Route To Big Bend: 0052.0018

THE BIG BEND GOLD MINES – How To Get There – Reliable Information!

                                                                                    Victoria, V.I., Jan. 11, 1866.


            Dear Sir – The Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee for the purpose of collecting information respecting the Big Bend gold mines, the superior advantages of the route to them via the Fraser river; and diffusing such information throughout California and Oregon.

            I am instructed by the committee to apply to you, as one who is eminently qualified to afford the most reliable statistics on the subject, and to ask if you will kindly place what information you can at the disposal of the Chamber.

                                                            I am, dear sir,

                                                                        Yours faithfully,

                                                                                    J. Robertson Stewart,

                                                                                                Chairman of Committee.


J. Robertson Stewart, Esq.

            Chairman of Committee,

                        Chamber of Commerce,

                                    Victoria, V.I.

Sir – I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, requesting, on the part of the Chamber of Commerce, information regarding the facilities of access to that portion of the mining regions of British Columbia now known popularly as the “Big Bend.”

            Much of the information it may be in my power to give has already been communicated to the public in an article addressed by me recently to the editor of the BRITISH COLONIST.  To this article, written for the satisfaction of individual enquirers, I have the honor, in the first place, to refer you; remarking, merely, that on re-examining it I find little to correct in the statements made – little, indeed, to add.

            I have computed the distance from Portland to Gold Creek at 667 miles.  Thus:

To the Dalles                                                                                                   110

To Walla Walla                                                                                               100

To Colville via Spokane                                                                                  210

To the Little Dalles (about)                                                                               15

To the head of the Upper Arrow Lake                                                           178

To the point where (as I am informed) the new Shuswap Road

            strikes the Columbia River                                                                    23

To the Dalles des Morts                                                                                    23

To Gold Creek (which I assume to be identical with the stream

            known formerly to myself and others as the Riviere aux Castors)         8                 


            The distance between Portland and Walla Walla is traveled by steamer with the exception of the breaks (or portages) at the Cascades and the Dalles, and I believe, a third break between the Umatilla and Walla Walla.  This last, however, would depend on the contingency whether the steamers can ordinarily be brought above the strong rapid of the Umatilla.  I have not been informed on this point.  At the Cascades portage there was formerly a tramway, now replaced, I am told, by a railroad.  But whether the fifteen-mile portage at the Dalles is performed by railway or with wagons I am not prepared to say.  The natural road at this point, though hilly, is a good one.

            The tract lying between Walla Walla and Colville has been described in terms that might lead the reader to imagine a region dreary in the extreme and all but impassable.  In the article to which I have referred you I strive to correct this mis-statement – for it is not by the misrepresentation of facts, or the undervaluing of advantages, that the relative merits of the rival routes are to be established.  I say this irrespectively of other considerations, pointing to the same conclusion.  Over the same ground, however, in the memorandum submitted to me by you, the distance, on the other hand, is greatly under-rated, as well as the time of travel.  Your memorandum shows a distance of 150 miles only, with a traveling time of five days.  The distance is fully what I have estimated it; and in former times, with fresh horses and loads not exceeding 200 pounds to each, it was considered by the people of the Hudson’s Bay Co. good work for a pack train to make the journey in ten days.  In early spring, when snow frequently impedes portions of the route, of course a longer time was taken.  It is, however, for practical packers, forewarned of the distance and knowing the rates at which they travel with the heavy loads they convey, to estimate in this matter for themselves.  The wagon road, I should mention, is longer than the ordinary pack trail; but not having traveled by it I am at a loss to say how much.

            I am informed that it is proposed to extend the transport by steamer some twenty miles above Walla Walla to a point near the mouth of the Yackama River, and there to commence the land travel by the trail followed by the Colville brigade of the Hudson’s Bay Co. in 1852.  The trail in question unites with that from Walla Walla a few miles above the falls of the Peloose.  This measure, if adopted, would somewhat shorten the distance of land travel, and likewise save the troublesome crossing of the Snake river – an object, with the drivers of heavily burthened packtrains, of no small importance.  It would be possible, indeed, to extend steam communication higher up, as far as the foot of the Priest’s Rapid; but no advantage in connection with the land transport to Colville, would accrue for the extension.

            Referring to my previous letter you will perceive that I consider the strong rapid at the mouth of the Kootanais river to be a serious obstacle to the navigation by steamers of the portion of the route above Colville comprised between the Little Dalles and the head of the Arrow lakes.  This doubt I expressed to Captain White, the projector of the scheme, last spring, when applied to in Victoria for information on the subject.  In repeating the doubt, however, I do not desire my opinion to be regarded as authoritative.  The Arrow Lakes – fine sheets of water – are respectively fifty and sixty miles in length, with a connecting channel of nine miles.  They are generally free from ice about the middle of April – in severe seasons somewhat later.

