THE ROUTE TO BIG BEND. – To the Editors of the British Colonist. – SIR –
My opinion has been asked in regard to the relative merits of the several routes of access to the rich mining region recently developed in that portion of British Columbia situated on the upper waters of the Columbia River, and now known popularly as the “Big Bend.” Deference to the wishes of the enquirers, and a desire to assist the wavering decisions of the many who, in the conflict of interested representations, are at a loss how to proceed, induce me, though reluctantly, to trespass upon your columns.
I have examined an article in one of your recent issues, illustrating the comparative distances and the cost of travel by the way of Portland through the valley of the Columbia River, and that recently opened from Victoria through New Westminster and across land from the head of Shuswap Lakes. I have read, too, other articles in your morning contemporary bearing on the same subject. For convenience sake I shall confine my remarks to that first mentioned.
In regard to the cost of travel by either route I am not prepared to say more than that your estimate showing a considerable advantage in favor of the route by Victoria appears to be correct.
In regard to distance and the facility of travel on the other hand, I may remark in the first place that your estimate of the distance by way of Portland is too high; in the next place that the character of the country between Walla Walla and Colville, with the exception of a day’s march from the former point through a sandy desert, is far from being so forbidding as you represent. On the contrary, some portions of the route, and especially that between the Spokane valley and Colville are very attractive in divers points of view. The road, indeed, from Walla Walla to Colville (I speak here of the usually traversed horse trail) is on the whole a good one. I deem it right to correct this misapprehension at the outset.
Referring to my notes, and recalling the experience of frequent travel by that line of approach, I make the distance from Portland, via Walla (sic.) and Colville, to Gold Creek 667 miles, a computation considerably short of your own. Of this distance about 178 miles only, instead of 245, are comprised between the proposed steamboat landing above the Dalles and the head of steam navigation at the upper end of the second Arrow Lake. In this interval there is, as you correctly remark, a strong rapid at the confluence of the Kootenais River, the stemming of which, save by a steamer of enormous power, I should deem at least problematical.
My computation of the distance from Victoria to the same point (Gold Creek), and including the travel by steamer across the Gulf of Georgia to New Westminster, differs only a few miles from your own. This computation is from my own notes, eked out by information kindly supplied to me by Capt. Layton concerning the road recently opened from the head of the Upper Shuswap Lake to the Columbia River. An advantage of, in round numbers some two hundred miles, is thus shown in favor of the Victoria route. In point of time the advantage, by your calculation, is also very great. For my own part I estimate it at the least at from 15 to 20 days, in view of the facilities of transit actually existing or now vigorously in progress in British Columbia. Add to this that the Road strikes the Columbia River some 23 miles above the head of the proposed steam navigation upon the Arrow Lakes, thus intercepting a portion of the river navigation, which, during the freshets, is both difficult and hazardous.
On the whole there appears to me no room for question on this subject under the statement of facts that has appeared before the public, and whatever the delusions that may, as it doubtless will, lead some to give the preference to the Portland route for the coming season, experience will correct the error for future years.
Setting all minor considerations aside, the importance to the public of this route to the new gold fields cannot be overrated – affording as it does a means of cheap and ready access, free from risk of accident, and available – when improved – for the import of the necessary supplies for miners at all seasons of the year.
ALEX. C. ANDERSON
ROSEBANK, SAANICH, V.I.
January 9, 1866.