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Overland communication by land and water through British North America Waddington, Alfred, 1800?-1872 1867

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ritisft Ifarih gjwerfra.
JUNE,  1867.
Higgins, Long & Co,, Printers.
'(6mMn to fritfoft MnmYw.
The urgency of a direct communication between the
Canadas and the Pacific, through British Territory, is becoming every day more and more evident. In a political
point of view, and as a natural consequence of the late Confederation, it would contribute essentially to its prosperity;
for so long as there is no direct Overland route, any connexion with British Columbia must remain a myth, and the
Red River Settlement continue isolated, insceadof becoming
a valuable annex to the Union. At present England has no
other postal communication with the Pacific but by New
York and San Francisco ; and in case of war with the
United States, the only possible postal line would be through
her own Territory across the Rocky Mountains ; whereas by
opening an Overland Communication immediately, a mail
service would be established forthwith, not only to British
Columbia and Vancouver Island, but before long to Australia and Asia, In the United States the Central Pacific
Railroad passes over what is commonly called the great
American Desert, a vast tract of country, destitute of wood
and water, dry, barren and unfit for the habitation of man ;
yet in spite of this drawback, and though San Francisco
possesses no coal, it is progressing rapidly, and the time is
not far distant when it will be opened. Passengers, mails,
and the lighter, costlier kinds of goods will pass over it; it
is calculated to divert a great part of the trade of China and
Japan from the Old to the New World, and if we do not
wake up, we shall bitterly regret the lost opportunity, and an
important traffic, which might so easily pass over our own
territory, and which, from our position, ought naturally to
belong to us.
The cost of an Overland Railroad, with a single line of
rails, from Ottawa to the Pacific, may be roughly calculated
as follows :
Distance from Ottawa to Fort Garry, partly
over difficult ground      . .        .    1150
From Fort Garry to Jasper's House [foot of
Rocky Mountains], level plain      ,        .    1050
From Jasper's House to the Head of Bute
Inlet , . ;     620
Total , »      .   2820 Two Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty miles at
$30,000 per mile—$84,600,000, or with contingent expenses
say $100,000,000.
This sum, if correct, would be too great for present *
possibilities or contemplation. But if such a magnificent
project as that of an Inter-oceanic Railroad cannot be entertained for the present, nature has gifted this portion of
British Territory with water communications of the very first
order, which only require a few connecting links to make
them available, and which offer a quick and easy mode of
conveyance for mails and passengers during seven to eight
months in the year, and for goods at one-third of the price
by railway carriage, and what is most important, through
a temperate climate.
Unlike the barren wilderness of the American desert, inhabited by fierce and hostile Indians, this line would pass
over one of the richest, most beautiful and fertile regions in
the world; extending from near the Lake of the Woods to
the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and containing from 60,000
to 100,000 square miles, or from forty to sixty millions of
acres; lying directly between the two Colonies of Canada
and British Columbia, and possessing every possible qualification for agricultural purposes. Aline of communication,'
where prairies covered with luxurious grasses and immediately available for the plough, are mingled with stretches
of woodland,, and well watered by numerous lakes and
streams, and which would soon be followed up and fed by an
agricultural population from one extremity to the other.
The Eastern portion of the country thus to be opened was
thoroughly explored for this purpose, as far as the Red River
Settlement and the lower end of the Great Saskatchewan,
in 1857-8, at the expense and by order of the Canadian Government ; and the chief object of the present notice is to
furnish the necessary details concerning the remainder or
more westerly portion. The writer has spent over five years
in studying the question, and has laid out considerable sums,-
in connexion with it, towards opening the first link from the
Coast to the Cariboo mines. He was at perfect liberty**to
choose the road best suited for the purpose, and made up his
mind entirely to avoid New Westminster, not only on*account
of the many objections it offers as a seaport, but as being impracticable for a railroad. Besides which, he had acquired
the conviction that the Passes through the Rocky Mountains,
between Mount Hooker, in Lat. 52° 17 and the Boundary
Line, which would connect that Port with the South Saskatchewan, are inferior in every respect for a railway to the
Line by the North Branch and the Yellow Head or Tete
Jaune Pass. This will be clearly shown when describing
the geography of British Columbia ; in the meanwhile, the
writer's reasons for adopting.the Northern route in preference
may be summed up as follows ifl
1.—The arid uature of the country traversed by the South Saskatchewan, the greater part of which is unfit for settlement, its proximity to the Boundary line, and the hostile feelings of the Indians.
2—The much greater altitude of the passes, the sharpness
of the grades and curves, and the great amount of snow.
3.—The circuitous course the route would be obliged to
follow through the Rocky Mountains after having crossed the
main crest or watershed, amounting to nearly 250 miles of
most expensive if not impossible railroad.
4.—The enormous expense, if not impossibility, of continuing the railroad in this latitude through the Cascade range
and down the Frazer to New Westminster;
5.—The utter worthlessness of the greater part of the
country thus traversed.
6.—The well-known difficulties of access to the Port of
New Westminster, which render it totally unfit for the
terminus of an Overland Railroad.
1.—The well-known fertility of the whole country drained
by the North Saskatchewan, and commonly called the Fertile
2. The greater navigability of the North Branch, and the
presence of large seams of coal on several points.
3.—The facility of the road by Jasper's House and the
Yellow Head Pass. This pass, or rather valley, presents a
natural roadway through the Rocky Mountains, its greatest
altitude is only 3760 feet above the sea, the Indians cross
oyer it in winter, nor does the snow render it impassable at
any time.
4.—The ready and easy communication offered for 280
miles by the Upper Fraser, through a comparatively open and
fertile tract of country.
5.—The facility for getting to the gold mines in and around
Cariboo, which at present can only be reached by 360 miles
of wearisome mountainous -wagon road; so that only the very
richest claims have been hitherto worked.
6.—The opening up of the Chilcoaten Plain, the only
one of any extent in British Columbia, and which offers every
temptation to settlers, as soon as opened.
7.—The facilities offered by the Bute Inlet Yalley, presenting a level break, 84 miles long, through the Cascade range,
and the only one for constructing a Railroad to the saltwater.
