The Louchameen Road

Merritt-Princeton Highlands

The country along the brigade trail that ran north from Tulameen to Nicola Lake, far enough to the north to be where the Louchameen Road ran.

In late 1858, Lieutenant Henry Spencer Palmer of the Royal Engineers arrived at Fort Victoria with the second batch of soldiers. By late summer of 1859, he was assigned to ride over the brigade trail from Fort Hope, with Angus McDonald of Fort Colvile. His job was to assess whether or not it would make a good road to the Rock Creek gold fields. His journal is titled, “Report on the Country between Fort Hope on the Fraser and Fort Colvile on the Columbia River.” The report was published in Great Britain [Great Britain. Colonial Office. Papers Relative to the Affairs of British Columbia, No. 33], but fortunately for British Columbians, a good portion of the report was re-published in one of the Annual Reports of the Okanagan Historical Society [Thirty-Sixth Report, November 1, 1972].  

Palmer left Fort Hope with Angus McDonald on September 17th, and reached Campement des Femmes [Tulameen, B.C.] on the evening of September 21st. This is what Palmer says of the route that the Fort Colvile brigades took after leaving Campement des Femmes.  

We followed the valley of the “Tulameen” in a general south-easterly direction along a level grassy river bottom rather scantily timbered and devoid of brush… At midday we reached a point where the river takes a considerable bend to the south south-eastward, and to avoid the detour the trail passes to the eastward over a portion of the mountain range some 1,000 feet above the valley. From the summit of this hill [China Ridge] the country assumes a perfectly different character… 

China Ridge had an excellent view of the surrounding country, which Palmer described:

Immediately below us lay a large scantily timbered plain formed by the confluence of four considerable valleys. From the south a long torturous line of willow and other trees marked the course of the “Similkameen,” which rises in the mountains near the 49th parallel, and forks with the “Tulameen” in this plain.

The latter river [Tulameen] enters from the N.W. and the two when united take an easterly course towards a third valley, the narrow entrance of which was plainly visible from our position, while running north a fourth, two miles wide, extends far away in the direction of Fort Kamloops and the Upper Fraser, the other and shortest route past the Great Okanagan Lake lying altogether east of the Similkameen.

There is more information on China Ridge here: http://www.chinaridgetrails.com/CR/welcome.html   The “torturous line of willow and other trees” marked the Tulameen River as it united with the Similkameen and flowed into its narrow valley east of modern-day Princeton. The third river valley he describes here is either Allison Creek, or Summers/Missezula Creek, and both lead north to Kamloops. I have not climbed China Ridge and so I don’t know which northern-leading valley he is describing: but it is probable that this is the Louchameen Road so well known to the HBC men at Fort Kamloops and elsewhere. It is an interesting road, and for various reasons I would like to identify it. 

On Sam Black’s Map CM/B2079 [BCA], two trails or roads lead north from Red Earth Fork [Princeton] to the Nicola Valley. The first is the easternmost trail, which leaves Similkameen River at Red Earth Fork [Princeton] and proceeds north, following a stream that tends slightly to the east before cutting across country to fall in a straight line into the upper reaches of Quilchena Creek. Looking at my maps, I would say this trail follows Summer Creek north to Missezula Lake and across country to Quilchena Creek. This trail could have passed close to Alleyne Lake or any other of the lakes in this region. 

The westernmost of the two trails shown by Sam Black leaves Red Earth Fork and proceeds almost directly north to the Nicola Valley; it does not touch the eastern trail at any part but runs parallel with it. It appears to run up the valley of Allison Creek and past Allison Lake. It brushes against a creek that curves from the west and to the west again, and heads across country to the west end of Nicola Lake. On Black’s map, the northern part of this trail is labeled “Mr. McD’s Road.” Either one of these two trails could have been the road that Anderson called the Louchamean Road — but I think that Allison Creek is the more likely of the two to bear that name. It runs up a wide valley — the same valley that Highway 5A travels up on its way from Princeton to Aspen Grove, south of Merritt.

In his book Coquihalla Country, Murphy Shewchuk tells us a little of the history. On page 113-114, he writes:

The earliest records of the passage of white men through this valley [Allison Lake] date back more than 185 years. Alexander Ross of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company is believed to have followed Indian trails through here in January 1813. Ross and his companion were returning to the Columbia River after having just established a post at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers — now Kamloops.

