The mighty Thompson River

Thompson River and Nicola Valley, British Columbia, as it was in 1867

A portion of Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1867 Map of British Columbia showing Thompson River and Nicola Valley, CM/F9 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives. Detail from original map. The Kamloops post is in top right; and the trail that Anderson intended to take, from Lac de Nicholas (Nicola Lake) to the mouth of the Nicoamen River, is also shown.

On the morning of May 19, 1847, Alexander Caulfield Anderson set out on his third exploration across — or around — the mountains that lay between Kamloops and Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River.  From Kamloops, Anderson and his five men rode their horses over the range of hills south of the fort, to the Nicola Valley.

Anderson planned to ford the Nicola River and take a native trail that led across the valley directly to the mouth of the Nicoamen River through a gap in the hills. This trail would bypass the rough banks of the Thompson River west of its junction with the Nicola River. This is what Anderson’s journal reads:

May 21. Very sultry. Pursued the usual road followed by our trading parties on their way to the Forks [at the Fraser River]. But on arrival at the ford we found it impracticable from the height of water. Thus we are under the necessity of prolonging our journey by going to the mouth of the stream where we expect to find canoes. As far as the ford in question the road is passably good, but below it as far as our present encampment [before they reached the mouth of the Nicola River] the contrary, quite unsuited, indeed, for the passage of many loaded horses.

They reached “Thlikumcheena, or the Petite Fourche” the next morning.  This “Little Fork” is where the Nicola River flows into the Thompson near today’s Spences Bridge, BC.

The rapid-filled Thompson River

The rapid-filled Thompson River flowed from Kamloops Lake, behind the hill, to the Fraser River. In 1847, Anderson walked along the river banks on the right hand side of the photo, toward the photographer, who is standing somewhere in the area around the mouth of the Nicoamen River.

Anderson’s journal tells us what happened after he reached the Little Forks, 3 miles from where they had encamped for the night.

May 22… Breakfast. Send back four horses towards Kamloops by the Indian who accompanied us. Cross South branch [Nicola River] at its junction with Thompson’s River in a canoe, set out on foot, and after proceeding 16 or 17 miles along the left bank of Thompson’s River encamp on a hill close by Nicoameen. Road hilly but practicable with loaded horses. Very warm, but refreshing breeze.

May 23. Sultry. Off at 3.40. Cross Nicoameen River on a fallen tree. Breakfast and reach fork [where Thompson River flows into the Fraser at Lytton, B.C.] at 10 3/4, 13 miles. River much impeded with rapids, which are said to be worse at a lower stage of water.

Pahallak, the chief engaged by Chief Trader [James Murray] Yale, made his appearance shortly after our arrival accompanied by a large concourse of Indians of every age and sex. A general hand shaking took place. Before our little arrangements were completed, part of the day had elapsed and at the earnest entreaty of the Indians I consented to encamp here. They are on their good behaviour and show every external desire to conciliate, but they are a scampish looking set of vagabonds, nor does their ordinary behaviour, I believe, at all belie their looks, and though there is little to be apprehended from them under present circumstances, we are of course, as usual, on our guard.

The quotes from Anderson’s journal of exploration for 1847 come from the British Columbia archives and are found in Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s “Journal of an Expedition to Fort Langley via Thompson’s River, Summer of 1847,” Ms 559. Sadly, the originals of Anderson’s 1847 journals of exploration are lost to history. One copy would have been sent down to the Board of Management at Fort Vancouver, from whence it would have gone to Governor Simpson in Lachine. Anderson kept a second copy which he referenced in 1876, but it did not survive to reach an archives. His son, James, might well have inherited it after his father’s death in 1884 — as he inherited Anderson’s York Factory Express journal of 1842. But neither of these items reached the British Columbia archives.

I have written a little about Sto:Lo chief, Pahallak, here:

In addition, these are the men who accompanied Alexander Caulfield Anderson on this expedition: they should not be forgotten because some of them are quite interesting:

For example: clerk Montrose McGillivray was one of the men who accompanied Anderson on this exploration: 

My book, The Pathfinder, is no longer in print, but you can purchase a copy through me, for $20 Canadian plus postage.

You can order “The York Factory Express,” through my publisher, here: This 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.

And here is the next post in the series, which will bring you through the beautiful Nicola Valley. When I traveled this place in 1993, I sat by the side of the highway and saw the long grass that surrounded me — and listened to the crickets. It is different now. We have lost the wildness of the Nicola Valley!

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. [Updated July 26, 2015] All rights reserved.