8.—The superiority of the harbor at the head of the Inlet,
its proximity to the .coal Mines at Nanaimo, and its easy and
safe connexion with Yictoria, Yancouver Island, and the
With these premises, I will now proceed to give the following detailed statement of the proposed communication by
1 Railroad from Halifax to Truro
2 Railroad from Truro to Riviere du Loup Bay,
Chaleur's route [in course of construction]
3 Railroad from Riviere du Loup to Quebec    .
4 Railroad from Quebec to Richmond .
5 Railroad from Richmond to Montreal     ;
Vietoria Bridge
6 Railroad from Montreal to Toronto    .
7 Railroad from Toronto, by Kempeufelt Bay
[Lake Simcoe] to Collingwood, on Nol**
lanoassaga Bay,
Railroad existing or in construction ,
8 From   Collingwood across Georgian Eay to
Cabot's Head ....
Past Cove Island Lighthouse and across the
entrance to Lake Huron ; along the Great
Manitoulin Island to the Group of Duck
Islands ,
Thence through the Mississaga Channel,
between Cockburn Island and the Head of
the Great Manitoulin, along Drummond
and Joseph's Islands to St, Marie River,
and through the American Canal [1-J- mile
long] ......
Thence across Lake Superior, to between Isle
Royale at its north-western extremity and
Thunder Cape [1350 feet high] into Thunder Bay and to Current River, with a good
harbor, 6 miles N.E. o( Fort William.
NiB —Lake Superior is 600 feet above tbe
sea, according to Sir W. Logan and Keefer.
The ice on Lakes Huron and Superior
breaks up a little before the end of April.
9 From    Thunder   Bay,   near   Fort   William
[situated in a fertile valley on the north
bank of the Kaministaguia and one mile
from its mouth] to Dog Lake, Sy a surveyed line. . . x .
N.B.—The Kakabeka Falls, on the river, enter
for 182 feet, and the Dog* Portage 3 miles
below the Lake for 347 feet in this rise.
10 Across Dog Lake with its gently rising banks.
Up Dog River,   a sluggy circuitous  stream,
about 80 feet wide, with flat, swampy
slopes, in a valley about one mile wide,
to the Prairie Portage
This last portion navigable for steamers by
making a darn 16 feet high across the outlet of Dog Lake, at an estimated expense
of £2000.
11 Prairie or Superior Portage, over the summit
or Divide, between Lakes Superior and
Winipeg, 893J feet above the former and
1493-|- feet above the sea.   . ,
2 a
893J Over
Middle    Portage,
Savanne Rivers;
Savanne Portage, very  swampy but easily
drained.       .
Total, through an easy country.
12 Down  the   Savanne   River,   a   meandering
stream from 40 to 70 yards wide, with
muddy banks and much embarrassed by
driftwood, to the Lac des Mille Lace.
Through tbe Lake with its numerous Islands
and bold rocky scenery, many of them,
however, containing tracts of good soil.   .
Down the River Seine [increasing gradually
from 100 feet wide and winding through a
flat wooded valley] to the Little Falls at
the Junction of Fire Steel River:   .
This last portion navigable for light steamers
by a dam about 36 feet high, above the
13 From the Little Falls  [24J feet high] down
the Valley of the Seine, now bounded by
low bills, of the primitive formation, to
the upper entrance of Rainy Lake.
N.B,—A broken navigation for bateaux, with
5 portages, could be easily established on
this portion of the River.
14 Down the upper and narrow portion of Rainy
Lake, 20 miles; then through the main
Lake with its rocky shores, and two miles
beyond, down Rainy River [with 6 feet
fall] to Fort Frances, at Rainy Falls, Jn all,
The Islands in this Lake [over 500 in number] are mainly composed of pale red
granite and chloritic and greenstone slate,
and though picturesque, presents a barren
and desolate appearance. The Lake freezes
over about the lst of December. There is
a population of 1500 Indians h«re:
Portage at Rainy Falls, 171 yards, requiring
two Locks. . . . .      ;    .
From Fort Frances down Rainy River Tfrom
250 yards to a quarter of a m^e wide, and
very winding], through a beautifully fertile
alluvial country, studded with maple, birch,
poplar and oak, and containing at least
260,000 acres of the very best soil, to the
Lake of the Woods. There are two insignificant rapids 31 miles below tbe Fort,
which a steamer of moderate power could
stem with ease.        ....
Across the Lake of the Woods, 55 miles, and
thence through a navigable channel, 66
feet wide, with two small bars of loose
friable slate, in all 140 feet long, to the
north western extremity of Lac Plat or
Shoal Lake, in all   . . .      P$ll
N.B.—The Indians grow large quantities of
maize on the Islands, and wild rice grows
in the greatest abundance in the whole
the   Dog   and
842 Sections.
Over :
district, foiming  the  chief sustenance of
the Indians.
15 From Lac Plat to Fort Garry, near the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine, and 647 feet above the sea. This
line has been surveyed, and a very good
route ean be obtained over a level and
favorable country, of which the first 60
miles wooded . .
And the remainder level prairie.
These 90 miles of road would replace 580
miles of cartage to St Paul's, where the
inhabitants of Red River now get their
supplies. The expense has been roughly
estimated by Mr Dawson at £22,500; and
the total cost ©f opening the communication by land and water, as above described,
from Lake Superior to Fort Garry would
probably amount to about £80,000. The
Red River Settlement contains a population of from 10,000 to 12,000, and begins
10 miles south of Winipeg Lake, extending
60 miles up the Red River and 60 to 70
miles West up the Assiniboine. The land
has been truly named, '■ a Paradise oi
fertility." Many farms have been culti'
vated for 40 years, without any appreciable
falling off; and as to elimate, maize never
fails to ripen, and melons grow With the
utmost luxuriance in the open air, and
ripen in August. The Red River, which
is 600 or 700 miles long, is 20\) to 350 feet
wide, below Fort Garry, and navigable for
steamers of light draft. It generally freezes
up about the middle of November or a
little later, and reopens towards the middle
of April.