In 1826, Archibald McDonald, a Hudson’s Bay Company clerk from Fort Kamloops, travelled through the area and recorded the lay of the land in “A Sketch of Thompson’s River District – 1827.” On his map, McDonald named what we now know as the Similkameen River the “Schimilicmeach,” and the Tulameen River the “Red Water Branch.” The red reference again turned up in the early name for Princeton — Vermilion Forks — which referred to a deposit of red ochre in the bluffs a short distance up the Tulameen River…

The HBC men always called the area around modern-day Princeton the “Red Earth Forks,” or at least that’s what Anderson called it. But, back to the trails… On Anderson’s 1867 map CM/F9, BCA, only one trail is indicated, and it appears to be the one that runs up Allison Creek. Just north of a lake he called “Rocher de la Biche” (which lake appears to be on the Otter Creek system), the trail joins the 1849 brigade trail that ran between Campement des Femmes and Quilchena Creek. Otter Creek is hard to follow on my old Lands and Forests map, but it seems to flow from the cluster of lakes around Thalia and Lodwick Lakes, which are northwest of Allison Lake, and southeast of Alleyne and Missezula Lakes. Are these lakes Anderson’s Rocher de la Biche, or is Anderson’s “Rocher de la Biche” Alleyne Lake? 

Nor did Anderson’s later trail continue north, as McDonald’s trail did on Sam Black’s map. I think that the later HBC men merged the two Sam Black trails, and traveled up Allison Creek to “Rocher de la Biche,” before heading across country to the headwaters of Quilchena Creek, which was at that time called McDonald’s River.  

I suppose it was possible that Alleyne Lake was Rocher de la Biche: the lake sits in a valley between rocky hills and ridges, and is connected to the upper Quilchena Creek drainage in a line from Bluey Lake to Pothole Lake, according to Kamloops Trails here: http://www.kamloopstrails.net/kentucky-alleyne-lakes/

This is rocky country. All of these lakes and streams, including Missezula and Alleyne Lake, are part of a fault system called the Alleyne-Kentucky fault system. Summers Creek is part of the Summers Creek fault, and Allison Lake is in the Allison Creek Fault, and north of Allison Lake there is an “intrusive body” of rocks. Not an easy country to travel through, it appears, although the fault-lines up Summers Creek, and Allison Creek, appear to have made it much easier. In fact, these fault-lines came close to “creating” roads.

So I am looking for the Louchameen Road, which was the main road from Kamloops and Nicola Valley to the Red Earth Forks [Princeton] for the HBC men of the 1840’s. Here is what Alexander Caulfield Anderson had to say of it when the trail that Blackeye had showed him ran into the more familiar Louchameen Road. At that time, the road from Otter Lake to the Louchameen Road, by Otter Creek, was not known to the HBC men. In his journal he wrote:  

Though late, we made a start and went about 3 miles [from Blackeye’s camp at Otter Lake] to the end of a second lake of smaller dimensions [Frembd Lake], communicating with the first..

Monday 8th [June]. Fine. Set out 3.45. 6 miles along the little river [Otter Creek], crossing twice and passing a third small lake connected with the rest [Tynne Lake (pronounced “Thin”)]. Leave river and strike across through fine country till we fall on the Louchameen road a little above the Rocher de la Biche..

I think that neither Allison Lake (24 miles north east of Tynne Lake) nor Missezula Lake can be Anderson’s “Rocher de la Biche.” I think that the cluster of lakes around Thalia Lake (which includes Gulliford Lake) are more likely to be Anderson’s “Rocher de la Biche.” In fact, I think its possible that Gulliford Creek is the curving creek that the trail to the north brushed against, according to Anderson’s map, shown above. According to my ancient British Columbia Gazetteer, Gulliford Creek “Flows N and W into Otter Creek, N. of Mt Pike, Kamloops Dist.,” and Gulliford Lake is “E of jct of Spearing and Otter Crs. NE of Mt Pike, Kamloops and Similkameen Districts.”

So… it seems possible that Gulliford Lake was “Rocher de la Biche,” and the Louchameen Road passed to the east of it. What route Anderson’s party used when they left Otter Creek “and strike across through fine country till we fall on the Louchameen road,” I do not yet know.  It will take a little research to find his route, I think, and it seems that none of the other people who researched the brigade trails explored this section of the trail.

