deposits of this shingle-conglomerate, 200 and 300 feet in thickness, actually being washed off from
the face of the country by this powerful means, which consists in delivering water under great pressure against the face of the cliff, from nozzles
like those of a fire engine. The supply of water for this purpose is in
the hands of companies separate from those that conduct the mining, as
it is often brought through tunnels and over high-level aqueducts from
remote and uninhabited regions. The particles of gold are disseminated
throughout the whole deposit, but the richest washings are from its base,
where a pink pipe-clay, technically known as "pay-dirt," rests on the
" bed-rock." The whole water, with the material washed out of the
cliff, is directed through long troughs called "flumes," M'hich are constructed of wood, like mill-leads, often continuously for six or seven
miles. The large stones are thrown out, as they pass, by men with
shovels, to save the wear on the bottom of the " flume," while the finer
material is carried on by the rush of water, and passes over frequent
cross bars called " ripples," where a little mercury is placed to entrap
the gold by amalgamation. At Nevada City, where the coating .of shingle
deposit has thus been cleared from the surface of the coarse-grained and
soft granite which underlies it, gigantic masses were exposed on what
had once been the rugged shore of an inlet, just as may be seen on a
waterworn coast of the same material at the present day. In California
fragments of wood are found throughout the shingle in abundance, often
carbonized, but in general silicified into a substance exactly resembling
asbestos. In the sand and conglomerate of the Kootanie Valley I found
fragments of wood of similar appearance.
" As my observations in California should not properly be introduced
in this paper, I shall leave them for another opportunity, the object of
my"having mentioned them being to point out the great similarity between
the superficial deposits of the great gold-country and those within the
British territory further north, which encourages me to assert that the
whole country up to the Kootanie River and the base of the Rocky
Mountains, wherever the ancient terraces prevail resting on Silurian or
metamorphic rocks, will be found to be auriferous. In my party in
1859 I had an expert " washer" who had been at the Californian mines,
and he frequently got "colour," as a faint trace of gold is termed, by
merely washing the gravel from the beds of the streams, without any
regular "prospecting" or "digging." The discovery of what are among
the richest " pan-diggings" on the Pacific coast in the Schimillcomeen
Valley, and the existence of gold-mines worked since 1855 on Clark's
Fork, half a mile north of the boundary-line where it meets the Columbian River, prove that the belt of auriferous country in California and 72
Oregon is continuous with that of Fraser River; and there is no reason
to doubt that in a short time the rugged and unexplored country which
forms a triangular region north of the boundary-line, and is drained by
the waters of the Upper Columbia and the Kootanie Rivers, will be overrun by prospectors, and then by active gold-miners, just as the western
part of British Columbia has been within the last few years."*
The country between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific
Ocean is rugged in the extreme. It forms a great trough,
bounded to the west by the Cascade range of mountains,
which closely hugs the Pacific coast. The Cascade range is
only rarely broken by valleys, and it stands like a huge
barrier wall 4,000 to 5,000 feet above the ocean. At intervals there occur great conical mountains, which rise to 10,000
or 12,000 feet, and from their isolation they present a very
grand appearance, f
The correspondent of the London Times, under date of
Nov. 29, 1861, gives the following information respecting the
Cariboo Gold Fields:—
"The portion of British Columbia which has yielded nearly all the
gold produced this year, and which is destined to attract the notice of
the world to a degree hitherto not accorded to the country in the aggregate, is a newly discovered district called Cariboo (a corruption of
4 Cerfbceuf,' a large species of reindeer which inhabits the country).
The district is about 500 miles in the interior, north (or north-east
* " I have just heard that some Americans have discovered that there is gold
deposited by the Saskatchewan at the Rocky Mountain House. If so, it must
he washed out of the shingle-terraces along lie eastern base of the mountains.
—August 1, 1861."—Dr. Hector.
f Dr. Hector " On the Geology of a portion of North America." Quar.
Jour. Geo. Soc 73
raither) from the coast of British Columbia and the mouth of Fraser
River. It is not far from the sources or ' head waters' of the south
branch of Fraser River and the Rocky Mountains, and forms a patch of
country—a broken, rugged mass of mountains and streams, 50 miles
from north to south, and 30 miles from east to west, as far as yet known
from recent exploration—round three sides of which the south branch
of the Fraser makes a great bend or semicircle from its source to its
junction with the north branch, near Fort George, a trading station of
the Hudson's Bay Company, in about lat. 53° 56/ N. For the sake of
accuracy, I should mention that this branch of the Fraser, although now
popularly called the south branch (and which the Hudson's Bay Company called the north branch from the northerly direction of the first
portion of its course), is really the main body of the river. Its sources
are at a distance of some 60 or 70 miles westwardly from the main chain
of the Rocky Mountains. The bend of the river, which embraces the
new mineral region within its curve, runs a course north west 180 miles
and then takes a south-west course of about 50 miles in length. This
large section of country is believed, from the appearances presented on
various parts of the surface, to be auriferous, both in quartz (gold matrix) and in placeres, throughout its whole extent; and the portions
hitherto ' prospected' (as the miners' phrase is for the search for, and
for the discovery of gold) are confined to the dimensions given above—
50 by 30 miles.
" Fraser River does not acquire its great velocity in this part of its
course, which runs through a comparatively level country until it enters
the regions of the Cascades and other mountains through which its
waters rush with an impetuosity which causes many obstructions to
navigation. Consequently the river is navigable to Fort Alexander, in
lat. 52° 37' north for steamers of light draught of water, say three to
four feet, up to Swift River, a distance of 45 miles, and which is within
40 miles of Antler, in Cariboo—a fact which will facilitate the traffic of
next year by shortening the land carriage of the present route. Cariboo
is in New Caledonia, as known in the division of districts west of the
Rocky Mountains, by the Hudson's Bay Company, when they held the
license of trade with the Indians in the country which now forms the
colony of British Columbia. I cannot state the geographical position of
Cariboo with accuracy, but the centre of that portion of the j&stfiofc
which was the scene of this season's mining may be taken as lying between the sources of Antler Creek, Swift {or Cottonwood) River, and
Swamp River, all of which flow and run in opposite directions, from a
chain of mountains called " The Bald Mountains," traversing the district.
This central point (by a correction of Arrowsmith's map) is in north
lat 53° 20', west long. 121° 40'." 74
" "We had from the first discovery of this gold district heard most
unfavourable reports of the severity of the winter season, which was
said to render the country uninhabitable. The matter was set at rest by
some Canadians who wintered in Cariboo last year. They found the
intensity of the cold so much less than in the Canadas, that they represented tbe climate as mild compared with that of their native country.
It is inhospitable from the altitude and the abundance of mountains, the
level land being about 3,000 feet and the mountains 5,000 feet more
above the level of the sea. The spring is wet, and the summer subject
to frequent rains. The snow falls in October; and, when the winter is
fairly set in, the weather continues cold, clear and dry. The mining
season continues from May to October at present: but when accommodations increase, and the miners begin to tunnel the banks and hills for
gold, as they will soon do, the winter will present no obstacles to continuous work, under cover of adits, during the whole season."
" A mining claim is a (parallelogram) piece of ground 100 feet wide,
running from bank to bank of a creek. The depth is indefinite, varying
of course with the width of the creek. Each miner is entitled to one
of these ' claims,' and there may be several miners associated together
to work a ' claim.' In case of such an association amounting to five
miners, the ' company' would be entitled to 500 feet of ground in width
and running from bank to bank. At first many miners ' took up' claims
in simulated names, and thus caused a monopoly—an evil which was
remedied by the Government Gold Commissioner when he visited the
country in the summer.
The miner of British Columbia pays but a very small tribute for permission to dig for gold wherever and whenever he pleases in the colony.
The mining license is only £ 1 sterling a year to foreigners and to British
Bubjects alike without any distinction or preference of any kind. And
this trifle is optional. It may be paid or not at pleasure. The payment
gives the miner the protection of the law in vindicating bis rights of
property to his mineral ground or claim; and this advantage naturally
operates as an inducement to take out the license, while it has at the
same time the effect of preserving order by rendering the ' wild justice'
"The cost of a miner in getting from Victoria to Cariboo would be
from £10 to £12. As to security of life, I consider it just as safe there
as in England. As to the mining prospects, they are clear as the sun at
noon.    Every able man who chooses to work will make money."
79 miners took out an aggregate of      $926,680
400      "      claim owners, took out        600,000
1,021      "      at $7 a day, in 107 days        764,729
Total yield (nearly all) from Cariboo  $2,291,409
1,500 miners who worked in other places for 180
days at $10 per diem $2,700,000
2,000 ditto at $5     1,800,000
5,000 miners—gross yield for 1861 $6,791,409
" This does not include the native Indians, as I have no means of
estimating their earnings. They are beginning to " dig," in imitation of
the white man, in some parts, and will eventually increase the yield of
gold, as the desire for wealth grows upon them."
>In July, 1859, Mr. William Downie made an exploration
of the Skeena River, Babine Lake, and Stewarts, a feeder of
Frazer River. The results are very important in view of a
direct route across the continent. The Skeena flows into
Port Essington, lat. 54° 15'.
The party, says Governor Douglas, of British Columbia,
commenced the ascent of the Skeena in a canoe, which they
managed to take on as far as the Forks, a, distance of 110
miles from the sea.    The river ceases to be navigable at that point, in consequence, it is supposed, of falls and dangerous
rapids; and they had to leave the canoe, and to travel 55
miles by land to the Indian village of "Naas Glee," a celebrated native fishing station, from whence the Skeena again
becomes navigable to its source in " Babine Lake," 15 miles
beyond " Naas Glee."
Babine Lake is a broad and extensive sheet of water, nearly
90 miles in length, with depth sufficient for vessels of the
largest class; and is separated by a low table-land 13 miles
in breadth from Stuart's Lake, a feeder of Fraser's River,
not quite so large as Babine Lake, but otherwise equally well
adapted for the purposes of navigation.
Mr. Downie made several important discoveries in course
of his adventurous journey. He found gold in small quantities on the Skeena River; and the mountains, which he had
not time to explore, appeared to be of the formation containing gold; he also saw very valuable and extensive beds of
coal. He moreover found gold on Stuart's Lake. He describes the country between the Forks and "Naas Glee"
as being well adapted for farming, and suitable for the construction of roads. The whole distance from Babine Lake to
the sea does not appear to exceed 180 miles, a great part of
which is accessible by water.
| The valley of the Skeena is thus shown to be an available
avenue into the interior of British Columbia, and will, I have
no doubt, soon become a most important outlet for the upper
districts of Fraser's River, which, from the course of the river
and the direction of the coast, are brought in close proximity
with the sea.
— 77
" As a means of supplying the distant mining districts of
British Columbia by a shorter and cheaper route than the
valley of Fraser's River, its importance will soon be appreciated and attract the attention of the mining and commercial
classes; and I believe that the day is not far distant when
steamers will be busily plying on the waters of the two great
inland lakes."*
Mr. Downie and his party suffered many privations, but in
the true spirit of an explorer, Mr. Downie says in his Report
to Governor Douglas,
" The only thing that supported us was the'grand idea of
the enterprise we were engaged in—that of being the first party
to explore the route from the Pacific to Fraser's River, which
will one day connect the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean."