16 From Fort Garry, through the Settlement,
down Red River, and then through m miles
of marsh at the mouth of the River to
Lake Winipeg, 628 feet above the sea.
From the south end of Winipeg Lane to its
north-western extremity and the Grand
Rapid 2 miles beyond, on the Great Sas*
katchewan   .
17 Portage at the Grand Rapid, 3 miles, with
62 feet fall, and a small rapid above [in all
5 miles], along a steep barren riage of
magnesian [upper Silurian or perhaps
Permian] limestone, on the north side of
the Great Saskatchewan
N.B.—This Portage, and more especially
another rapid further up, above Cross
Lake, might be avoided by passing from
Lak§ Winipeg ap the little Saskatchewan,
Stage ] Steam
Road.    Navig'n.
196     1139
TO Sections.
the Manitonba and Winipegous Lakes, anc
across the Mossy Portage, which separates
tbe latter from Lac Bourbon, and which is
4£ miles wide; but the navigation would
be most circuitous, and the distance
lengthened 83 miles to little purpose.
18 From the Grand Rapid up the Great Sas-
katcheman and through Lac Travers or
Cross Lake to the Rapid immediately above,
which would perhaps require a lock or a
dam .
Thence 3 miles up the Great Saskatchewan
and then through Lac Bourbon, in all
Thence up tne Great Saskatchewan to near
Cumberland Lake and House
Thence to the Forks of the Saskatchewan,
where there are large beds of tertiary coal
[lignite]       ....
From the Forks up the North Saskatchewan
to Carlton House [south bank].   The river
here is a quarter of a mile wide and at the
lowest waters 12 feet deep.   The  ice  sets
in about the 20th of October and breaks up
about the 10th of April
From Carlton House, passing the limit of the
true forests at the end  of about 30 miles,
and   then   entering   on   the  Fertile  Belt
through a rich and beautiful open couniry,
to Battle River        . . . J
Thence to Fort Pitt [in the upper and middle,
cretacous formation] . .
Thence to Fort Edmonton, on the north bank
of the North Saskatchewan [300 mflesj
below its numerous sources in the Rocky!
Mountains] .
The north branch of this noble river, which]
gathers its waters from a country greater
in extent than that drained by the St
Lawrence and all its tributaries, is here
250 yards wide at low water, and so far
perfectly navigable for steamboats ; for
which I have Sir James Douglas' authority.
Indeed the Hudson Bay Co. thought
seriously of placing a steamer on this part
of the line during the excitement of 1858 9.
Above Edmonton it is navigated by the
bateaux of the Company, drawing 4 feet of
"water, up to Rocky Mountain House, 140
miles higher; and there can be no doubt
that the lower half of this distance up to
the rapids, below Brazean river, is navigable for light steamers. Cumberland House
and Fort Edmonton are two of the most
northein points on the whole ot this Overland route. The latter is in Lat. 53° 30.
2100 feet above Lake Winipeg and 2728
feet above the sea. A bed of coal, 10 feet
thick, of the tertiary (?) coal formation
crops out here, and beds are again found
cropping out on Battle River, the Pembina,
the   Athabasca  and   elsewhere,   dipping
Stage  | Steam
Road.  .   Nav.
Miles. I Miles.
196  I   1139
872       196 | U39 '2100 Sections.
towards the East. The finest wheat is
raised at Edmonton, and at St Albans and
St Ann, two Settlements in the neighborhood.
From Edmonton up the North Saskatchewan,
as far as its bend towards the south, a
little below the rapids and about 6 miles
below the Junction of Brazean River,
19 Thence across the plain, nearly due west, and
over the Pembina and McLeod Rivers, two
clear shallow streams flowing over pebbly
beds about 80 feet below the plain, to the
Swift turbid Athabasca, a little above the
Roche a. Miette and Jasper's House opposite
[3372 feet above the sea]. A coach and
six could be driven over a great part of
this plain     .....
20 Thence south up   the Athabasca to Henry's
House, at the Head of Navigation and the
foot of the Tete Jaune Pass      i^'V^l
21 Thence in a WNW direction up the narrow,
rocky valley of the Miette, a deep, tortuous,
rapid stream, 30 yards wide, and along a
small tributary called Pipe Stone River,
to the Summit or*Watershed of tbe Tete
Jaune Pass, 3760 fe*er. above the sea.
This Pass is described in "Milton &
Cheadle's North-west Passage by Land,"
6th Edition,, p. 250, as follows : "In the
course of our morning's journey we were
surprised by coming to a stream flowing
from tbe westward. We had unconsciously
passed the height of land and gained the
watershed of the Pacific. The ascent had
been so gradual and imperceptible, that,
until we had the evidence of the water
flow, we had no suspicion that we were
even near the dividing ridge."
Total rise above Lake Winipeg
Thence across the summit, 3 miles, and along
the north side of Cowdung Lake [about V,
miles long and 1 mile wide] .
Then across Moose River, joining and following the Fraser, for 8 miles
Then along the north shore of Moose Lake
[15 miles long] through an open country
Then along the Fraser, partly between cliffs
of slate rock, to the north Fork, and 10
miles beyondjin all 25 miles, to opposite
the T§te Jaune Cache
Thence along the Fraser north to tbe Rapide
des Fourneaux, reputed Head of Navigation
Stage     Steam
Road.   Navig'n. I Rise
212Q 11350
90 9
{   Stage  1 Steam
Over            .            I
N.B.—Rich gold prospects are said to have
*been found about 35 miles below this rapid.
22 From the Rapide des Faurneaax down   the
Fraser and past  tbe  Long Rapid to Fort
George.    The Long Rapid  may be about
70 miles below the Rapide des Fourneaux.
Some of the boulders, it is said, might re
quire blasting when the  waters" are at the
lowest, in order to clear the channel
1  635
N.B.—The  portion  of the   Fraser, between
Bear River and Fort George, waters a rich,
open country, fully 80 miles in length, and
extending many miles back on each side of
the river ; with a climate milder than that
of Canada,  and  capable of raising wheat
or  any other kind  of  crops.   The  river
itself is not less   than  6  feet deep in tbe
shallowest parts and 500 feet wide where
narrowest, and the current is slow, more
like a lake than a river.