In 1859, Arthur Thomas Bushby walked over the brigade trail alongside Angus McDonald and Lieutenant Palmer. At Campement des Femmes Bushby parted with McDonald and followed the brigade trail north to Kamloops. His journal contains more information about his future wife Agnes Douglas than it does about the trail, but there are a few clues here if I can figure them out. On the first day he wrote that he “parted with McDonald & his party they going to Colville while we turned off to Camloops.” For the first day they:

passed along some fine country today valleys & flats & passed some 4 or 5 lakes… We camped on a fine flat, it is very cold.

At this point they are following Otter Creek north, and so have not yet stumbled into the Louchameen Road. The next day [the second] they:

had a delightful walk today about 20 miles & are now camped in the middle of a sort of plain with pretty hills all round… The nature of the scenery has quite changed & is much prettier.

The third day’s walk took them through:

a beautiful country several lakes — fine loam — beautiful sloping hills covered with bunch grass in fact at one particular lake named “Lac deux marges blanc” I think it was the prettiest spot I have yet seen in B.C. — a charming winding lake with pretty hills all round sloping down into the water, & backed by some beautiful little forests..

“Two White Margins?” Can anyone identify this lake, by any chance? On the fourth day they camped at:

Camp a la riviere Frisere — Lovely spot in a little hollow & a fine bathing spot close by, we plunged in morning… We were quite jolly last night altho’ we had the hardest days work yet. I was tramping from 1/2 past 8 o’clock till half past 5 o’clock & slept well in consequence.

If they walked at 3 miles an hour, then on that day they covered about 27 miles. Frisere might mean “curl,” but it is more likely to mean “chilly,” if this is massacred French, and it probably is. Where might they be? The next evening, Day 5:

Started from camp de Frisere at 1/2 past 8 o’clock. Marched on till we came to a spring about 12 o’clock… March on to present campment, close to La riviere de la prairie.

They may be in the Nicola Valley, I suspect. He does not indicate where he camped the next night, but it seems to be about 28 miles from Kamloops. On the next day they started off at 8am, and reached Kamloops at dark, “about 1/2 past 6 o’clock & had to leave the mules [horses] the other side of the Thompson. We had at least 30 miles walk and passed some exquisite country some of the prettiest spots going — a chain of lakes & fine prairie land Mr. Manson who has charge of the fort here is very kind. We had a glorious supper of potatoes, salmon, bread & cheese & butter — turned in on our blankets. This is a wild spot.” 

So that is the Louchameen Road as described by a man who paid more attention to his love affair than he did to where he was going. Still, some of these lakes might be identified from his description, although it will be guesswork on everyone’s part and you will have to be very familiar with the country to identify the lakes — and I am not. Anyway, Anderson did not describe the Louchameen Road in any document that most of you would have seen in the British Columbia Archives, if you had looked. But he did write about it, though he did not give it its name. His report, written for the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, is titled the “report from Alexander C. Anderson on the country between the Fraser River and Stuart Lake, 1865.” [in William H. Dall Papers, Accession SIA RU007073, Box 18, Folder 4, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C.] In this handwritten report, sometimes hard to read, Anderson indicated a possible route through the Similkameen Valley to Princeton, and then north by what appears to be the Louchameen Road:

Arrived at the point called in my map Zack-a-meen is the Red Earth fork, the question as proposed to me comes up. At this point [word] it the village of Princtown [sic] is I am told, now established.

I should strongly dissuade your attempting to continue the line hence to Fort Hope. In the first place I see no object to be gained by it. In the 2nd you will abandon a most eligible line of country for a rugged and difficult one more than twice as long to reach the crossing of the Thompson…

To start then from the Red Earth Fork:

From that point to the Lac de Nicholas the distance is 45 miles through a level valley well watered, with good pasture and a sufficiency of wood without the necessity of clearance in any part save occasionally a few poplars at the water courses. 

From the point where the road strikes Nicholas [Nicola] Lake near the East end to Kamloops, 29 miles through a similar country.

Total Red Earth to Kamloops — 74 miles.

I drove up Highway 5A a few years ago and really enjoyed the drive. I did not at that time know I was exploring what was probably the Louchameen Trail, and so took no photographs! This I regret, but unfortunately can’t do anything about it right now. I will return.

Copyright Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2017. All rights reserved.

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