Reader, glance for one moment at what the Hon. W. H,
Seward thought and wrote in 1857, after visiting Labrador
and parts of Canada, when in cool blood he mused over the
destinies of the country and its future relations to the States, f
The Hon. W. H. Seward is playing a great part now on this
continent; his opinion of the future of British America
is worth weighing. If you are a British subject it will en^
courage you in bright hopes for "Vigqubous, Perennial,
and ever-growing Canada," and for an Overland Route
to British Columbia.
* Papers relating to British Columbia.
f A cruise to Labrador,—Log of the schooner' Emerence—Correspondence
of the Albany Evening Journal, by the Hon. "W. H. Seward, now Secretary of
State, United States. 78
" No one is more truly a waiter on Providence than the traveller who
depends on sails to be filled by favouring breezes. Ten watches of the
day and night have passed since we left Anticosti, and yet we are only
seventy miles nearer our port. But we have had balmy summer skies
and a gentle summer sea, not a craft of any kind has darkened our hori"
zon. It is to us as if the human world beyond it was not. The sea
birds have circled our masts, crying for crumbs from our table, as it has
been bountifully spread a half dozen times on deck, either in the sunshine or in the shade of the canvass. The whale has blown his loudest
note on his bugle in distances so remote that the eye could not detect
him, though so well directed by the ear; and again he has rolled lazily
by the vessel's side, exposing his vast proportions, as if this most just
log of ours was not already filled with oily narratives of the hydraulic
exhibitions of his race.
" Then the nights. There has been no moon. But the stars have
spangled the sky from the zenith down to the water's edge—hundreds of
ambitious light-houses offering their services officiously to mariners who
lay becalmed, and, therefore could not lose their way. And the Aurora,
emulous, has made a dozen milky ways in all fantastic forms, and gilded
their verges with pink and gold borrowed from the richest sunsets. The
sea itself has been luminous, as the surface was broken by the prow,
and rolled off waves of phosphorescent light, so brilliant as to discover
the doings of the inhabitants who dwell in its dark chambers. And now
all this is passed. The east wind we have impatiently sighed for has
come at last, and it has brought as usual in its train fogs, clouds and
cold rains. But these are attended by their compensations. The Seven
Islands are passing behind us, and we are trying, not without hope, to
reach the Point de Monts, and leaving the Gulf to enter the channel of
the River before the third Sabbath of our voyage dawns upon us.
" Dreamy existence is this living at sea in the summer. Perhaps my
meditations on the political destinies of the region around me, may be
as unsubstantial. But I will nevertheless confess and avow them.
Hitherto, in common with most of my countrymen, as I suppose, I have
thought Canada, or to speak more accurately, British America, a mere 79
strip lying north of the United States, easily detachable from the Parent
State, but incapable of sustaining itself, and therefore ultimately, nay,
right soon, to be taken on by the Federal Union, without materially
changing or affecting its own condition or development. I have dropped
the opinion as a national conceit. I see in British North America,
stretching as it does across the continent, from the shores of Labrador
and Newfoundland to the Pacific, and occupying a considerable belt of
the Temperate Zone, traversed equally with the United States by the
Lakes, and enjoying the magnificent shores of the St. Lawrence, with
its thousands of Islands in the River and Gulf, a region grand enough
for the seat of a great empire. In its wheat fields in the West, its broad
ranges of the chase at the North, its inexhaustible lumber lands, the
most extensive now remaining on the globe—its invaluable fisheries, and
its yet undisturbed mineral deposits, I see the elements of wealth. I
find its inhabitants vigorous, hardy, energetic, perfected by the Protestant religion and British Constitutional Liberty. I find them jealous of
the United States and of Great Britain, as they ought to be; and therefore when I look at their resources, I know they cannot be conquered by
the former nor permanently held by the latter. They will be independent, as they are already self-maintaining. Having happily escaped the
curse of slavery, they will never submit themselves to the domination of
slaveholders, which prevails in, and determines the character of the United States. They will be a Russia behind the United States, which to
them will be France and England. But they will be a Russia civilized
and Protestant, and that will be a very different Russia from that which
fills all Southern Europe with terror, and by reason of that superiority,
they will be the more terrible to the dwellers in the southern latitudes.
" The policy of the United States is to perpetuate and secure the alliance of Canada while it is yet young and incurious of the future. But
on the other hand, the policy which the United States actually pursues
is the infatuated one of rejecting and spurning vigorous, perennial, am)
ever-growing Canada, while seeking to establish feeble States out of decaying Spanish Provinces on the coasts and in the Islands of the Gulf of
Mexico. c
" I shall not live to see it, but the man is already born who will see the
United States mourn over this stupendous folly, which is only preparing
the way for ultimate danger and downfall. All Southern political stars
must set, though many times they rise again with diminished splendour.
But those which illuminate the Pole remain forever shining, forever increasing in splendour." PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS
Engineer to the Northern Railway of Canada.
To Henry Yotjle Hind, Esq., Professor, &c, &c.
Dear Sir,—According to your request, I have much pleasure in
submitting the following observations on the construction of a highway, within British territory, from Canada to British Columbia.
Opening a communication for commerce between the western and
eastern shores of North America, through the great basins of the
St. Lawrence, the Saskatchewan, and the Columbia, has for nearly
two centuries been a dream of the enthusiast. So far back as 1679
Robert Cavalier de la Sale formed to himself the magnificent scheme
of opening a way to China and Japan through the Lake regions of
Canada; and curious enough, the rapids and village of Lachine,
near Montreal, took their names, either in honor or in derision of
La Sale's project, when he set out on his grand enterprise. About
fifty years later Charles Marquis de Beaubarnois, Governor of New
France, projected an attempt to cdmmunicate with the Pacific, and
in pursuance of which Pierre Gauthier de Varennes set out in 1731
and was the first to reach the Rocky Mountains.
Of late years the project has been brought prominently before the
public in England and in Canada by many writers, amongst others, 82
Lieut. Millington Henry Synge, R. E., in 1848; Major Robert
Carinichael-Srnyth, and a Mr. Wilson of the Hudson's Bay service,
in 1849; Allan Macdonell, Esq., in 1850, and Captain Thomas
Blakiston, R.A., in 1859. Each laid their views before the public,
and warmly advocated the importance of opening up the interior of
British North America by a highway from ocean to ocean.
In 1858 the Provincial Legislature of Canada incorporated a joint
stock company for the purpose of opening up the interior and trading therein. This body, entitled " The North-West Transportation
Navigation and Bailway Company," was granted most extensive
powers; besides trading in furs, tallow, buffalo meat, hides, fish-oil,
and other articles of commerce, the company was empowered to
improve and render navigable the various channels of water communication ; to construct links of roads, tramways, and railways,
between navigable lakes and rivers, so as to provide facilities for
transport from the shores of Lake Superior to Fraser's River. They
had likewise the right to own and employ vessels of all kinds " upon
Lakes Huron and Superior, and upon all the waters, lakes and rivers
lying to the northward and to the westward of the latter, thereby
offering to their energy and their enterprise a new and vast field for
commercial adventure." The directing board of this company was
the same year fully organized, it embraced some of the leading names
connected with Canada, but from some cause it has as yet made no
progress in the objects contemplated.
From the above brief sketch of the history of the project of
establishing a highway from Canada across the continent it appears
that it has from the earliest settlement of the country bordering on
the Atlantic, been considered a magnificent scheme for the extension
of commerce and civilization; the Palliser expedition across the
Rocky Mountains, the Assinniboine and Saskatchewan expedition,
show that it has very lately received the attention of the Imperial as 83
well as the Colonial Governments; the recent discovery of gold on
both slopes of the Rocky Mountains, gives it much additional interest,
and lastly, the difficulties between the United States and Imperial
Governments, for the present happily set aside, have not failed to
show its vast importance as an engine of military defence.
It seems likely then, that although the means of transport for
nearly 2,000 miles are as yet scarcely better than they were when
La Sale attempted to traverse the continent almost two centuries
ago, the time is rapidly approaching when a highway across the
continent will no longer, by any one be viewed as visionary.
Before proceeding to consider the construction of the work practically it will be necessary to discuss its character, and profitable to
view its magnitude.
The early French Projectors appear to have had the idea of opening a water communication to the Pacific through the lakes and
rivers of Canada and the interior. Nearly all the recent writers on
the subject have proposed in different ways to improve and render
navigable the natural lines of water communication. I am not aware
however, that any of the latter, by reason of their knowledge of the
great Rocky Mountain barrier, have contemplated a route wholly by
water; they have generally advocated a mixed system, employing
the water channels as far as possible, and connecting them by intermediate links of roads or of railways. On the other hand, Captain
Blackiston appears to be much in favor of a land route, for the present, at least from the north shore of Lake Superior to Red River,
by the north end of Lake of the Woods, at some distance inland
from the international boundary line; and Major Carmichael-Smyth
in 1849 boldly urged the construction of a " British Colonial Rail- 84
way" to connect without break Halifax on the Atlantic with the
mouth of Fraser's River on the Pacific.
All the schemes proposed may be reduced to two kinds, viz.:
partly water and partly land; and wholly land routes; the former
may possess the advantage in point of cheapness in construction, but
certainly not in regard to efficiency. By using the lakes and rivers
as far as navigable or capable of being made so, and by constructing
connecting links of roads or railways where necessary to complete
the chaio, it is more than likely that a line of communication could
be formed from ocean to ocean at less cost than could a continuous
land route;—a mixed land and water route would, however, be
always open to the following objections : it would to a great extent,
confine colonization to the banks of rivers and lakes where the soil
is not invariably most suitable for cultivation. It would involve
many transhipments, and be liable to frequent interruptions. It
would necessarily be considerably longer than a direct land route,
and, as a means of transport for " through traffic," would be slow
and tedious,—it would too, and this objection is insuperable, be only
available for any kind of traffic during less than six months in the
year.* It is well known that serious delays frequently arise on canal
navigation before the season terminates towards the close of navigation by reason of the press of business. The longer the route the
greater would be these difficulties, merchants at either end, unwilling
to run the risk of having goods arrested in the interior for half a
year, would in consequence be debarred from sending consignments
across the country for some considerable time before the water cha.u«
nels were completely closed, and hence it is believed that a partly
land and water route would not be really serviceable for " through
* The navigation of the lakes and rivers on the line of route are closed
from the' middle of November to the 1st of June.—Blakiston. 85
traffic" over five months in the year. The local traffic of the interior would likewise be suspended for long periods, and at such times
the country and its inhabitants would be as much isolated as they
are now. In a military view alone this objection would prove fatal
to any permanent route of an amphibious character; and it is probably on this ground, together with the fact that the water lines pass
for a considerable way along the international boundary, that the
two military gentlemen last named have extended their advocacy to
a line of communication wholly by land through the interior.