From   Fort George, past the Isle des Pierres
or Stone Rapid and  the  Grand Rapid,, to
the   Mouth   of Quesnelle River, 1490 feet
above the sea           .
[ 285
The Isle des Pierres Rapid is about 20 miles
below   Fort  George,  and  only awkward
when   the   waters   are   very   high.    The
Grand Rapid is 19 miles above the Mouth
of Quesnelle, and  much  more rapid, but
straight,   and it   is   believed,    on    good
authority, can be surmounted by a steamer
of tolerable power
23 From Quesnellemouth, a small rising town,
*SW across   the fine Chilcoaten plain,   by
Ch,isicut, Benchee and Tatla Lakes, to the
watershed and gap at the entrance  of thp
Cascade Mountains, on the Bute Inlet route
[2347 feet above the sea]    .
Thence   through the  Cascade  range,   by a
level valley to Waddington Harbor, at the
Head of Bute Ialet
N.B.—The particulars  of this  last Section,
with the reasons for adopting this line to
the Coast in  preference to any other will
be given further on.
The  foregoing figures represent the distances, with all the tortuosities
of the route 10
From opposite the Tete Jaune Cache, South
across the Fraser, then up the valley of the
Cache, over easy undulating sandy ground
and across Cranberry River to the water
shed of Canoe River
Thence down to the bed of Canoe River
worn to a considerable depth in the sandy
soil   .
From the Canoe River, SW, over rocky
ground to the Divide from the North
Thompson, 2900 feet above the sea
Thence down to the North Thompson
Thence in a WSW direction over mountainous ground t© the Divide from Clearwater
River .....
Thence down to the River      '. .    '      .
From Clearwater River to the Divide from
the Great Quesnelle Lake   .
Thence through a mountainous country
SSW to the South'eartern end of the Lake
[2040 feet above the sea]   ,
2 Thence along Quesnelle Lake  to its South.
western angle .
3 From Quesnelle Lake across a slightly rolling
fertile country, to the Mouth of Deep Creek,
on tbe Fraser and below Soda Creek/ viz :
From Quesnelle Lake WSW to the Divide,
near Round Tent Lake
Thence to Deep Creek .
Along Deep Creek west to the Frazer [1450
feet above the sea] with bridge and aps
Broaches .*
Thence WSW across the Chilcoaten Plain to
the old Fort on the Chilcoaten River
Thence in the same direction to the mouth
of the Gap at the entrance of the Cascade
Mountains, on the Bute Inlet route
Railroad      . ,      f   .$9
Steam Navigation
Total miles
3ff$|**-'" AGAINST
1 From   opposite  Tete   Jaune   Cache  to the
Rapide des Fourneaux, railroad
2 Navigation on the Fraser
3 From Quesnellemouth to the Gap, as above
Less distance
Increase of Railroad •
This road would, however, pass over a wild, unknown, uninhabited,
mountainous, barren tract of country, between Quesnelle Lake and the
Tete Jaune Pass, which would present considerable difficulties and be
vastly expensive. Very different from the fertile district on tee Fraser
.and the facilities for immediate navigation.
200 .
897 11
| Steam
From Halifax to Collingwood, by Railroad     ♦
From Collingwood to Current River,  6  miles NE ol
of Fort William, Lake Superior   .
From Lake Superior to Dog Lake . :
Up Dog Lake and River      f.:"*''• !■
Portage to Savanne River, easy ground   .
Down the  Savanne   River,  the Lac des Mille Lacs
and tbe River Seine, to the Little Falls   .
Thence along the Seine to Rainy Lake
Through the Lake, down Rainy River and across t
Lake of the Woods, to  the North-west  end of|
Lac Plat or Shoal Lake
Thence over   the  Plain   to Fort Garry, Red  River
Settlement [with 12,000 inhabitants]
Down Red River, to the North-west end of Winipeg
Lake, and the Grand Rapid, 2 miles beyond,
the Great Saskatchewan
Portage along the North Bank
Thence up  the Great Saskatchewan and its North
Branch to below the Junction of Brazean River
80 miles above Fort Edmonton, and the Settle •
ments of St A'ban and St Ann
Thence to Jasper's House, Lat. 53°:12, at the foot of
tbe Rocky Mountains        ....
Thence south up the Altrabasca  to the foot of the
Yellow Head Pass ,
Through the Pass to tie Upper Fraser
Down the Fraser to Quesnellemouth [toad to Cariboo]
at the Junction of Quesnelle River
Across tbe Chilcoaten Plain, 137} miles, and through
the Cascade range, 84£ miles, by a level valley
to Waddington Harbor, Head of Bute Inlet
Total 4333 miles, requiring from 20 to 23 days' travel.
Miles.     Miles.
2400  1 1285
Railroads built or in construction
Bute Inlet Road
Other portions to be built       :
Steam Navigation f
Distance from Bute Inlet to Halifax*!
Distance from Halifax to Liverpool
Against 8200 miles by Panama
The expense of opening the portion between Lake Superior and Fort Garry, comprising roads, bridges, drainage,
clearing of driftwood, and several small dams, has been
estimated, as before mentioned, at about £80,000 j towards 12
which the Red River Settlement would probably contribute
the 91 £ miles of surveyed road to the Lake of the Woods,
estimated at £22,500. Governor Douglas proposed to the
Home Government, in 1862-3, to build the wagon road
between Fort Edmonton and the Fraser for £50,000 ; and
Mr Waddington has undertaken the portion between the
Fraser and Bute Inlet, which he is about to make over to an
influential Company in England. The Hudson's Bay Company were already on the point, some years ago, of putting
on steamers between the Red Biver Settlement and Edmonton ; this they would now probably do, as well as on the
Upper Fraser ; and private parties would be glad to do as
much on the three other portions of Lake and River between
Fort Garry and Lake Superior. Thus the whole line could
be opened in less than two years, and England, instead of
running the risk, as at present, of losing the trade of the
East, would for a sum less than £150,000 (and pending the
construction of the railroad which must soon follow), have
an immediate high road of its own, with the finest harbors
in the world (Halifax and Esquimalt) and abundance of coal
at the termini; and which, when completed, will be the
shortest and most direct possible to China, Japan, and
perhaps even to India.
