Kamloops to Campement a la Carabine, Copper Creek

The old Thompson's River post was built on the east bank of the North Thompson River, and the new post of Kamloops constructed on the river's west bank, in 1843.

Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1849 painting of the Kamloops post, courtesy the Kamloops Museum & Archives. In 1843 the larger post was built on the west back of the North Thompson River; but the post that Sam Black knew is the smaller post or building on the right hand or east back of the North Thompson River, which comes in from the top of the image.

My book, “The HBC Brigades: Culture, Conflict, and the Perilous Journeys of the Fur Trade,” will be published by Ronsdale Press in June 2024. You can pre-order the book through your favorite bookstore, or via Amazon. Thank you for making this book one of the hot new releases at Amazon! 

From November 1842 to April 1848, Alexander Caulfield Anderson was in charge of Fort Alexandria, on the upper Fraser River, north of Soda Creek and south of Quesnel. In the early years (that is, before 1843) the fur traders traveled up the rocky east bank of the North Thompson River to the area of the modern day town of Little Fort. There they crossed the river, and climbed the “mountain,” to ride across the rugged North Thompson plateau to Lac la Hache. It was not an easy trail, as there were large bogs on its route which exhausted the horses and caused them to “wreck.”

So the HBC men looked for a new trail, one without the hazards of bogs, mountains, and cliffs that the horses tumbled over on a regular basis. In 1842, when Anderson returned to New Caledonia, he rode from Kamloops to Fort Alexandria over a newly discovered trail. The next spring the New Caledonia brigades traveled out over the new road, and came in by it. Clearly it worked for them: it proved very successful from early years, and was used, with some minor changes, until the Cariboo Road was opened in 1860 or thereabouts. Since that time it has disappeared into the woods: though I have heard recently that its route has been successfully located once more.

Anderson himself did not describe its route, and there are no journals that cover the HBC brigades’ passage over the new trail. I describe the route this way, as Anderson described it, in my book, The Pathfinder.

The route led west from the Thompson’s River fort to the mouth of Copper Creek, which flowed into the north side of Kamloops Lake. The party followed Copper Creek north, crossing several ridges to Criss Creek and eventually fording Riviere du Defunt (Deadman River) at its upper end. From there they followed the trails north and west, passing by the east end of Loon Lake and the west end of Green Lake. At Bridge Creek they joined the old brigade trail west of Drowned Horse Lake, and followed it past Lac la Hache and Fish Lake. On November 13, Anderson and his men arrived at Fort Alexandria in intensely cold weather.

A while ago, I received a new document from a Twitter friend. This document is in Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s writing and is attributed to him, and was discovered in the archives of the Smithsonian! I did not have it when I wrote my book, but here it is now, in part — he wrote this in the 1860’s and so the “Lytton road” mentioned here, is the Cariboo Road.

The “Brigade Trail” passing at Kamloops, unites with the Lytton Road at a point called Bridge Creek. N.B. The line might be advantageously carried along the edge of Shushwap [Kamloops] Lake instead of along the road [the Brigade Trail] which is hilly in parts.

From Kamloops to end of Shuswap Lake clear drift wood for [telegraph] posts along the river and lake — 19 miles W by S. Kamloops to end of lake, clear of wood.

To Clear Water River, open country, clear wood in parts — 12 miles NWly by NNW…

There is more, obviously, but we will save it for future posts. The manuscript I have quoted from is dated 11th of January, 1865. It is found in the William H. Dall Papers, circa 1839-1858, 1862-1927. Accession SIA RU007073, Box 18, Folder 4. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C., and it is titled “Report from Alexander C. Anderson on the country between the Fraser River and Stuart Lake, 1865.” My thanks to the Smithsonian Institution for preserving this important British Columbia manuscript. And my thanks, also, for a local researcher for sharing this find with me.

So let us return to the description of the 1843 trail. A day or two after the men of the incoming New Caledonia brigades rode into Kamloops, they would begin their journey over the next part of the trail. After 1843, the New Caledonia men used the new trail exclusively, and the old trail disappeared. You can guess how important it was to the men of the New Caledonia brigades, that they did not have to wrestle their loaded horses through the bogs and swamps that littered the old North Thompson trail. This new trail had hard bottom throughout, Anderson said.

So here is the route from Kamloops to Copper Creek, with Anderson’s notes from various manuscripts included. Note, this needs some editing and I have further information to add, so this might not be entirely accurate:

The trail that Anderson knew before 1848, when he left Fort Alexandria, traveled north from Kamloops up the North Thompson River, on its west bank, and across the top of modern day Kamloops Lake, some distance from its shoreline. It forded Tranquille River and, rounding Battle Bluff, mounted the steep hills of the sage-covered benchland of the Dewdrop Range. To avoid the steep ridges of Rousseau Hill, the brigaders dropped down to Kamloops Lake at Red Point, and followed its shoreline west past the many-coloured Painted Bluffs [which is now a Provincial Park]. Once past the bluffs they made their way over a hill and headed up Copper Creek, where they probably rested at the Carabine Encampment.

From Carabine Encampment, the HBC men followed Copper Creek along its east bank, according to Anderson’s map. In later years they may have crossed the hills to the valley of Sabiston Creek, which would cut off some distance. Anderson noted that from Tranquille River, the trail passed through “open country, clear wood in parts.” His map showed the camping spot called Campement a la Carabine, situated on what appears to be the second or third small lake along the banks of Copper Creek. On Sam Black’s map [CM/B2079 BCA] Copper Creek is called the Coppermine River, and the local Natives found copper along this stream.

After a rest at Carabine Encampment, the brigades continued north, along the west side of Carabine Hill. They crossed modern-day Sparks Creek, on the banks of which is Hudson’s Bay Spring. Sparks Creek drained both Sparks Lake to the east, and Red Lake, which was tucked away on the east side of Carabine Hill.

So there we are: we have come as far as Copper Creek. The next section will bring us further north — to Loon Lake. It will be found here: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/loon-lake/

The history of this trail is covered in my first book, The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson’s Journeys in the West. As far as we know, he was the first gentleman in the district that rode over the trail, and it might have been in his power to make the decision whether or not to use it. I must tell you, however, that it was Sam Black, of Kamloops, who actually opened the trail, as far as we know. Here is his story: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/sam-black/

An update: You can order my book, “The York Factory Express,” through my publisher, here: http://ronsdalepress.com/york-factory-express-the/ The book tells the story of the HBC men who journey to Hudson Bay and return every year, in the York Factory Express and the Saskatchewan Brigades. Thank you!

I am now beginning to write my third, which will be a more detailed look at the brigade trails that led over the Tulameen Plateau. Those were exciting years, and they are covered generally in The Pathfinder. But it feels great to begin a new project again. It’s a big project this time, and I can write two or three books from the information I have already collected.

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2015. Rewritten, March 2017. All rights reserved.