A railway communication on the other hand would be the shortest
practicable line that the physical features of the country would
admit,—it would have no transhipments between tide water on the
two oceans,—it would in most instances be carried through the heart
of the country at some distance from lakes and rivers, and would
thus open valuable tracts of land for colonization which could not
be reached by navigable waters; when it touched or intersected
water channels, these would form natural branches to it, and be
available to their fullest extent in laying open the land along their
banks for settlement. It would, as an essential and independent
part of its equipment, be provided with an electric telegraph; the
telegraph, as on other fines, would be available for purposes beyond
the immediate requirements of the railway, and without doubt great
benefits would result from the possession of this instantaneous
means of communication.*   The railway would throughout the year
* A telegraph would be much more expensive in the first place, and almost
impossible to maintain on any line across the country other than a railway
or other travelled land route, if carried around lakes or through hundreds of
miles of uncleared forest, the wires would constantly be broken by fallen
timber, and the posts frequently destroyed by running fires, inconvenient
interruptions might thus occur when the telegraph was most in need. On a
railway it is part of the duty of the trackmen to look out for fallen trees,
and a break is thus speedily repaired when it occurs: when the Hue is cleared
to a sufficient width interruptions from this cause are not frequent. 86
be open to transport " through " as well as it local" merchandise and
passengers, and would, taken with the telegraph, in a military aspect
be available at all times and seasons, and would undoubtedly prove
an important as well as permanent measure of defence to the
It is not, however, to be supposed that the operating of a railway
through this extensive country would be entirely free from difficulties ; the permanent supply of fuel would be a question of no little
moment, the intense frosts and the snow drifts of a long winter
would have to be contended with. The latter is found in operating
Canadian as well as other railways in a like northern latitude to be
a cause of not unfrequent interruption to the regular running of
trains, besides often the necessity of a heavy outlay. The drifting
of snow, like all operations of nature is, however, governed by certain laws, and it is possible on a correct knowledge of them to adopt
measures in the general design of railways and their appliances which
may certainly diminish if they do not entirely remove the evil effects
of the agency referred to. These questions will be more particularly
referred to in their proper place.
Taking all things into consideration, and, notwithstanding the
difficulties last mentioned, it seems as clear as a demonstration that
a continuous line of railway, with its electric telegraph, extending
across the continent is much to be preferred to a mixed system of
navigation and railway combined, and therefore in the following
observations it will be understood that a line of railway is the character of highway ultimately in view. It is true that in preparing
the country for railway service the natural water channels as far as
they go may be advantageously employed, but it would evidently be
unwise to incur much expenditure on any route other than that best
calculated to accommodate the permanent wants of the country and
highest interests of the Colonial Empire. 87
Having determined the character of the means of communication
most desirable to be established it may be well now to glance at the
comparative dimensions of the proposed work, and to consider the
cost of its construction as well as the annual expense of maintaining
it for ever afterwards.
Measuring on the map along the general route of the proposed
line from the mouth of Fraser's River, through one of the best
passes yet discovered in the Rocky Mountains, along the general
direction of " the Fertile Belt," keeping south of the North Saskatchewan, crossing the Red River near the Settlement, bridging
the Winnipeg River at the north end of the Lake of the Woods,
striking through the country to the most northerly bend of the shore
of Lake Superior, thence in a direct line to a crossing on the French
River west of Lake Nipissing, and from this point connecting with
the existing railway system of Canada, either at the Town of Barrie,
or at Peterboro, or at the City of Ottawa; the distance thus measured will be found to be in round numbers about 2000 miles, and
although a railway between the two oceans on British territory,
cannot be considered perfect without the completion of the road between Halifax, and the most easterly extension of the Grand Trunk
in Lower Canada, yet as there is some prospect of this section being
made independently, it does not appear necessary to embrace its
length in the present consideration.
That a just conception may be formed of the real magnitude of
the project under discussion, and the means necessary to its attainment, attention may for a moment be drawn to a few leading details.
The construction qf 2000 miles of railway measured by the average
standard of similar works existing in this country implies the performance of labourers' work sufficient to give employment to 1000 88
men for 50 or 60 years,—it involves the delivery of 5,000,000 cross-
ties or sleepers, and over 200,000 tons of iron rails for the " permanent way"—it comprises the erection of 60,000 poles hung with
1000 tons of wire for the Telegraph—it necessitates the creation of
motive power equivalent to over 50,000 horses, which power would
be concentrated in 400 Locomotives—it involves the production of
from 5000 to 6000 cars of all kinds, which, coupled with the locomotives, would make a single train over 30 miles in length—and
lastly it implies a gross expenditure on construction and equipment,
of not less than $100,000,000*
It will likewise serve as a salutary check on hasty conclusions to
weigh before hand the cost of operating a truly gigantic establishment of the kind after its perfect completion; a few figures derived
from actual results will shew that the first construction of a railway
through the interior of British North America is even a less formidable
undertaking than that of keeping it afterwards open in the present
condition of the country. For operating the line successfully, the
fuel alone required in each year, and estimated as wood, would considerably exceed 200,000 cords—for keeping the road in repair a
regiment of 2000 trackmen would constantly be employed in small
gangs throughout its entire length; for the same purpose there
would on an average be annually required 600,000 new cross-ties as
well as nearly 30,000 tons of new or re-rolled iron rails—the annual
repairs of Rolling Stock would not cost less than one million dollars—over 5000 employees of all kinds would constantly be under
pay, and as these men would usually represent each a family, there
* Major CarmichaeL-Smyth estimated the cost of building a line of railway
from Halifax to the Pacific at £150,000,000 sterling, equal to over $700,000,000.
but then he computes the expenditure as on English railways, where more
money has been wasted in preliminary expenses and lavished on architectural monuments at Stations than would suffice to build an equal length of road
in this or any new country, 89
xvould not be far short of 20,000 souls subsisting by the operation of
the road. The aggregate amount of wages in each year after the
road was in operation would swell out to nearly $2,000,000, while
the gross expenditure for operating and maintaining works would
annually exceed $8,000,000.
Again, if to this last sum be added the interest on first cost, it
becomes evident that until the gross earnings of the railway in each
year come up to the enormous sum of $14,000,000, it could not pay
interest on the capital invested.
The above computations taken by themselves are more than sufficient to deter aDy one from casting a second thought on the subject of
constructing a railway through the unpeopled wilds of British North
America, but when we again reflect on the vast importance of this
great national work the belief is forced upon us, that at some period,
let it be a remote one, the undertaking will certainly be accomplished.
While most authorities have very fully dwelt upon the commercial
advantages to be attained by a speedy means of communication
across the country—while they have shown its value as a connecting
chain between British Columbia, the Gold Fields on the slopes of the
Rocky Mountains, the Settlements at Red River„ and the Atlantic
Provinces, as well as a link of connection between China, India,
even Australia, together with other Dependencies on the Pacific and
the Parent Land—while they have advocated it as the key to a new
and almost boundless field for British capital, energy and enterprise—
as a great instrument of colonization, opening up a territory of vast
extent for the superabundant and rapidly increasing population of
the European States, and in this respect involving the future and
F 90
permanent interests of civilization—yet it has not been the good fortune of the writer to peruse any article in which this undertaking is
viewed as a most important measure of defence, as a work which
may at some period save many millions sterling in carrying on a war,
which may, if it does not prevent a war, save the Colonial Empire
from dismemberment.
In times of Peace we are apt to overlook the importance of being
able to concentrate troops and munitions of war at any given point
on our extended frontier, but the recent difficulties betwen the British and American governments, could not fail to illustrate the military value of the several Canadian railways as well as the isolated
and defenceless condition of the far interior. Had war not fortunately been avoided it is difficult to see how that vast and prospectively most valuable territory between the Lake District and the Rocky
Mountains could have been protected from invasion and permanent
occupation, and we are forced to the conclusion that until a highway
is formed the interior of our country is indefensible. The Romans
paid particular attention to the construction of roads through the
distant Provinces of the Empire, and while the construction of these
roads was one of the grand causes of civilization introduced into
barbarous States, the great leading principle which actuated the
builders of them, was that of maintaining their military supremacy,
the first efforts of that people were directed to piercing new acquisitions to the Empire with good roads, and these roads wherever practicable were connected in unbroken lines with the seat of government
at Rome. The remains of these roads are still to be traced in various ramifications through Europe, and so substantially were they
constructed that they have for fifteen centuries perpetuated the power
and foresight of their originators.
In modern times, Napoleon, one of the greatest, if not the greatest
military authority, announced the maxim that the highest effort of 91
the military tactician was to concentrate a given number of men at
a given place, at a given time. It requires no argument to prove
that the Railway and the Electric Telegraph are the most perfect
means for concentration of military power that could possibly be
desired, and we can easily perceive with what comparative ease forces
could be brought to bear through the instrumentality of these agents,
on any point threatened with invasion.
True, we are again at peace with our neighbours to the south, and
perhaps likely to remain in that happy state for a considerable time,
but possibly not always; some good authority has laid down as a
maxim, that to maintain peace, a nation must be well prepared for
an opposite condition of things, and therefore we must see the value
of the railway route to bind the several North American Colonies of
Britain together. But it is not alone as a work of defence that the
British Pacific Railway would be serviceable in a military sense; it
cannot be forgotten that within a very few years back the British
troops had to be transported with the greatest possible rapidity to
India and again to China. Such exigencies may at any time occur
again, either in the same lands or at other points in the same hemisphere, and it must be. of the utmost importance to the Imperial
Government to possess the means of carrying military forces more
rapidly by a route over entirely British soil than by any other route
along which they may come in contact with antagonistic nations.
I have already overstepped the limits of space which these preliminary remarks should have occupied, but I cannot proceed to the
more practical section of this letter without first alluding to the
efforts which for more than half a century have been made by the
Imperial Government to discover a means of communication by
water between the Northern Atlantic and the Northern Pacific
Oceans. Although the persevering and sometimes heroic attempts
to find a north-west passage have resulted in no direct advantage, 92
beyond a trifling contribution to science and geographical knowledge,
yet they are undoubted evidence of the high commercial and military value which the British Government has long placed upon the
possession of a means of communication between the two oceans in
the northern hemisphere; and while the expenditure of a sum considerably over a million pounds sterling has only proved that a
passage through the Arctic Seas cannot be established, the very
impracticability of the passage which the outlay of so much treasure
as well as the loss of so many valuable lives has demonstrated, must
without doubt add immensely to tbe importance of the only practica*
ble route across the continent, on British soil.
The idea of constructing upwards of 2,000 miles of railway in
the manner which has characterised the establishment of similar undertakings heretofore, through a country almost uninhabited except
by scattered bands of wandering Indians, may Avell be viewed as a
commercial absurdity. It has been shown that the maintaining and
operating of a railway of this extent, after its perfect completion,
would cost not less than eight million dollars per annum, and that
its traffic would have to yield in gross receipts fourteen millions
of dollars every year to enable the work to pay interest on the capital
Could it be satisfactorily shown that these receipts might even be
approached, the work would undoubtedly be a legitimate investment
for private capital, and we might fairly expect to see it undertaken
by private enterprise, but at present no such inducement can be held
out; however important the line would be in many respects tbe
business of the country traversed could not for many years yield
more than a fractional part of the revenue required to keep it open, 93
and the traffic from ocean to ocean could not be expected even by
tbe most sanguine to give constant and profitable employment to a
force of four hundred locomotives, without which the road would
scarcely pay.
It appears conclusive therefore that the immediate construction of
a railway from Canada to the Pacific is in a financial sense impracticable, seeing that it would not at present pay; and however important it may be considered as a great national work its successful
operation as a commercial undertaking cannot take place until the
country is.better prepared for it.