So far, only a slight mention has been made of the reasons,
for which the road is made to go by the Yellow Head Pass,
in preference to any of the other known passes through the
Rocky Mouatains ; nor why it crosses the Chilcoaten Plain
to Bute Inlet, instead of following the Fraser to New Westminster. But as the difficulties of connecting an Overland
Railroad with the Pacific through British Columbia are not
generally known, I have thought it desirable to collect and
embody them in the following pages, so as to show at one
view and more clearly how they are avoided by this route,
when every other one has been found to be next to impracticable.
The Colony of British Columbia is to a great; extent occupied by two ranges of mountains, running NNW, but
gradually diverging from each other towards the north,
where they enclose a vast plain, of which more will be said
hereafter, That on the East side bears the name of the
Rocky Mouatains, and the other that of the Cascade or
Coast range. They have one feature in common, which is,
that their Eastern* edge rises in both cases abruptly from an
elevated plain ; and in the Rocky Monntains the highest
crest or ridge is also on that side ; whereas the descent on
the Western slope, though greater, is extended over a wider
distance, and, therefore, in-general more moderate.
The Main crest of the Rocky Mouutains, several of the
peaks of which rise to a height of 16,000 feet, forms the 13
Eastern limit of the Colony, and runs trom its SE corner at
the Boundary line, in a NNW direction, to beyond the Northern limit of the Colony, in Lat. 60°. I say the main crest,
because what generally bears the name of the Rocky Mountains, is composed in British Columbia of three distinct
ranges, divided from each other by rivers and deep depressions, and having each its own crest or ridge. Of these, the
two western ones, though less elevated, are chiefly composed
of metamorphie rocks, and, therefore, generally speaking,
more distorted and abrupt than the rounded granitic peaks
and domes of the main crest. The whole forms a triple fence
as it were to the Colony, or one vast sea of mountains,
averaging from 150 to 160 miles wide.
The Middle range, which as before said, is somewhat lower
than the main one, and which takes the names of the Purcell,
Selkirk and Malton ranges successively, is separated from
the main ridge by the Kootanie River, the Upper Columbia,
the Canoe River and the Upper Fraser; and presents one uninterrupted line of mountains, some of them 12,000 feet high,
parallel to the main range, for 240 miles from the Boundary
line to the Great Bend of the Columbia, in 52° N Lat. The
Columbia River here runs towards the North, and after
separating the above Middle or Selkirk range from the Rocky
Mountains, cuts through it at the Big Bend, and turning
South, again separates it in its downward course from the
third or more Westerly range. But the travellers who have
discovered the different passes [such as they are in this
latitude] through the Rocky Mountains were unable to push
their explorations further than this Eastern or upper portion
of the Columbia, excepting near the Boundary line ; so that
neither the Middle range nor the Western one, which were,
perhaps, supposed, as being less elevated, to present less
difficulties, had been hitherto examined. In consequence,
however, of the gold discoveries at Kootanie and the Big
Bend, or in connexion with them, they were carefully explored last year ; but no practicaole pass could be discovered
through the Selkirk range, which thus presents an impenetrable barrier for a railroad in that direction.
A scheme, it is true, has been broached and even patronized
in the interest of New Westminster, for overcoming this
difficulty, by making use of the Columbia for 100 miles north,
from the Eagle Pass in the next Range and in Lat. 50°:56, to
the Boat Encampment and the Big Bend of the Columbia, in
Lat. 52°, and then 60 miles south to Blaeberry River ; from
which point the road would follow Howse Pass, 6347 feet high,
over the main crest of the Rocky Mountains. But forty miles
above Eagle Pass the navigation of the Columbia is interrupted «foy the Dalles de Mort or Death Rapids, and the formidable bluffs on either side of the river would hinder the
construction of a wagon or railroad, supposing there were no
greater difficulties beyond. Such a road may do very well on
paper or to show in England, but practically speaking, couldl
never be carried out, 14  -
The Third or more westerly range is the least elevated of
the three, though still ranging from 4000 to 8000 feet high.
South of Fort Shepherd and the Boundary line, where it
forms numerous sharp ridges riming north and south, it
bears the name of the Kulspelm Mountains, and further north
of the Snowy Mountains or Gold range. The Bald Mountains in Cariboo, 6000 to 8000 feet high, are also a continuation of this range, which after crossing the Fraser, below
IV>rt George, lowers towards the North, and takes the name of
the Peak Mountains. The only good pass from the Columbia
through this third range is to the South end of Soushwap
Lake, and was discovered last year by Mr Moberly, the
Government Engineer, at Eagle'Creek, in Lat. 50°56. An
important feature in both the middle and western ranges just
described, is their gradual depression north of, Cariboo to
where the Upper Fraser, after separating the middle range
from the Rocky Mountains, abandons its North-westerly
course, and makes a circular sweep through the depression
from east to west and then south to below Fort George.
This depression forms a large tract of level, flat country on
each, but more particularly on the south side of the Fraser,
and as the country and climate are both well adapted for
settlement, offers every inducement and facility, (if indeed it
be not the only pass) for a future railroad through these two
ranges of the Rocky Mountains.
