The Kootenay Report: 0051.0013


            The report of Mr. Birch, the Colonial Secretary of British Columbia, on the Kootenay country, we at length place before our readers.  It is evident from this document that the trail by way of Rock Creek is not the one which will enable the traders of Vancouver Island and British Columbia to compete with their American neighbors.  Mr. Birch says that the route he took made the distance from Hope to the Kootenay 490 miles, but that the journey could be performed in 400.  This, however, will not bring us up to the facilities of the American route.  From Walla Walla to the Kootenay mines is about the same distance; but provisions are much cheaper at Walla Walla than at Hope.  When the Colonial Secretary says that the British Columbia merchants have nothing to fear because the American goods are now subject to an enormously high tariff, he is evidently labouring under a serious mistake.  American goods pay no American tariff, and they are no worse off so far as the British Columbia tariff goes, when they cross the Boundary line, than they would be at Hope.  It is necessary that the people of both colonies should look this matter fairly in the face.  They cannot, for a moment, by any land travel of 400 miles hope to compete in any degree with the Oregon merchants and the mere fact that food in Kootenay, even with the infancy of the American transit, is cheaper than it is in the Cariboo, after three years of laborious and expensive road making, is sufficient proof of the assertion.  If packers can take goods from the head of navigation on the Columbia river to the Kootenay mines for twenty cents a pound, it is clear we cannot compete in any thing but English wares.  When we come to examine what proportion these form of our trade with the mines it will be easily seen the small per centage of the Kootenay traffic which can, under the circumstances, be monopolized or shared by our merchants.  To take the list of articles given by Mr. Birch himself, enumerating flour, beans, bacon, tea, coffee, sugar, butter, beef, mutton, candles, tobacco, and boots, there are but three in which we could hope to compete – tea, coffee and sugar.  For nearly all the rest, we ourselves are indebted to our American neighbors.  With the exception, therefore, of spirits, dry goods, and a few luxuries we could not, with our present routes, however improved, place goods in the Kootenay mines anything like so cheap as the packers and traders from Oregon.  It devolves, therefore, on the Government of the neighboring colony to discover if possible a line of transit that will reduce the land travel nearly one-half.

            By a letter in the Columbian from one of the exploring party by Kamloops Lake we have so far the assurance that the route to the Columbia river via Yale is one easily traversed.  The exploring party had reached the Columbia all right and were about to test its navigable capacity.  By this route we have the following table of distances: From Yale to Cache Creek on the Bonaparte there is a good wagon road for 110 miles; from Cache Creek to Lake Kamloops to the upper part of the Shuswap is navigable water communication of 120 miles; from Shuswap to the Columbia river, a distance of about forty miles, a road can be made crossing the dividing range at an altitude of fifteen hundred feet.  This brings us to the Columbia, and from thence to the mines is 200 miles by water.  Should this portion of the Columbia be found navigable, as is stated by men who have travelled over the country, Kootenay can be reached by a route that will throw the Oregon and Washington Territory communication completely into the shade.  From Yale, the land travel will be only 170 miles, 110 of which, as we have said, tis already a good wagon road, leaving, therefore, but sixty to be made.  The water communication will be a little over 300 miles.  It is evident, therefore, if we can only be certain that the Columbia is navigable for the stretch alluded to, that we can lay even Oregon provisions down cheaper at the Kootenay mines than the Oregon traders can themselves.  It is true that in the Colville and Walla-Walla valleys vegetables and cereals may be raised and transported cheaper than could be possible by any place west of the Columbia in our own territory, but as the mining population increases, even this description of supplies will be received principally by way of British Columbia.  There is however, another great advantage prospectively to the route to which we have just alluded.  As the mines continue to spread north, as they are evidently doing at present, our distance will be decreasing while the route by Washington Territory will be extended.  In a few years, moreover, sufficient grain will be grown in the neighboring colony to feed the mining population.  Under any circumstances, no time is to be lost by the Government and the people.  Should the navigation of the Columbia be as practicable as is generally anticipated, steamers will be required immediately on its waters as well as on Lake Kamloops.

            The report of Mr. Birch throws much additional light on the Kootenay country, and gives us the pleasing assurance that the heads of the Government of British Columbia are intent on finding out for themselves the nature of the mines and the routes best adapted to secure their trade.  If the Colonial Secretary has made a few mistakes of either omission or commission, they are only such as any newcomer would be liable to fall into; on the other hand, however, he has given us a very readable and practical report – much the best of any similar documents which have yet appeared under Government direction in the neighboring colony.

0051.0013: The Kootenay Report

Article summarizing report of Mr. Birch, the Colonial Secretary of British Columbia, on the Kootenay country. Also discusses the problems for B.C. merchants of supply of provisions.

Medium:  Newspaper - Text
Date:  November 11, 1864
Pages:  2
Publisher:  Victoria Daily Colonist
Collection:  Columbia Basin Institute (0051)




People arrow Bircharrow
Physical Features arrow Creeks arrow Rock Creekarrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Kamloops Lakearrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Columbia Riverarrow
Industry arrow Mining arrow Gold Mining arrow Caribooarrow
Industry arrow Mining arrow Gold Mining arrow Wild Horse Creekarrow
Social arrow Consumer Goods arrow Mining Camp Conditionsarrow
Transportation arrow Pack Trainsarrow
Cities arrow Colville WAarrow
Cities arrow Walla Walla WAarrow
Cities arrow Yalearrow


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