It must not however be implied that the idea of establishing a
continuous line of railway from ocean to ocean should even at the
present time be set aside. It may be laid down as a maxim that
wherever traffic can exist sufficiently extensive in any section of
country to render the application of steam power profitable through
that section a railway will sooner or later be constructed. The
country between Canada and the Pacific is, according to reliable
authority, in every respect capable of supporting a large industrial
population* half as large perhaps even at a moderate computation
as the population of the whole United States—the population of the
whole United States sustains over 30,000 miles of railway, and
therefore we may reasonably conclude that long before the interior
*Assuming that only that portion of British America, west of the Lake of
the Woods and south of the main or North Saskatchewan River, is capable
of being populated to no greater density than Russia, the least populous country in Europe, Norway and Sweden excepted, Within these limits a population
of 15,000,000 would be contained, (the density of the population of Russia is
only about one-third that of the settled portion of the Canadas). The occupation of this portion of the contitry need not be considered a great encroachment on the territory from which the Hudson's Bay Fur Company derives its
revenue, it would still leave 2,000.000 square miles, an area four times greater
than that assumed to be populated, an area quite as extensive as Russia, and
abundantly sufficient, &Jg presumed, fo£ a- hunting ground. 94
of British America is fully occupied, a leading line of railway communication through it may be successfully operated and profitably
The question of opening up new territories for settlement by
means of some comprehensive and economical road system engaged
my attention a few years ago when I had the honor to read two
papers on the subject before the Canadian Institute, and I cannot
but think that some of the conclusions then come to apply with
peculiar force to the subject matter of this letter. In one of these
papers a retrospective view was taken of the process by which the
Province of Canada had become habitable and inhabited, so far at
least as lines of internal communication had been instrumental in
producing these results, and an analytical examination of the existing road and railway systems was made, as well as an enquiry into
the means employed to produce them. From these enquiries, instituted with the view of arranging some more perfect system of road
development for advantageous introduction into unoccupied districts,
certain deductions were drawn, of which the following may at present
be submitted.
In carrying railroads, the most perfect of all roads, into remote
unsettled districts, two great difficulties have to be encountered at
the outset:—First, their construction; secondly, their maintenance.
The former may be overcome by a process which strongly resembles
a law or principle' in mechanical science, by which we are taught
that time is an element of equal importance to power in the performance of mechanical operations. The construction of a railway with
all its parts is nothing more than a complex mechanical operation,
whilst capital or money may be designated the force or power
employed to bring about the desired result; a large expenditure of
financial force is undoubtedly required to accomplish the object
within a short period, but owing to the peculiar relation between 95
power and time the employment of a small amount of force or capital would equally accomplish the same end in a longer period;
both of these elements are indispensible, but they are not necessarily required in fixed proportions, if we use the maximum of
the one we only need the minimum of the other,—if circumstances
in any particular case will not justify a large expenditure of capital
then time may be extensively employed to accomplish the work in
The second difficulty above referred to, viz.: that of maintaining
a railway in a new district after its completion, although by far the
most serious of the two, is one which fortunately can be removed
by a particular solution of the first. It is obvious that to put
a railway in a condition of being self-sustaining, the traffic of the country through which it passes must first be developed, for however important and promising the " through traffic" of any projected line may
appear, experience has shown on nearly all railways that the "local"
or " way traffic" is that upon which they must mainly depend for a
revenue. The local traffic of. a new territory can only be developed
by the introduction of labour and inhabitants; this is a work of
considerable time even under the most favorable eircumstances, but
until this be done it is useless to expect sufficient traffic, and without
sufficient traffic the railway cannot maintain itself.
In applying the foregoing to the question of forming a railway
connection between Canada and the Pacific, it would follow that
whilst the completion of the work at the earliest period possible
would absorb an enormous amount of capital, and leave the line for
many years without the means of earning sufficient to sustain itself,
the gradual process of construction would draw upon papital only to
a limited extent, and it would leave the railway finished when the
traffic was sufficient to keep it in profitable operation.
The former course may fairly be rejected as incompatible with the 96
first principles of economy, the latter being perhaps the only alternative, forces us to the conclusion that the gigantic work under consideration, to be constructed at all must be viewed as a work of time;
and it remains for us to consider how the time at command can be
most profitably employed to bring about the desired result.
In pursuance of the object in view, it may be satisfactory and pro.
fitable to refer briefly to the leading characteristics which have
marked the origin and improvement of the roads as well as the intro.
duction of railroads in the settled portion of Canada.
The settled or partially settled portion of Canada embraces an area,
estimated at 35,000 square miles; its road system or means of intercommunication exclusive of navigable channels, consists of nearly
2,100 miles of railway in full operation, of probably 3000 miles in the
aggregate of improved roads, comprising those made of broken stone>
gravel and plank, and in round numbers of 50,000 miles of what
are termed road allowances ; of the last it is estimated that considerably less than one-half the total length is cleared of the timber and
so far improved as to be passable for waggons, the remainder being
as yet uncleared and in part permanently impassable.
The road allowances demand some explanation; they are invariably
one chain (66 feet) in width, and are left between the square or rectangular blocks of farm Lots, into which the whole country has been
subdivided for settlement; they are consequently in parallel lines,
and in two sets, the one crossing the other at right angles, leaving
blocks between of two or more farm lots of 200 acres each.
The aggregate area of these road allowances is extremely liberal,
as it cannot be much less than 400,000 acres, but from the manner
in which the allowances are laid out they cannot in all cases be em- 97
ployed for the purposes intended; they are, however, much used by
the farmers in common for pasturing cattle. Where the country is
level and free from lakes, rivers or other obstructions, the road allowances have been converted into good Summer waggon roads by the
annual performance of statute labour and they give ready access to
the farm lots; where the country is hilly or broken on the other hand*
great difficulty has been experienced in making them passable, and
in many instances this is impossible, and in others after a great deal
of money and labour had been expended, the original road allowances have been abandoned for better locations.
As the settlement and trade of the country advanced a demand
was made for a more improved class of highways on the leading lines
of traffic; this led to the construction of plank,* gravel or broken
stone roads through different parts of the country, and may be said
to constitute the second stage in the development of the road system.
As the road allowances were left in the original surveys more to
mark the limits between blocks of. land than to accommodate the
future commercial wants of the country, they did not long remain
the only means of communication between one business point and
another. Increasing traffic frequently called for roads with easier
grades than those to be had on the original road allowances, and in
Cases where it sought an outlet diagonally across the country, it demanded a shorter line than the old rectangular zig-zag one ; in this
manner new and more perfect roads were constructed in various sections of the country.
The third and last stage in the establishment of lines of internal
communication within the Province, was the formation of railways;
these were first introduced about ten or twelve years ago when the
increasing commercial wants of the country appeared to demand a
greater degree of rapidity, safety and security of transport.
*The first plaak road wsa built-in Upper Canada in 1846. 98
Although the location of railways through any district requires a
higher degree of care and skill than that of gravel or other roads of
a like character, yet it is governed by precisely the same principles,
and the general direction of all lines is prescribed by the leading
direction sought by traffic; hence we find that the various lines of
railway have been constructed parallel, or at least in a parallel direction to the various stone or plank roads which have preceded them)
although they are frequently found at some distance asunder : this is
a peculiarity which cannot fail to have been observed by all those
acquainted with the country. $feM
From the above brief outline of the origin and history of the lines
of commercial intercourse within the Province, it will be seen that
three distinct classes of roads have at different times been constructed
to meet the requirements of traffic. First we have common earth
roads on the original road allowances. Second, gravel, plank or
broken stone roads in improved locations. Third, railways constructed quite independently of the other two—showing as a rule that
three distinct works have been made, involving as many separate
expenditures before the final object is attained. The only exception
to this rule are where the second class have been made on the lines
of the original road allowances, but these exceptions have perhaps
been even more expensive to the country than when the rule has not
been departed from.*
*In a Report made by Thomas Roy, Esq., Civil Engineer, in 1841, to the
Governor General of Canada, reference is made to the excessive cost of making
good roads on the line of original allowances drawn straight through the
country across ravines, over hills, through swamps and other hindrances.
Amongst other cases where attempts have been made to construct improved
roads on such lines as that alluded to he instances the following: " The grants
were made to macadamize Yonge Street Road from Toronto to Holland Landing, near Lake Simcoe. Now Yonge Street Road was so located that it was
extremely difficult and expensive to form it into a tolerably good road. On
that portion which has been already done nearly as much money has been
expended in cutting hills, building bridges, <fcc. &c, as in road-making, yet 99
It may also be observed that the system adopted has in minor
details unavoidably resulted in many permanent inconveniences to
the trade of the country, which under other arrangements might
have been obviated; as an illustration it may for the present be
sufficient to allude to the inconvenient distances which nearly all the
railway stations are from the towns and villages they are intended to
accommodate. It may further be noticed that a degree of competition likewise obtains between the parallel lines of communication
throughout the country, alike injurious to the interests of both. A
stone road running parallel to a railway cannot fail to share with it
the traffic of the locality, perhaps just sufficient to prevent the later
line from paying, while the former is deprived, by the more recent
Work, of the revenue 'it had a right to anticipate when originally
constructed. True it may be said that the country benefits by the
rivalry between parallel lines; this, however, is very questionable,
as both roads cannot permanently continue to be maintained at a
loss, they must either fall out of repair or the tolls must be raised
to enable them to pay dividends. Could these stone or other improved roads, instead of being parallel to the railways, be extended
as branches to them from the stations, it is apparent that then the
several of the inclinations are as steep as 1 in 14. That portion which remains to be done is still more difficult, and it will be more expensive. Now,
if previously to commencing the work an experienced Engineer had been instructed to examine the country and to lay out a road upon the best ground
Which he ftould find between Toronto and Holland Landing, he would have
discovered that between S and 5 miles west of Yonge Street Road, a line of
road could have been got from Toronto to the base of the Ridges, (about 25
miles,) without crossing one ravine, or meeting any difficulty except the hill
to the north-west of Toronto; and farther, that the Ridges could have been
crossed in that direction without involving any considerable difficulty. The
result is, that the same amount which has been expended in making abput
fourteen miles of a very indifferent road, would have<made about thirty miles
of excellent road, leaving no inclinations steeper than 1 in 40; a circumstance
that would have produced a great saving in repairs, and in expense of animal
strengthv" If I
country generally would derive greater advantages, while the different
classes of communications, in performing their proper functions^
would reeeive corresponding benefits to those they conferred.
It is not for a moment presumed that a re-arrangement of existing
lines of traffic such as that suggested is now possible; but these
remarks are offered with the view of showing some of the benefits
which would result froma pre-arrangefiaent of internal communication
in a new country, such as I will take occasion to refer to shortly.
Before attempting to show how we may best profit by the experience obtained from the Canadian road system in any effort to
colonize the interior of British North America, I will first allude to
another point which doubtless has suggested itself to many others,
and which I think is of some moment.
If we proceed to analyse that portion of a perfect railway upon
which the trains are rapidly transported we find that it consists
essentially of the following parts : 1st, Two smooth parallel and horizontal surfaces upon which the wheels of the carriages roll; these are
formed by iron rails resting Upon cross-ties and supported by chairs
or other fixtures, the whole being termed " the permanent way" or
" superstructure." 2nd, A layer of gravel or broken stone from fifteen
to thirty inches in thickness immediately under and around the cross-
ties, and technically called " the ballast." 3rd, An earthen surface
uniformly even and properly ditehed at the sides. This surface is
termed r the formation level," and on it the ballast is placed, and
thus proceeding downwards from the completed rail track we have ;
1st.   The Permanent WSif'..