The Cascade range forms the Coast line of the Colony,
which it follows from near the Mouth of the Fraser into the
Russian [now American] Territory. Its average width is
about 110 miles, and it may also be considered as a sea of
mountains, some of which attain, if they do not exceed, a
heignt of 10,000 feet. Its crest, starting from Mount Baker,
a few miles south of the Boundary line, passes a little north
of the Head of Jervis Inlet, some 25 miles north of the Head
of Bute Inlet, 22 miles east of the Head of North Bentinck
Arm, and crosses Gardener's channel about 20 miles west of
its Head. From Mount Baker the Cascade range throws
out a spur east and north, in the direction of the Great
Okanagan Lake and Fort Kamloops, so as nearly to join the
Gold range ; and it entirely envelops the Fraser from a little
above Harrison River [55 miles above New Westminster] up
to its junction with the Thompson at Lytton, and even a few
miles beyond, on both rivers. But the most rugged portion
in this direction lies between Yale and Lytton, where mountain succeeds mountain, and where those along the river
present the most formidable aspect; bluff after bluff of solid
perpendicular granite, intermingled with steep slides of
rolling rock, washed by a deep impetuous stream, a^id 1500
to 2000 feet high. In short, not only has this portion of the
Fraser valley been declared to be utterly impracticable for a
railroad by Major Pope and other competent authorities, but
it is so fenced in with mountains, that there could be no
reasonable way of getting at it with a railroad, if it were.
It is over these mountains that the present wagon-road
L_ 15
passes, at an elevation, in one place for 40 miles, of 3600 feet
above the sea—The only road to the Cariboo mines and the
North of the Colony, and a lasting monument of Sir James
Douglas' energetic and provident administration. Unfortunately, the difficulties [as may be seen in " Milton &
Cheadle's North-west Passage, p. 356," where there is a good
sketch of one of them] were alpine. Many places are most
dangerous, the endless ascents and descents fatiguing and
laborious in the extreme, and as the sharp turnings, besides
many other portions, have had to be built up to a great
height on cribs or cross timbers which must soon rot, the
repairs will form a heavy charge on the Colony.
So that, supposing the difficulties through the Rocky Moun-
' tains to be got over, the Cascade range still intercepts all
direct communication by railroad between the Eastern part
of the Colony and New Westminster. To say nothing of the
utter worthlessness of the greater part of* the country to be
traversed, amounting to over 520 miles out of the 600 from
its Eastern limit. Add to this, that the navigation across
the Gulf of Georgia and at the entrance to the Fraser, by a
narrow, intricate channel, through shifting- sands, full five miles
long, is both difficult and dangerous, and that the river itse f
is frequently frozen up in winter for long periods ; and it
will be evident to every impartial mind, that New Westminster with its 700 or 8l0 inhabitants, can never become the
terminus of an Overland Railway to connect with Victoria
and the ocean.
Further north along the Coast, there are numerous inlets,
which penetrate into the Cascade range, but the greater part
either terminate abruptly, like the fiords in Norway, or are
too distant; or like Gardener's Channel, Dean's Canal, and
the Skeena, are too far off to the north-west to be available for
any present communication with the mines or the interior.
There are, however, two exceptions : The North Bentinck
Arm, by Milbank Sound, in Lat. 52°:1S, and Bute Inlet, opposite Vancouver Island, with a safe and easy inland communication by steam to Victoria, distant 185 nautical miles.
Both these inlets terminate in a valley of some extent; and
as attempts have been made to open both of them, it becomes
necessary to explain why the writer gave a decided preference
to Bute Inlet, for a wagon road and a fortiori for a railroad,
over Bentinck Arm or any other line.
The advantages of the Bute Inlet Route consist: In its
central position; fine townsite and harbor; or rather two
harbors, accessible at all seasons of the year; its easy and
safe connexion with Victoria and the ocean, and the proximity of the coal mines at Nanaimo. The Port of New Westminster, on the contrary, is difficult of access, in consequence
of its constantly shifting sand-banks; and closed, as aforesaid, by ice during 2, and even occasionally 3 and 31 months in
the winter. The following certificate of a licensed pilot will
give some idea of the extent and importance of the first objection :
5 I piloted H.M.S. Tribune safely into Fraser River, and
" was on board when she struck going out ; her draught of
" water, 19 feet 7 inches... .In the actual channel, by which I
" took H.M.S. Tribune into the river, there are not now more
" than five feet of water at low water."
Given under my hand this fourteenth day of September,
1866. (Signed) John S. Titcomb.
• The harbor at Bella Coola, on the Bentinck Arm trail
[the only other feasible route to the mines], is situated 435
miles further to the north, and has been pronounced by
Captain Richards, Hydrographer of the Royal Navy, to be
totally unworthy ; presenting no shelter, no good anchorage,
no good landing place; but a vast mud flat, with a mile of
swamp, intersected by a shallow river barely navigable for
canoes. Or to quote the words of Lieut. Palmer, of the
Royal Engineers, in his official report on the Bentinck Arm
Trail: " A large flat shoal, extending across the Head of the
" Arm, composed of black fetid mud, supporting a rank
" vegetation ; bare at low spring tides for about 700 yards
f from high water mark, and covered at high tide with from
" 1 to 8 feet of water, and at a distance of 800 yards from
"shore, terminating abruptly in a steep shelving bank, on
" which soundings rapidly increase to, 40, and soon 70
" fathoms." The whole is, moreover, subject to violent winds
and powerful tides.
On the Bute Inlet Route the snow, owing to the more
moderate elevation, and its more southern iatitude and aspect, melts fully three weeks sooner than on the Bentinck Arm
Trail; and the road is dry, entirely exempt from snow-slides,
and level the whole way through, Unlike the endless mountains on the Fraser route, or the steep, unavoidable ascent
from the sea, and numerous swamps by that of Bentink Arm;
so well described by the few packers who have been over
both routes, and who have declared in their picturesque language, that the Bentinck Arm Trail could not show a candle
to that by Bute Inlet. The Bute Inlet Trail cuts through the
Cascade Mountains by a deep valley studded with rich bottoms affording plentiful pasture, and rising imperceptibly for
80 miles, when it nearly attains its greatest height [2,500
feet] ; from which point forward in the plain, it was free
from snow for 25 miles in February, 1862. The Bentinck
Arm Trail, on -the contrary, is obliged to climb over the
range, owing to the valley, when 35 miles from the Inlet,
turning abruptly to the SSE and running longitudinally with
the range, instead of cutting through it; so that the trail attains, in the course of a very few miles from that point, a
height of 3,840 feet, as will be better shown by the following
table compiled from Lieut. Palmer's report: IT
From the Inlet to Shtooiht, at the turn
of the valley    .
