Nicolum River & Hope Slide

A view up the Fraser River from Fort Langley

Looking up the Fraser River from Fort Langley, toward the Coquihalla Mountain

My book, The HBC Brigades: Culture, Conflict, and Perilous Journeys of the Fur Trade, was published by Ronsdale Press in July 2024. You can order it through your favorite bookstore, or via Amazon. For American booksellers, the distributor that represents Ronsdale Press in the united States is Independent Publishers Group. Thank you!

My sister said to me, “I want to go driving. Where shall we go?” Our mother had died and left us a little money; both of us needed to get away. It was early summer, 2009.

I suggested that I wanted to find and follow the Hudson’s Bay Company brigade trails — and A.C. Anderson’s explorations around the province — as far as I could in the week we had available. And that is exactly what we did. We began with a short visit to Fort Langley, and then headed east up the Fraser Valley toward Hope.

From Anderson’s 1846 journal: “The river is full of low poplar islands, and so far affords an excellent navigation for boats. Upon our right the hills are lofty and approach very close to the river. Such parts of their sides as have a Northern exposure are still covered with snow a great way down.” It was late May or early June; deep snow made horse transportation difficult.

Hope is hiking country, and Hope’s residents are great supporters of the brigade trails that come to that place, one way or another. The Hope Mountain Centre has a group of volunteers who open up and preserve these trails — both the Coquihalla brigade trail of 1849, and the Anderson River trail of 1848-9. On their website at you will find lots of information about the HBC brigade trails projects. If you like hiking, Hope is the place to go for historic trails!

As I said, my sister and I traveled east from Hope, along the route of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1846 exploration from Fort Langley to Kamloops, over the Coquihalla Mountain. Fort Hope did not yet exist; it would not be built until winter 1848, after the first attempt to bring the furs down to Fort Langley by the Anderson River trail in 1848.

So, from a place a little north of where Fort Hope later stood, Anderson and his men set out on foot, following the Que-que-alla (Coquihalla) River east. “A broad valley, watered by a considerable stream, which we keep upon our right. Country favorable in this part. Pasture about the banks of the main river; wild pea, prele [horsetail], &c in moderate sufficiency for the temporary sojourn of the brigade.” These quotes are from Mss 559, Volume 2, folder 1 [M/F 1360], BCA.

Where the Coquihalla river turned sharply north, Anderson “crossed upon an embarras of drift wood, two hundred yards below the usual ford…. ” He followed the Coquihalla to “one of its feeders, coming from E. by S., the width of which varies from 10 to 15 yards.” This is the Nicolum, but its Sto:lo name, as he wrote it, was N’Calaownm. “The opposite mountains which bound the valley approach very closely here, and the Indian track (scarcely perceptible by the way) is very bad; though with a good deal of labour it might be rendered available…”

“Monday, 1st June [1846]. Set out at 3.50 am. Keep along the right bank (ascending) of the stream. Country opens out a good deal & road good till 6 am, when we cross the river, here dwindled away to a mere trifle. Ascend a hill — easy of ascent — follow a mile or so along its summit, then descend again upon the stream……”

At this point, Anderson has arrived at the place where, in January 1965, Mount Outram let loose an enormous landslide that tumbled into Nicolum Creek valley and buried Outram Lake under 70-meters of rock and rubble. This slide violently displaced the lake’s water and soft clay bottom, pushing it 30 metres up the side of the mountain opposite and knocking down all the trees. Two buried were buried in the original slide, and when the whole mess came down from the opposite mountain side it caught two more. A Greyhound bus-driver backed his bus out of the valley and saved his passengers’ lives; other persons, who had passed through the valley a half-hour earlier, heard the rumble of the slide as it tumbled down the mountain. Four people were killed; two are still buried deep under the mud and rocks.

The little lake at head of Nicolum River was named Outram Lake, and this was the lake that was buried by the Hope Slide. When Anderson drew his 1867 map, he gave Outram Lake its name. Curiously, Anderson’s Outram Lake still exists, and we can celebrate that history — and the reason for its name — in my next “Following A.C. Anderson around British Columbia” post.

This a second of a series of posts: the third is found at The lake at top of post was named, by Alexander Caulfield Anderson, for his cousin, General Sir James Outram, Bayard of India — a very famous, and infamous, man.

This story is told in my first book, The Pathfinder. The book now seems to be out of print, but I have a few copies left. If you want to order one, talk to me through the contact sheet, and it will cost you $20 Canadian plus postage.

You may order my second book, “The York Factory Express,” through my publisher, here: Thank you!

But the stories in this post will be a part of my third book “The Brigades,” which is waiting for final editing. Exciting times!! Thanks for your interest.

Copyright Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. [Updated July 26, 2015]. All Rights Reserved.