2nd. The Ballast.
3rd.   The Formation Lefei
To those who have, observed the successive stages of railway building it will be clear that " The Formation Level" is not dissimilar,
except in possessing easier grades and curves, to the best description 101
of ff. common earth roads," and might readily be used for all the
purposes for which the latter are employed. Again, when " the
Formation Level" becomes coated with " Ballast" we have what is
designated " The Roadbed," and which, without any portion of the
"Superstructure," corresponds with the general construction of
I Gravel" or " Stone roads." If, therefore, we invert the order
above given, and likewise substitute new names, we. have,
1st.   An Earth Road, corresponding with the Formation line.
2nd. A Gravel- or iStone Road, corresponding with the Road-bed.
3rd. A Railway.
This is precisely the order in which the leading lines of communication have been formed in Canada, and although each work as a
rule has been constructed independent of the other, and thus
necessitated separate expenditures to accomplish one end, yet it does
not appear a difficult matter to point out how the same object can be
better attained in new territories to be settled, by a simpler and«less
costly system. Were the railway line first located, the common
classes of roads which naturally precede it might first be made (on
the railway location) and used until each in its turn merged into its
successor; and by such a plan it is clear that considerable saving
would result on the final establishment of the railway; There might
be new earth works needed where the ground was broken by ravines
and bills, as well as stronger bridges across rivers, but no outlay
would be necessary for land, or for clearing and grubbing, at any
place, and on level sections of the line, such as occur on all roads,
the only additional expense would be that for the superstructure.
From the foregoing observations it must be obvious that the progress of new territories, as well as their future and permanent social Hi
and commercial wants would be much influenced by a pre-arrange-
ment of the various lines of internal communication ; and it must
be equally clear that to attain the highest degree of easy intercourse
between every section at the least outlay of capital and labour every
road of whatever class, should be considered as a portion of a whole
The system of construction proposed to be advocated is that of a
gradually progressive character, similar to that already hinted at, and
inasmuch as it would evidently be a misnomer to designate the various lines of roads in their rudimentary stages by the names they
may ultimately be intended to bear, it is thought that the following
terms for the three classes of lines will be convenient and sufficiently
1st. Territorial Roads.—These trunk lines, intended to serve
large districts, and which may in course of time be converted, stage
by Stage, into railways as the settlement of the country advances and
its traffic becomes developed. " Territorial Roads " to be invariably
located with easy curves and on the most available ground for railway service.
2nd. Colonization Roads.—Those lines of secondary importance,
to be opened in the first place for the better introduction of settlers,
and which may without change in their direction be converted in
course of time into good gravel or macadamized roads!
3rd. Concession Roads.—Those lines of least importance, designed simply to give access to farm lots from the leading lines last
mentioned. Concession roads might be laid out generally across the
colonization roads, and between the several blocks into which townships are usually sub-divided.
In pre-arranging a system of internal communications for a new
territory, it would be necessary to take a prospective view of the
character of the traffic which might exist when after a lapse of years 103
the district becomes populated; in this we might be guided by
drawing a comparison between the natural advantages of soil, climate
and position of the section of country to be colonized with those of
any similar section which has become occupied and to some extent
developed. In this manner we could form some idea of the nature
of the future commerce of the country, and consequently of all the
classes of roads which would ultimately be required to accommodate
it. The leading direction which traffic may seek, or the direction
which in a national or political sense it may appear expedient to
guide it, would prescribe the general direction of the main line of
road through.the territory, and the other consideration would determine its character. This is the first thing to be established, as upon
it the direction and character of all minor lines mainly depend.
Assuming that the tract of country to be colonized is such as to
justify us in the belief that in due time a railway may be constructed
through it, the first step would be to lay out a " Territorial Road "
between the more important points in the general direction of traffic
previously determined. The territorial road ought to be located
with the utmost care and in all that relates to curvatures and levels
the best railway location in an engineering aspect alone which the
country traversed could afford. In this respect there would doubtless be less than usual difficulty, as there would be neither right of
way obstacles to guard against nor local interests to serve, and consequently no undue influences to twist or warp the intended line out
of the most advantageous location. The main artery of traffic for
the future service of the country might thus be determined upon
under most favourable circumstances.
It would next be necessary to select at proper intervals the most
suitable points for stations and villages, and from these as diverging
points " Colonization Roads " might- then be laid out to the right
and left with as much care as the location of srjavel or macadamized f!
roads generally require. These colonization roads thus laid out and
adapted to the peculiar features of the locality, avoiding steep hills,
ravines, lakes or unnecessary river crossings, might form centre or
governing lines upon which the townships may be projected; these
townships to be sub-divided iD the usual way into blocks of farm lots
with concession roads between, drawn so as to unite with the colonization roads.
The above is a simple skeleton outline of a road system which it
is thought might with advantage be introduced into unoccupied
fields, and although it maybe unwise to complicate it with too many
details still there is one additional point which seems too important
to be passed over. I have already alluded to the difficulty experienced in operating railways where the road is liable to be blocked up
with snow drifts;* and I may now refer to the extreme necessity of
making some provision for a permanent and convenient supply of
timber for fuel and general repairs.f    As a preventive against the
* It has been pretty well established that the most efficient preventive of
snow drifts is to preserve the woods along each side of the rail-track beyond
the line of fences. Trains are seldom detained by snow evenly fallen through
wooded parts of the country, as it scarcely ever falls so deep between trains
as to offer any inconvenience. The detention to trains from snow always
occurs in the open country where the woods have been cleared away and no
obstruction is presented to the formation of snow drifts on certain exposed
| In districts where no coal exists and in consequence wood is employed
as fuel, and more especially in those sections of the country where the absence of navigable water channels renders the more expensive system of land
transport necessary, it would seem good policy to husband the growing timber for future wants. Already in some parts of the United States the difficulty and expense of procuring fuel for Railways and for other purposes is
beginning to be felt; in Canada the Railways alone consume not far short of
800,000 cords every year, thus involving the annual destruction of more
timber than is generally obtained from an area of six thousand acres, and in
all countries in a northern latitude, beyond the convenient reach of coal-fields
the conservation of sufficient areas of timbered lands must become of increasing political importance.   To ascertain the extent of woodland sufficient to 105
former, and as an ample provision for the latter, I would suggest
that a belt of wood land along the territorial line of sufficient breadth
should be reserved for shelter and the purposes above mentioned.
The belt of wood-land to be at all effective against the worst effects
of snow should be of a considerable width, sufficient in fact to shelter the line of road and arrest the snow drifts beyond the limits of
the line of traffic. In open sections of the country it might, in view
of the same end, be advisable to encourage the growth of timber on
reserves to be left for the purpose along the line of road. The uniformly even falls of snow would of course always occur, but on
railways these are easily overcome by light snow ploughs attached to
the front of the engines, and they seldom interfere with the regular
running of trains.
These continuous timber reserves along the sides of the territorial
road, whilst they would greatly lessen the difficulty of operating a
yield a permanent supply for a given rate of consumption, the writer a few
years ago initiated the following steps: A piece of average timbered hardwood land was selected, a rectangular portion was staked off, within the
limited area each tree was separately examined, the length and circumference
of the trunk and main branches as well as the thickness of the rings of annual
growth of each were ascertained, and upon this data was calculated the
quantity of solid wood annually produced by the process of vegetation. The
result gave about 60 cubic feet of solid timber to the acre, and allowing for
the interstices between each stick as usually piled, this may be considered
equal to about three quarters of a cord ; consequently to yield a perpetual
supply there ought to be one and a third acres of timber land reserved for
each cord of wood required annually.
Taking the above as correct and assuming that a Railway with ordinary
traffic consumes annually 150 cords of wood for every mile of road operated,
it follows that 200 acres should be reserved for the growth of fuel for every
mile of Railway. In like manner it can be shown that cross-fzrees or sleepers would require about 40 acres for every mile, and fencing as much as 24
acres for each mile of Railway. It appears obvious, therefore, when we consider the many other purposes to which timber is applied in the maintenance
of a Railway and its Rolling stock, that there ought to be about 300 acres
per mile reserved for the growth of timber for all purposes. A belt extending a quarter of a mile beyond each side of the line of road would fully
embrace the required area,.
J 106
railway along the same line in wintejr,* as well as provide a permanent supply of wood for fuel and general repairs, they would moreover
result in several incidental advantages favorable to the construction
and maintenance of the future railway as well as to the safety of the
As all the roads in every section of the country along the line of
the intended railway would connect through the " Colonization
Roads " directly with tbe stations, the traffic would naturally centre
at these points, and.at these points only would railway crossings by
public roads be required. Again, there would be no private^jOj^
" farm-crossings" needed, as the farm lots being laid out subsequent
to the location of the road, would of course be wholly either on one
side of it or the other, besides being separated from the road by tbe
timber reserve. The advantages resulting from these arrangements
would be threefold, viz.: in original construction, subsequent main.
tenance, and public safety. In original construction it is clear that
no bridges, level crossings, cattle guards or gates would be required
at any part of the line, other than at stations, to accommodate public
roads, and at no place whatever would farm crossings.be needed. In
maintenance, corresponding advantages, would result, as the repairs
of these works, generally of a perishable nature, would be for ever
saved, and the constantly recurring damage.'from cattle straying on
the track would be very greatly lessened. Public safety would undoubtedly be greatly promoted by any plan which would diminish the
number of road crossings. In any country subdivided for settlement
in a manner similar to Canada before the railway lines are laid down
we cannot avoid having the road crossings almost one in each mile,
* The obstacle presented by snow drifts is the great difficulty in the way of
operating railways in winter in high latitudes. The cost of clearing away
the drifted snoW on some portions of the Canadian Lines, in the winter of
1860-1861, was very great. The drifts invariably occurred where the adjacent country was cleared of its timber. 107
so that on every 100 miles'of railway we have probably in the aggre
gate over 5,000 lineal feet of track not onlydesti&ite of protection but
exposed day and nig^ifrtib "W&ggons, foot passengers"; and catitle passing
to and fro. Besides Which the great number of ctfttle gu&fdffroqtfflpedr
is an important element of danger. These being made of timber
beams are' equivalent to small wooden bridgeSJ^and their great number
shells' out the total length to something very colMaerable. On all
the railways in Canada the cattle guards it is estimated catfffiflr
measure less than 20,000'lineal feet oF tifSKy-atid are probably not
muchMss dangerous than the same length of WoO'd^felSdjgeB; In
addition to the puHlie5 road crossings above alluded to, there are a
T^jy gr¥at numbetfof ordinary " faTm-'cflSsfeiflgs^' wMofeiii pointfoft
safety to the publni1 fSSvelling by rjfll1 as well aSt'^^a^ property of
the railway companies, are perhaps equally to be feared] •f&i''although
they are protected by gates" thes'&are constantly lteble to be left open,
either through the design or negligence5 G# ffein servatif^**1'
In the road system f&jbriimended for new cfiM'idts, the1 fttiTway
whenever it came to be operated Would be entirely freed from' fartn
clfi^ini'^s*; affM the public road crossings would o'ffry occur* af stklffo'ris1
* " One of the mo§t frMftful sottfcW 6f accident! aY£ tfhe gr'etfff dumber of
crossings' of sforeBtyMghway, and- fewh roads At the le^esf 6f grade. The total
number of these is over eight thousand/ and there is an average of three- to
each mile of road in operation, ana more fh'an one pubnc road or sttf&et-
crossing to each mile. It is believed that nearly ten per cent, of all the accidents by which persons were killed or injured, is due to this cause.