Thence to Cokelin, " by a narrow gorge,
hemmed in by steep and continuous]
cliffs." . ;
From CokeUn to the Great Slide
From the Great Slide to the Precipice
Or  supposing it  possible to   equalize]
these grades  [a thing  next to im
practicable] we should have .
Per Mile
One in
1      14
43 6
"After which the trail continues to rise gradually, the soil
" becoming shallow and meagre, the vegetation thinner and
'* inferior, for 60 miles more, till it crosses the summit ridge
" at an altitude of 4,360 feet" [Lieut. Palmer's report.] And
it then only enters on good soil some 20 miles before crossing the Bute Inlet Trail at Benchee Lake ; whereas along the
latter line the bunch grass peculiar to the country flourishes
over thousands of acres,
Finally, the distauce from Bute Inlet to the mouth of Quesnelle river is fully 25 miles less than that by the Bentink
Arm Trail, and not much more than half of that from New
Westminster [222 against 393] ; besides having no portages
or mountains. Thus presenting an open communication during the whole winter, which exists on neither of the other
routes ; and a diminution of nearly one-half in the time and
cost of conveyance, as compared with that by the Fraser.
Lieut. Palmer in his report admits *' the geographical advantages of the Bute Inlet Route over the others" ; indeed they
were so evident, that a company which had been formed for
opening the Bentinck Arm Trail, abandoned the project,
when they learned that the Bute Inlet Route was going to be
carried through.
Another item in favor of the Bute Inlet Route is its great
Strategical Security in case of any difficulties with our American neighbors. The Fraser river, from Fort Hope downwards, runs for 80 miles parallel to the boundary line, and at
a distance varying from 6 to 12 miles from that frontier ;
whilst the only road from New Westmiuster to Hope and the
interior has been constructed between them. So that a detachment of a few hundred men could at almost any point
intercept all communication, and literally starve out the
whole colony. The Bute Inlet Route, on the contrary, would
be perfectly safe and its approaches impregnable.
A proof of the feeling here with regard to the Bute Inlet
Route is, that a petition to have it opened had 1031 signatures against 7 refusals, comprising all the members of the
House of Assembly less one, the Speaker, the Mayor of Victoria, the members of the Common Council, and every merchant or person of note in the place. It was forwarded to
Mr. Car dwell, then Secretary of- State for the Colonies, 18
through our Governor, in June, 1865, but remained without
any result, nor was any notice even taken of it in New Westminster.
| There is another route being opened from the head of
I Bute Inlet by an enterprising gentleman who was convinced
" of the existence of another route to the interior than that
" through the valley of the Fraser, and who has, by his own
4{ unaided efforts, worked out the problem in the most surprising manner, in the face of numerous difficulties. He now
" reports his trail, as nearly ready. When this trail, or mule
" road, is converted into a wagon road, it must greatly reduce
" the cost of transit to Cariboo, as it shortens the land travel
" about one-half, and the road is so level as to offer no diffi-
" culty to the construction of a railroad."
The Indian hostilities, the plunder of all my property and
general massacre of my men, commenced April 29th following,
and only ended in the middle of May. This frightful event was
mainly owing to the removal of Governor Douglas, whom
the Indians had so long known, and whom they had learnt to
respect and to fear ; to the removal at the same time of the
only troops in the colony, under Colonel Moody ; and to the
absence of every precaution by the local government in consequence of these changes ; such as the appointment of an Indian agent, a Justice of the peace or even a constable; though
I had paid nearly $3000 or £600 of taxes levied on the enterprise. Since then I have in vain petitioned for an indemnity,
and not only has the little amount of protection which would
have been necessary to enable me to carry on the works,
been constantly refused me, but I have been cautioned by the
Government in New Westminster not to continue them.
The valley of the Homathco river, which falls into Bute
Inlet, presents a deep cut or fissure through the Cascade
Mountains, varying from three miles to less than a quarter of
a mile in width ; is 80 miles in length, and rises imperceptibly to a height of 2,400 feet or more above the sea, at the
point where it enters on the plain beyond the mountains.
For the first 31 miles, up to the canyon or defile, the bed of
the valley is composed of diluvial soil, consisting of a sandy
clay or loam, and forming a hard, dry bottom. The canyon
itself is exactly one mile and' a quarter in length. Beyond
the canyon the valley again forms and opens for about six
miles, the soil partaking of the nature of the rocks from
which it is derived and becoming more gravelly and of a reddish cast. The river after this is again confined to a uarrow
bed, {>ut the country is more open, and the road passes for 19
six other miles near the river along the foot of the mountains; until the valley once more opens and recovers its flat,
level aspect, which it maintains up to the plain.
The mountainous region thus traversed is composed for the
first fqrty miles, up the neighborhood of Tiedeman's Glacier,
of brittle quartzose granite, hard to drill, but yielding easily
to the blast. The rock then becomes more feldspathic and
contains more Hornblende, the former element decomposing
into a reddish-white, greasy clay. This continues until a
short distance below the First Lake, where the granite ceases
and is replaced for six or eight miles by a clay slate of variegated colors bearing the marks of igneous action. This slaty
zone is supposed to be auriferous, and is in all probability a
continuation of the Bridge River diggings. It is followed by
beds of stratified granite, of apparently more modern origin,
and which are intersected here and there for a short distance
by veins of augitic rock, varying from six inches to two feet
in thickness. The valley now opens more and more, till at a
distance of 80 miles from the Inlet the mountains cease abruptly, and the road enters on the plain beyond.
The rise in the valley, though apparently uniform, presents
considerable variations. Thus the canyon presents a rise in
30J miles of only 860 feet above the sea. The river then
becomes much more rapid, and gives for the next thirteen
miles an ascent probably of 780 feet, after which for 40 miles
and up to Fifth Lake, the rise diminishes to 630 feet; beyond
which there is a sharp ascent for a couple of miles more, of
say 150 feet, when the summit, or watershed, is attained.
We shall thus have the following gradients :
Total        2425
The above figures must of course be considered as only approximate.
The plain, consists of a deep sedimentary soil, watered by
numerous lakes and small streams, and varied by occasional
elevations formed of sandstone belonging probably to the
lower series of the chalk formation, and apparently owing
their upheaval to plutonic action, which has hardened or calcined the rock. They form here and there conical elevations
varying from 500 to 800 feet in height. Sueh, for instance,
are Mount Palmer to the north of Benehee Lake, and several
others that figure on my map. These elevations, and the low
spurs or ranges of hills that accompany them, necessitate but
few deviations from the straight line, and the plain in general
offers every -facility for the establishment of a railroad.
Towards the mouth of the Quesnelle there is a gradual descent for some miles, but unattended by any difficulty ; and
at the terminus on the bank of the Fraser there exists a rich
plateau of cultivable soil. 20
The valley, above described is in general heavily timbered,
but studded, as aforesaid, with rich bottoms, capable of producing any Kind of crops,'and offering open spots for small
farms. The plain itself [the only one in British Columbia of any extent] has been admired by all who have seen it,
on account of its vast pasturages and park-like scenery.
Its width, where it is crossed by the Bute Inlet trail, is about
120 miles, and it stretches from the SW end of the Great
Quesnelle Lake and the neighborhood of the Fraser, in a NNW
direction, more than 300 miles to the Skeena, beyond which
river it has not been explored. It contains millions of acres
of good ground, and some of the best along the proposed
route, where large tracts of land are sure to, be taken up as
soon as the first communications are established. Some objections have been raised as to its elevation, which averages
2500 feet above the sea in the southern part, though
gradually lowering towards the Skeena, where the climate, in
consequence,becomes considerably milder. But this makes it
none the less valuable fsr grazing purposes, which will be by
far the most profitable branch of farming in the country,
when there are means of conveyance. At present, the cattle
consumed in Cariboo, are driven overland some 500 or 600
miles from Washington Territory.
Cereals can also be cultivated with success, as is fully
proved by the following list, showing some of the crops
which were raised last season on the Fraser route, together
with the corresponding latitudes and altitudes :
Deep Creek
William's Lake
Cut off Valley
Mr Cornwall
Lat. N
100 acres of oats
200 acres of oats, barley end wheat
200 acres oats, barley, potatoes and
a little wheat
0   acres   oats,   barley,   and   300
bushels wheat
But the above localities are all to the East of the Fraser,
and it must be born in mind, that as the isothermal lines approach the Pacific, they extend diagonally towards the North,
in the proportion of about 1° of Latitude to 2Q of Longitude.
Thus at Benchee Lake, on the Chilcoaten plain, in the same
latitude as William's Lake, and rather more elevated, but
2° more to the west, and therefore very probably iaentical in
climate. I saw in the autumn of 1863 a small crop of oats,
barley and turnips, which Mr Manning had raised on trial,
and which had perfectly succeeded ; whilst some potatoes,
which had been planted in an exposed situation to the south,
had been frost-bitten. The Indian horses pass the winter
out of doors without fodder or stabling ; the best proof that
the winters are not very severe.
The superiority of the Bute Inlet route [the only one 21
which opens a communication, available for a railroad, with
this magnificent plain] being thus proved, it remains to say
a few words on the different passes which have been explored
through the Rocky Mountains on British Territory; leaving
out the Athabasca Pass by Peace River, in Lat. 56°:28, as
being too far north for present purposes :
ge or T)\v
1 Yellow Head Pass,  from  the   Athabasca to the
Upper Fraser          .....
2 Howse Pass, from Deer River by Blaeberry River
to the Upper Columbia                  ,
3 Kicking Horse Pass, by Bow River and Kicking
Horse River, to the Upper Columbia
116 32
4 Vermillion Pass, from the South Saskatchewan by
Fort Bow [4100 feet] to the Kootaine
5 Kananaski Pass, from Fort Bow by Pamsay River
to the Kootanie [with a short Tunnel]    .
115 31
6 Crow's Nest Pass, by  Crow  River to the  Koot
aine             ......
7 British Kootanie Pass,  by Railway River to the
114 48
Kootaine     .                         ....
114 37
8 Red Stone Creek or Boundary Pass, frpm Water-
ton River to the Kootanie, [partly on American
ground]      .,.*..
With the exception of the Yellow Head Pass in the above
table, which is comparatively straight and short, and the
three last which are tolerably so, but too near the Boundary
line to be available ; the four others describe the most circuitous routes, among a labyinth of glaciers, and mountains
covered with perpetual snow. Besides which, the approach
to the mover the plain by the South Saskatchewan; is for nearly one hundred miles, through an arid, sandy, treeless district
forming the northern limit of the great American Desert;
instead of the rich Fertile Belt drained by the North Branch,
which is also the more considerable one of the two . And it
is in the very latitude of this Belt, that the great barrier of
the Rocky Mountains is cleft asunder, so that the road runs
along this fertile zone in a direct line up to the lowest and
easiest Pass, as to a natural gateway leading to the Pacific.
But we have already seen, that all the southern ¥ asses [and
Captain Palliser wished it to be distinctly understood that he
considered these as far from being the best that could be discovered] are intercepted further west by the Selkirk range,
which presents an impenetrable barrier, and renders them so
far next to useless. When, therefore, we consider their relative
altitude, their necessary precipitous nature, and the great
depths of snow [27 feet or more], under which they lie buried
during eight months of the year, there can be no hesitation
[and such indeed is now the general opinion] in regarding the
Yellow Head Pass through the Rocky Mountains, with its
easy gradients and low elevation, as the only feasible one for a #f
railroad. But the same has been shown with respect to the
Upper Fraser and the Bute Inlet valley, through the Cascade
range. It is therefore clearly demonstrated, that these passes,
which connect naturally with each other, offer the best and
indeed the only really practicable line for a railway to the
Pacific through British Columbia.
Victoria, V. L, June 7th, 1867.    


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