•' The expense of maintaining watch&en at many of these crossings, and the
damage to the property of the companies by collisions caused by them,
render them costly.
" The policy of reducing tlw number of t&6$e at grade/ fe generally conceded ; and it is recommended that authority be given to change road-crossings which are at the level of grade, wnenever it can be done wrtih<Mf6 rtrucff
detriment to the travel, so' a'tf ttf have two or more roads use one drowsing;
and, in all cases, where it can be done at a reasonable expense, to require
them to be carried over or under the railroads'. —-Report 6f tits Bifara (ff
Railroad Commissioners to the Legislature of the State of New Y&fkj 1868. 108
where the danger of accidents is always least, from the fact, that
the speed of trains is invariably reduced at these points.
Before proceeding to consider how the road system suggested
would apply to the wide areas of unoccupied lands in the interior of
British America in view of colonizing them, as well as of ultimately
establishing a leading line of railway from the settlements of Canada
to the Pacific, I may observe that two principal objections present
themselves to the system advocated.
The expense of making the surveys and laying out the land for
settlement would undoubtedly be much greater than that required
to lay out wild land in the usual manner; but then while the old
plan is simply to divide the country into rectangular lots without
any sufficient provision for future traffic or present access; the new
plan has a double object in view, it has, in addition to the purposes
contemplated by the old system, that of making every part of the
country accessible in the readiest way at the minimum expenditure,
and with the greatest permanent advantages attainable. Another
objection arises from the proposal to keep the territorial road lines
wooded on both sides except where stations may occur, thus rendering the road less agreeable to travel on than if the cultivated country
was allowed to be immediately adjacent. This is undoubtedly an
objection, but I think that it cannot weigh much when the benefits
to be expected ultimately from the preservation of the wood is fully
In the foregoing observations it has been my endeavour to show?
as briefly as possible, the following points :—
1st. That the project of a highway to the Pacific is as old as the
first settlement of Canada, and that recent events show its increasing importance. 109
2nd. That a continuous line of Railway with Electric Telegraph
is better calculated to meet the permanent wants of the Country
and serve the interests of the Colonial Empire than any other
means of communication between the two Oceans.
3rd. That although the magnitude of a scheme for a Railway
across the Continent is very great, yet the vast importance of the
work, in a commercial, military, and national view, would demand its
construction were the resources of the country and the traffic sufficiently developed.
4th. That the immediate completion of this work cannot be
seriously entertained in the present condition of the country, the
cost of maintenance without sufficient traffic being so very great,
and that therefore, to be constructed at all, the Railway must be a
work of time.
5th. That the Canadian Road and Railway system has illustrated
the advantages which may be derived from the adoption of a comprehensive Road scheme in laying open new districts for settlement,
6th. That a scheme which embraces the ultimate completion of
Railways and less perfect lines of communication by a progressive system of construction possesses many features favourable to the first settlement as well as the future requirements of the traffic of new Territories.
7th. That the system proposed for the development of the highways of a new country by progressive stages corresponding with
the progress made by the country itself in general advancement, is
one peculiarly applicable to the case under discussion; and while
it might be expedient, in the first instance to employ some of the
natural water channels as a means of introducing settlers and labourers
along the line of road, until the latter became in some degree serviceable, it would not be advisable to incur any great expenditure
on works beyond the limits of the great thoroughfare ultimately in
view.    That the first effort should be made to construct an Electric ffl I
iTelegragh along tfes precise line of the future Railway, that  the
■Telegraph shoufeibe the pr$yirsor of. otber; means of communication,
ibegjnning it may be, with a Bridle Path or Indian Trail from post
to post, and ending with a perfect line of Railway, when the traffic
of the country, or the interests qf;t.he Nation required the most rapid
,means of steam communication.
With these remarks I will now attempt to show how tfie work, in
jtS: different stages, may be. proceeded with.
The first step required is the location of what has been dgsjgnated a
k Territorial Road" between all the more important or governing
5 points on the line of rouj>e. Commencing at the Western Terminus,
these .paints would probably be, the mouth of the Fraser River, or
the best harbour, on the Pacific coast north of the 49 th parallel—the
best pass which has been or may be discovered across the Rocky
.Mountains contiguous to. a line which would run along the .general
-jdiriection of" the Fertile. Belt"* of the interior—the most southerly
* " There is a broad strip of fertile country, rich in water, wood, and pas-
.:t»l>age, drained by the North Saskatchewan..and some of its affluents; and
,b§|ag a continuation of the fertile prairies of Red River, the eastern watershed of the Assiniboine and Red Deer River, with the outlying patches called
Touchwood Hills, File Hill, <fec.
" It is, a physical reality of the highest importance to the interests of British
"North-America, that this continuous belt can be settled and cultivated from
■a^ few miles west of the Lakeof the "Woods, to the passes of the Rocky. Mountains, and any line of communication, whether by waggon-road or railroad,
passing through it will eventually enjoy the great advantage of being fed by
an agricultural population from one extremity to the other.
" No other part of the American Continent possesses an approach even to
■this singularly favourable disposition of soil and climate; which last feature,
notwithstanding its rigour during the winter season, confers, on account of its
humidity, inestimable value on British America, south of the 54th parallel.
" The natural resources lying within the limits of the Fertile Belt, or on its
eastern borders, are themselves of great value as local elements of future
wealth and prosperity; but in view of a communication across the continent,
they acquire paramount importance."—Narrative of the Canadian Exploring
Expeditions: H. Ycifl£nd. Ill
bend of the North Saskatchewan River—the best crossing of Red
River between its confluence with the Assiniboine and the southerly end of Lake Winnipeg—the best crossing of the River Win-
nipeg near the north end of the Lake of the Woods,—the most
northerly bend of the shore of Lake Superior—the best crossing of
the French River between its junction with Lake Huron and Lake
Nippissing,—and lastly, the most desirable point of connection with
the existing Railway system of Canada either at Ottawa, at Peterborough, or at Barrie, all of which points are directly connected
with the Grand Trunk Railway by means of the branch lines running southerly to it. On the location of the b Territorial Road,"
which could only be done on a careful survey of the country, the
next step would be the determination of Station points from whence
to lay out Colonization Roads to the right and left, wherever the
soil was favourable for settlement. Upon the Colonization Roads
the Townships would next be projected.
So soon as any section of the road was finally located, together
with its branches, the introduction of settlers might commence. The
road should be cleared through the wooded districts to a width of two
chains or 150 feet, in order chiefly to preserve the Telegraph, when
erected, from being injured by trees falling. The clearing would at
once give employment to settlers, and with Subsequent work in improving the road, greatly aid them in paying for their land and in
supporting their families until their farms produced sufficient crops.
Throughout the open prairie country, which is more than one third the
whole distance, the trouble and expense of clearing would be avoided;
but as the great natural obstacles which isolate the interior and prevent the possibility of establishing a continuous Telegraphic communication through the country are the wooded and broken districts
at both extremities, it becomes indispensable to force a way of com.
munication through them : this is doubtless a work of considerable I
labour and corresponding expenditure, but without it no satisfactory
progress can be made. This preliminary step is especially requisite
to the east of the Red River valley, so that settlers might obtain
access to the central plains, and in view of the construction of a
continuous line of Telegraph at an early day, to be followed by a
waggon road as soon as circumstances would allow, the Territorial
line should be cleared through the western division likewise.
The " Territorial Road" from the settlements of Canada to the
valley of the Red River would pass through a country only partially
explored and consequently but little known ; it must be said, however, that what is known of it is not very favourable. More careful
surveys, of a portion of the country, recently made by the Canadian
Government have shown that a large section formerly considered
worthless is really fitted for settlement and is now being rapidly
occupied; and it is hoped from this circumstance that at least a
portion of the land along those sections of the line yet unexplored is
capable of being cultivated.
To begin at one end of the Road and gradually extend the settlements northward and westward would perhaps be too tedious an
operation in view of the importance of opening an early connection
with the interior. It would, therefore, doubtless be advisable to
begin at several intermediate points accessible by water from Lakes
Huron and Superior, and proceed with simultaneous operations.
On referring to the map it appears that snch points exist at distances ranging from 50 to 90 miles apart, and from these as bases
the clearing erf the road could proceed in both directions at the
same time, while settlements could be formed wherever the soil
proved favourable. In due time the clearings, penetrating the forest
to the right and left along the line of Road previously located, would
pierce the country from one end to the other, and the same being
accomplished in a similar manner in the western division, a continuous line of Electrio Telegraph might than bo constructed. 113
The extreme importance of the Telegraphic communication extending from colony to colony across the country, even during the
earliest stages of settlement, is too apparent to need comment, and
being constructed on the precise line of the intended waggon road
and of the ultimate Railway, it would always be in the position
where its services would be called into requisition.
While the Territorial line through the eastern division gradually
became developed into a good waggon road by the labours of the
settlers and such grants of money as its importance appeared to
warrant, it is probable that the Canoe Routes from Lake Superior to
Red River might by partial improvement be made serviceable for
ingress and egress during summer to the interior; and with the object of promoting emigration to the Central plains as well as to other
points along the fine of Road, it would probably be expedient to
improve these routes by a limited outlay, but for the reasons already
given I cannot help thinking that it would be the wisest policy to
concentrate the chief expenditure on that line which must be sooner
or later the leading highway through the country.
The expenditure of labour year by year on the Territorial line, as
the country at the same time progressed in settlement, would
gradually produce a regular stage road capable of being travelled
with considerable rapidity; and which would serve all the purposes
of transport from one point to another, until tbe increasing traffic
was considered sufficient to maintain a line of steam communication.
When that period arrived, comparatively little additional expenditure
would be required to complete the line of railway, had proper care been
exercised in locating the Territorial road in the first instance, and
in constructing the work in its subsequent progressive stages. It is
believed that probably not less than four-fifths of the whole length of
the line might be ready for conversion into a railway, simply by
laying the superstructure of cross-ties and rails on the surface of 414 .
the macadamized or gravelled road-bed; at other points permanent
bridging and reduction of grades would be called for.
I would rather refrain from expressing an opinion as to the
amount and mode of expenditure on a work conducted as above
.megested, as so little is known of several important sections of the
line of route, and so much depends on other considerations of detail.
I may, however, by way of illustrating one of a variety of methods
by which the general design of the scheme might be carried out,
submit the following, premising, that while it is intended that the
chief part, if not the whole of the cost, up to a certain stage, should
ultimately come out of land sales, it would be necessary for either
the Imperial or Colonial Governments to appropriate, in advance,
sufficient to defray preliminary expenses ; and perhaps it would be
advisable that all expenses should be borne in this way up to the
completion of a continuous line of Telegraph, to connect the chain
of little colonies which would spring up along the line of route. All
these expenses might be made a charge against the general Territorial Revenue of the country benefited, a revenue, which would only
begin to augment when the lands became easily accessible and were
made productive by labour.
It has already been shown that the success of a railway to the
Pacific would mainly depend on the possibility of introducing a
sufficient number of inhabitants in the country to be traversed; if
the population of the country is to govern the period when a railway
should be set in operation, we may likewise take it as the basis of
annual expenditure on the preliminary stages of the work. Suppose
the average annual increase could be reckoned at 100,000 souls,*
* In the whole United States, which country resembles the one under discussion more closely than any other, there are about 1000 inhabitants to
every mile of Railway in operation. It would scarcely be safe to estimate
that a line through British America could be profitably sustained with a less 115
and that it (b,e determined to expend annually on the works a sum
^lial to. one dollar per head of the whole population in each respective year,  the following  results in the developement _of the
undertaking might be obtained :—
1st. In from three to four years, besides the expense of surveys,
a territorial road line might be located throughout, the wooded dis-
tricts which extend over a length of over 1400 miles, might be cleared
to a width of two chajns, and a continuous. line of telegraph constructed from Canada to Fraser's River.
2nd. Within a further period of two years a road passable for
wheeled vehicles might be formed along the whole line of route.*
3rd. Macadamized roads of the very best description might be
j^ompleted, ^n addition to the foregoing, in the following order :—
(1) From Lake Superior to Red River, a distance of 400 miles,
in nine years from the present time.
(2) From the mouth of Fraaet's River to the Rocky J^raunMgs,
a distance of 400 miles, in eleven years from the present time.
(3) From the settlements of Canada to Lake Superior, a distance
of 650 miles, within fourteen years from the present time.
(4) From Red River to the Rocky Mountains, a d|stancej£f|.j8]0i0 ,
jtnjdes, within seventeen years from the presentjtime.
And thus by the comparatively trifling annual outlay of one
dollar per head of the assumed gradually, .increasing population, we
proportion of inhabitants per mile of its length. The whole length will pro-
sStaMybe found fiE be between 2000 and 2500 miles, and'hence the population
ought to be from two to two and a half millions. It would thus require 20
to 25 years, even with an annual increase of 100,000 to give the requisite
* This would be a common earthen road on the natural surface of the
ground, unless where grading and ditching is required ; it would be similar
to the colonization roads so economically opened by the Canadian Government through the wild country between Lake Huron and the Ottawa, as well
as in other districts. Within the last four or five years a total length of
nearly 500 miles has been opened, at a cost of about 8250,000. /ffT
•onld secure in less than four years a line of telegraph, and in thirteen years more a substantially constructed macadamized road
throughout the whole length of the line. The next and final stage
of progress would be, the completion of the Railway on the line
thus, in a great measure, prepared for it; and in view of the traffic
then created, as well as the comparative economy in construction, it
might be undertaken in sections by private enterprise, or in such
other way as might then appear most expedient.
I am not prepared to say that the foregoing is the best order of
sequence in which the several sections and stages of the work should
be constructed, it is simply presented for the purpose of showing
what might be accomplished by a small annual expenditure. It is
not at all unlikely that the peculiar nature of the traffic might warrant the conversion of some section of route into a railway at an
early period,—possibly that section between Lake Superior and
Red River would be the first to require the change, which of course
could be made without difficulty at any time, so soon as it appeared
that the trade of the country was sufficient to maintain it. The
order of sequence is not important, but it is an essential part of the
system proposed for opening up this vast and roadless country, that
very portion of work done should form a component part of a perfect whole, and that whatever expenditure is made, whether it be
one thousand or one hundred thousand dollars, should be laid out in
the right place in accordance with a thoroughly digested and well
matured plan, the great object in view being to obtain the maximum
result of good from the minimum amount of outlay.
I can scarcely hope to expect that the plan of gradual development herein advocated will satisfy the precipitate or the impatient,—
those, in fact, who would urge the immediate construction of the
road, regardless or ignorant of the cost and the burdens it might in
consequence entail on the country—yet there are many who, remembering the tortoise in the fable, will perceive that a slow yet certain 117
movement will, accomplish the desired end with as much certainty
and perhaps more satisfactorily than if the work was undertaken
with the most sanguine hopes of speedy achievement. It is very
doubtful, however, if any one will, on reflection, assert that there is
really a choice of methods, that is to say, a fast and a slow one—the
line of artificial highway proposed to be constructed extends over
not less than forty-five degrees of longitude, equal to one eighth
the length of a circle of latitude passing entirely around the globe;
the .undertaking, therefore, becomes one of no ordinary magnitude,
and when in connection with it, half a continent has to be redeemed
in part at least, from a state of wild nature, some considerable length
of time must necessarily be occupied in the process. Even if it should
take quarter of a century, it would be equal to an average construction of 100 miles of Railway a year, as well as the annual introduction of 100,000 emigrants. And, after all, a quarter of a century
is but a very brief period in the history of a country—half that
length of time has already elapsed since the Railways of Canada
were first commenced, and yet many are of opinion that it would
have been better, in some respects, had only one-half the extent of
existing lines been yet constructed.
As the character of the work is so colossal and the condition of
the country such as to debar the idea of undertaking the construction of a Railway through it in the usual way and as an ordinary
commercial enterprise, I am emboldened to think that such a scheme
as I have endeavoured to sketch, might form the basis of a system
possessing many recommendations, and which it is confidently believed might be advantageously adopted in any attempt to establish
a great leading highway through the vast unoccupied Territory between the settlements of Canada and British Columbia.
I am, dear Sir, very truly yours,
Sandford Fleming.
Toronto, April 14,1862. fu appendix;*
No. I.
{From the Times' Correspondent?)
Victoria, Vancouver's Island, Jan. 20, 1862.
In my last letter I gave a detailed account of the mining operations in
British Columbia during the season of 1861. In this letter I propose to
give a general sketch of the mineral region with, the view of conveying;
to such as have not been in the country a definite conception of the extent and capabilities of the goldfield.
I Beginning with Fraser River, the main artery of the auriferous region,,
I may Estate that gold is known to exist and has been worked at a great
many places in the river and on its banks from a point about 43 miles
from the mouth of the river up to near its source in the Rocky Mountains;
in other words, from the 40th up to the 53rd parallel of north Jatitude,
%i^tance J^takbag in the windings) of some 800 miles. The south branch
of the ^Easier-has its source near Mount Brown in the Rocky .Mountains,
in about 53° north latitude, 148° 40 min. west longitude. Thence this
branch flows for 290 miles to Fort George, a post of the Hudson's Bay
Company. The north branch rises in an opposite direction. It receives
its supply from a series of lakes lying between 54° and 55° of north lati.
tude, longitude about 124° 50 min. west, and runs a course 260 miles to
its junction with the south branch, some miles below the 54th parallel
of north latitude. Here the union of the two branches forms the Frasei*
River proper.    Adding the north branch, which is also a gold bearing 120
stream, and which was "worked" last season to the other arm, the two
will give us a continuous stretch of auriferous riverain territory upwards
of 1,009 miles in length, extending for many miles back into the country
°n both sides, but not including the tributary rivers which fall into the
Fraser. In short, the river itself is now "known to be auriferous and to
pass through a gold bearing country throughout its whole course. Gold
is also found in most of the tributaries of the Fraser, of which no less
than 59 are known. The great length of the main river and the number
of its tributaries will give some idea of the auriferous resources of the
But these facts do not by any means convey a comprehensive or accu*
rate view of the vast extent of the area of the goldfield, because they
are limited to the central portions of the country, while the whole of the
upper portions of British Columbia, from its southern to its northern
boundary, is auriferous. Besides the gold found in the beds and on the
shores of these streams the Fraser itself and many of its tributaries are
skirted or bordered by terraces, all of which yield gold also. These terraces
or "benches," as the miners call them, run, at intervals, along both sides
of the rivers for miles in length, and they recede where the mountains
retire, for distances back into the valleys, varying from a few acres to a
few miles in breadth. They are objects of curiosity and speculation, and
add much to the beauty of the rude scenes in which they occur from
the regularity and evenness of their structure. They generally occur
on both sides of the river (opposite to each other), at the same place,
sometimes at the same elevation on both sides, sometimes at different
elevations, high on this, and low on the other side of the river ; and in
some places they are multiplied into several successive level parallel plateaux, rising one above the other as they recede from the bank. These
terraces are composed of the ordinary alluvial deposits—loam, gravel
stones, sand and boulders ; and they are thick masses rising generally
to a height of a 150 to 200 feet.
Leaving the solution of their formation to the learned in such matters
I will hasten to explain their value to the miner.    They contain vast de- 121
posits of gold; and to be worked to advantage the " bench diggings"
must command a stream of water supplied from a source higher than
their own surfaces, so as to give a fall to enable the miner to apply
the water to the face of the " bench" by a hose. The force of the stream
is due to the height of the fall. A good strong stream playing upon the
face of the hill will disintegrate a great quantity of " pay dirt" in a short I
time. The floating rubbish, or " dirt," is caught in a long sluice at the
base, provided with "riffles" on the bottom, and spread with quicksilver
to catch the gold. This mode of mining is called by the miners " hydraulic mining." Such is the wealth of Cariboo that no quicksilver was
used, for the miners could afford to loose all the " fine dust" and to be
satisfied with the " lumps." It happens fortunately, that Fraser River
and most of its tributaries supply water in abundance at an elevation
which affords the necessary fall, from the elevated and broken character
of the country ; while there are inexhaustible supplies in the numerous
lakes dispersed all over the upper district. Timber for the erection of
"flumes" is also abundant everywhere. British Columbia is better
supplied with water for mining purposes, obtainable both from streams
at great elevations, and from lakes situated in high altitudes, than either
California or Australia. Some of the " ditches in California are of great
length ; some 40 miles, owing to the absence of streams running on elevated planes. The cost of construction is consequently very great. But
Australia is much worse off, for there is an actual scarcity of water. The
canal system of British Columbia will be comparatively inexpensive from
the abundance of water and its eligibility, encouraging facts to the miner,
because the small outlay of capital required will keep his "water dues "
To return to the " bench diggings." Whenever they have been "worked," they have paid well. They have been neglected for the greater attractions of the " placer diggings," where the gold is found nearer the
surface and with less labour. But I consider this class of diggings of
great prospective value. They will give employment to two interests—
capital and labour. They are generally situated within easy reach of
supplies.   They are more accessible to all the influences of civilization
H 1
than more interior localities. They are in the neighbourhood of some
good-land, whWhidrifl'enable the labourer to alternate his time between
mining and husbandry, and where he can make bis home—-the great
want which the miM€is generally do not supply.
Apropos to the subject of river mining, I would notice the remarkable
fact that the streams which flow from the east are observed to be aH
auriferous, 'while those which run from the west are not so. Does this
distinction prove that the source of all the gold spread over the goldfield
is in the Rocky Mountains? The circumstance lends feasibility to this
theory, and it is strengthened by the discovery of gold on the east side
of the Rocky Mountains in rivers which take their rise in the same chain,
but at the opposite side. You are aware that gold is worked on the
Saskatchewan, the sources of which are not very far from those of the
Fraser. We have also late information of the finding of gold on Peace
River, which has its source also in the Rocky Mountains. We are
informed that Peace River country contains silver and other ores^-a
specimen of one of Which goes to the Exhibition.
The reports of the mining 4this season on the Fraser in the space
between Fort Hope and Fort George, a distance of about 270 miles, give
the daily individual earnings at all sums between $3 and $15, Very
little has as yet been done between these two points, and very little will
be done so long as the attractions of $100 to $1,000 a-day continue elsewhere. I will now carry you to your mining localities. Leaving the
Fraser at Fort Hope, 100 miles from its mouth, and following in the
track of the miners to the southward and eastward for 60 miles, we come
to the Similkameen. These mines yielded, last season, $16 to $1T a-day
to the hand occasionally. A party of three men took $240 in three
days'work from " sluice-diggings;" and the "rocker," nsed in "wet
diggings," yielded $4, $5 and up to $8 a-day to the hand. Number of.
miners 200, of whom 150 were Chinese. A waggon road .for 25 miles
from Hope, and a bridle road of 15 miles in continuation approaches this
district. 123
Sixty miles further to the souftward comes Okanagan. The average
yield here was only $4a-dayv and the miners were few—some 26 men-
some of whom divided their time between mining and husbandry.
Okanagan lake, a beautiful sheet of wateir, in a rich pastoral district, is
from 80 to 100 miles long, and 8 to 10 mites wide, deep, and well suited
to navigation. There is a small population, in the valley, chiefly French
Canadians, and a Catholic mission. There are two small lakes, tributary
to the great lake, and nineteen streams ML into the latter, of whichseven
yield gold.
In the same general direction, and distant from Fort Hope 150 miles,
is Rock Creek, close to the American frontier (lat- 49° north), and 60.
miles west of the Columbia River. The longitude of Rock Creek is 119°
west. This place acquired a temporary reputation in 1860 for the richness of its mines, when a considerable population flocked to it and
extemporized a-town. In 1861 most of the miners were seduced away
by the superior attractions of Cariboo, the latest and richest El Dorado
yet discovered, so that only 30 white men and 225 Chinamen remained,
A party of three white men saved in the season $12,000 that I know of,
after paying expenses; $100 a-day to the hand was sometimes made.
The average earnings are returned at $7 a-day per man. There are both
"bench" and "wet" diggings, and both are productive and extensive.
The place is now abandoned.
I fear I am getting tiresome, and must hasten to close this part of the
subject by retracing my steps down the North River to Fort Kamloops.
If we could pursue a straight western course from the Fort to Fraser
River for about 100 miles we should strike the new town of Lillooett,
situated at a point where the two great routes of travel into the interior
meet that from Hope and Lytton by the river, and that by the Harrison
Valley and Lillooett chain of lakes. Lillooett is the great final starting
point to the northern mines, and beyond this there is no made road, and
no other means of transport than horses, mules, and what the miners
it-	 124
expressively term "footing it." Lillooett is distant from the mouth of
the Fraser (on the Gulf of Georgia), by the river route, vid Hope, Yale,
and Lytton, 220 miles; and by the Harrison route, vid Harrison Lake,
by steamer, Douglas, portages, and four lakes, crossed by steamers, 238
miles. The first route commands steamers up to Yale, the rest of the
journey must be ridden or walked. The other route commands steamers
to Douglas, a stage coach thence to Williams' Lake 29£ miles,~on a road
made along the Harrison river, chiefly by the Royal Engineers; an open
boat on the first lake of five miles, steamers on the other three lakes,
which are together 49 miles long, and the portages between the lakes
and Lillooett, which in the aggregate of the four of them are 334 miles
long, can be ridden or walked. From Lillooett to the first or lower
Cariboo mines the distance is about 260 miles.
A few miles beyond Lillooett, and on the same (the west) side, Bridge
River falls into the Fraser. Bridge River is very rich in gold. The Indians of the neighbourhood make considerable earnings on it, working
in the rudest manner with the most inefficient implements. It was here
the Bishop of Columbia found them making an ounce a-day to the hand,
as I mentioned in my last letter. Nodules of pure copper have been
found in the bed of the river, indicating the existence of copper veins
in the neighbouring banks.
I have already stated that the Fraser yielded $3 to $15 a day on the
various points at which it has been worked, for a space of 270 miles. I
shall therefore omit all further detail of the river from the point where
Bridge River empties into the Fraser, about 20 miles below the 51st parallel of north latitude, up to the point where it receives the Quesnel
River, a little below the 53rd parallel. This river has two branches, one
of which drains Quesnel Lake, lying a degree and a-half to the eastward
of the Fraser, and which is 50 miles long. The other branch drains
Cariboo Lake, which receives Swamp River and Lower Cariboo Lake,
into which Keithley's Creek, one of the Cariboo streams, empties. At
the junction of the two branches, a town, the nearest to Cariboo diggins,
is built chiefly for the supply of the latter.   The place is called " the "\
Forks of Quesnel." Both branches of the Quesnel are highly auriferous. Mining began here in 1859, and led to the discovery of Cariboo,
situated 50 miles further north. The returns for last summer were that
nine out of ten of the claims paid over an ounce a day to the hand. The
river banks enable the miners to work in winter. The diggins must be
rich to have retained any miners so close to Cariboo, where fortunes were
made in the course of a few weeks.
There is one grand prominent feature of the country pre-eminent from
its extent and character, which I must not omit, for without a knowledge
of it no accurate conception can be formed of the area or resources of
the great gold field of British Columbia. I allude to a chain of mountains which runs from our southern frontier (on 49° north latitude) in a
north-westerly direction through the country, and, in fact, beyond the
northern limit of the colony. It forms the water-shed of the great basin
of the Fraser River, one side of which drains itself into the valley of the
Fraser, and the other into that of the Columbia. The whole of tbis-vast
range is now known to be auriferous. It has been traced for 400 miles>
and "fine and coarse gold is everywhere found, on its western slopes
from Rock Creek in the south to Cariboo in the north" It is the longest stretch of continuous inland gold bearing country yet discovered in
the world.
In reading the returns of the daily labours of the miners, as well in
my former letters as in this one, you will be surprised to find no mention
made of small earnings: None are low, while all are high—which, without explanation would induce a doubt as to the accuracy of my reports.
The omission looks certainly as if the miners' " geese were all swans."
The fact is, we never hear of the low earnings. They are never reported ; and, on a broad view of the actual circumstances at present attaching to British Columbia mining, I may assert that there are no low earnings. Here is exactly how the matter stands:—Some of the Chinamen,
while serving their novitiate, are satisfied with such poor diggins as yield
only $1 to $2 a day, but they are soon forced by their task-masters, who 126
paid their expenses from China and San Francisco, and for whose benefit
they labour, and who tax them both for the payment of these expenses
and for a profit on the venture, to abandon such poor diggings for richer.
And as. to. white miners, not one of them will work for the small earnings I have, mentioned. If a miner cannot fall upon a rich " claim," he
will hire himself to other more fortunate claim owness, who will, pay him
from $5 to $10 a day, according to location and circumstances. In this,
way it comes that no poor diggings are worked. The surface of the
mineral region is being "skimmed"—not efficiently worked. In the
foregoing sketch I have-confined my observations to such portions of the
country as have been proved to be auriferous. To give a perfect deeorip*'
tion of the gold field is out of the question, In fact, much of it is stil
undiscovered, and must continue unexplored in a country of such dimensions as British Columbia, extending over five- degrees of latitude, and
embracing a great portion of ten degrees of longitude, and wMch contends some 200,000 square miles of surface. Such an extent of country^
and having such resources of gold, silver, and other metals, and a large-
quantity of agricultural and pastoral land, is an empire, and will require
a large population even to explore it thoroughly. Suffice it to say, that
as gold has been discovered at many points all over this vast surface, and
in quantities hitherto unequalled, the gold field of British Columbia is
practically, illimitable, and its wealth inexhaustible.
My advice to emigrants from the old country will be short, and^ wbHe-
it can easily be remembered, cannot be misunderstood. British Columbia wants two classes only—men with money and men with bodily
strength—capitalists and labourers. Both classes will do weE The
one will find lucrative employment for its capital, the other still more
profitable employment for its labour. If either fails it will be its own
fauHL   Should either of these two classes be married, let them brinar
* p
their wiyes and families; the more numerous the progeny the better. 127
No. II.
Ordinary merchandise, in lots -of 2,000 lbs. and upwards, £1 sfcg. per 100 |bs.-
LesBthan 2,000 lbs. ... <$S per 100 lbs.
We make the principal rate one pound, which will settle any
difference about the value of pounds in Federal currency. Last
year we rated the pound at $4.80, but the drafts We received during
the season only netted us an average of $"-1.74—taking that basis we'
reduce our rates on large lots 26 cents, and on small $1 per 100 lbs.
Passengers from Fort Garry to St. Paul, $30. Fort Garry to St.
Paul and return $50. Our new boat, the Inte^mt'donal, will be
down about the 15th of May, she will be in every respect equal to
any boat of her size on the Mississippi. She will make regular
fortnightly trips, will be two days running from Georgetown to Fort
Garry—she will remain two days at Fort Garry—making the return
trip to Georgetown in three days, and remaining there until next
regular day for departure. She will run until the end of October,
going through to Georgetown or Fort Abercombie every trip, and
connecting with four horse post-coaches.
No. III.
1. A pair of Mackinaw or North Blankets for each man.
2. An oil cloth or gutta percha cloth.
3. A set of tins (3) for cooking; a frying-pan, spoon, knife and fork,-
tin can and tin plate. 128
4. One large sized axe, and one small sized one,
5. A draw knife, a hand saw, an i inoh augur.
6. Cod lines, and rope for tethering, if necessary.
7. A supply of ball, powder, shot, tobacco, flint and steel, and tea, as
presents for Indians.
A few yards of copper wire to mend cart wheels.
9. A small seine net (20 feet by 5 feet) for brook trout in the mountains—a gill net if wintering on the east side of the mountains.
10. A supply of vesper matches (they do not spoil with damp).
11. A piece of soft, tanned leather (6 feet by 2 inches) for hoppins.
12. A supply of pressed vegetables, if procurable.
13. A miner's pick, a spade, &c, &c, &c.
A couple of awls and a ball of stout twine—a supply of stout
needles and strong thread.
A strong clasp knife, and pound of wrought nails, assorted sizes,
from 2 to 4 inches.
FINIS. 129
or THE
OF 1858.
By Henby YouiiB HiNn, M.A., F.R.G.S., Professor of Chemistry and
Geology in Trinity College, Toronto ; in charge of the Assiniboine.
and Saskatchewan Expedition.
Pp, 996; with 20 -whole-page Chromoxylographs, 76 Woodcuts, 3
Maps (topographical and geological), 4 Plans, and a Sheet of Profiles
of the country explored.    2 vols. 8vo.    Price $12.
The Country of the Montagnais and Nasquapee Indians, with numerous Illustrations and Maps.
tfionitiffGtflwW3<&stiy^ titeloclyMountains, andthe Ttest Mown Routntothe Gold Mgion of British Colwribw
Tit<■ Fertile Beltif allowed
Tlu Wnriers.._  '.
TlieMout**....  —
( FromIakeofilieWooclstoFo]"ks of the SmkaMiewarv Ihe Assinniboine & Saskatchewan Ityedition
Jnfhorifif's j     >   /'     <  'lie Saskatchewantoihe Rocky Mountains Capt^Idlttsevs Ikpeditunv
I British CoTxmMa,-.  J'lueBooh\Augh i860


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