            The term “Big Bend” arises from the abrupt turn which the McGillivray Branch (heading with the Kootanais River) makes at the point where it is joined by the Canoe River (heading with the Fraser) and the stream issuing from the Mount Hooker Pass.  The three streams here unite to form the main Columbia; and here, at the issue of the last mentioned stream, is the Boat Encampment.  Leaving Fort Colville annually about the 20th April the Hudson Bay Express boats generally reached the Boat Encampment (where the boats were deposited for the summer) in ten days; but they were always strongly manned and in light marching order.  In 1842 I left Colville a week later than usual and reached the mountains only on the twelfth day, though my boats were unusually well-manned with Canadian and other voyageurs, and the most expert Iroquois conductors.  The cause of this delay was that we met the freshets above the second lake, and had no small trouble to proceed.  I mention these facts to show that the difficulties of the navigation of the Upper Columbia are not to be lightly considered.  Of the ten days of travel usually occupied three were passed between the head of the Arrow Lakes and the Dalles des Morts.

            I may mention incidentally that the distance from the Boat Encampment (to Jasper’s House on the Athbasca (sic.), through the Mount Hooker Pass of the Rocky Mountains is by my computation 88 miles – the trail in some parts rough, and in one place very steep for a considerable distance.

            In treating of the route from Victoria to Columbia River I shall proceed on my own general knowledge of the country, while acknowledging the information in regard to details and recent improvements kindly supplied to me by Captain Richard Layton and other gentlemen.  To commence with the distance:-                                               MILES

            Victoria to New Westminster, by steamer                                            80

            To Yale, by steamer                                                                              95

            To junction of wagon roads above Lytton, by stage                          110

            To Savana’s Ferry, west end of Kamloops Lake, by stage                   23

            To Kamloops Fort, by steamer                                                              27

            To Little Shuswap Lake, by steamer                                                    37 ½

            Length of Little Shuswap Lake, by steamer                                           4 ½

To Big Shuswap Lake, by steamer                                                         2 ½

Through Big Shuswap Lake to Ogden City, by steamer                      46

Ogden City to the Columbia River, by the new road striking the

            river 23 miles above the Arrow Lakes                                      34

                                                                                                            459 ½

To the Dalles des Morts                                                                        23

To Gold Creek                                                                                                    8

                                                                                                            490 ½

Deduct for sea-navigation from Victoria to New Westminster            80

Net distance, New Westminster to Gold Creek                                 410 ½


            Hence it appears that there is a difference in favor of the route by the way of Fraser River of 257 miles, as from Portland on the one hand, from New Westminster on the other – the true points of departure in both cases.

            In regard to time of travel, the following memorandum has been given me:

            New Westminster to Yale, by steamer, including stoppages              30 hours

            Yale to Savana’s Ferry by stage (the stages travel night and day)     24 hours

            Savana’s Ferry to Ogden City by steamer, about                               16 hours


            Total time from New Westminster to Ogden City                             70 hours


            From Ogden City to the Columbia River might occupy at present about two days; but on the completion of the road-works in progress might be effected with ease in a single day.  Thus a traveler could reach the point in question in five days from New Westminster, or in six from Victoria; on an emergency the journey could be accomplished in a shorter time.

            The estimated cost of freight through from New Westminster to the Columbia, taking into account what is actually charged for transportation at present for a portion of the distance, and including the objectionable road tolls, is ten and a half cents per pound, as under:                                                                                                    p. lb.

            New Westminster to Yale – steamer                                                  ½ c.

            Yale to Savana’s Ferry – wagon                                                         3

            Savana’s Ferry to Ogden City – steamer                                            2

            Ogden City to Columbia                                                                    2_

                                                                                                                        7 ½ c.

            Add the Road Tolls, which it is proposed to abolish                         3 c.

                                                                                                                        10 1/2c.


            In regard to the rates of fare for passengers, I am not prepared to speak; but every disposition exists to reduce them to the lowest possible rates.  Public opinion, indeed, is very strong on this point, and its expression has been cordially responded to.

            Concerning the fares or rates of freight by the Portland route, I am not able to speak with any degree of accuracy, and therefore refer you for information to other sources.

            Having now laid before you, to the best of my judgement, facts which bear on the question, I can only repeat the remark made in my previous letter, that the advantages which the route via Victoria possesses over the rival route cannot be over-estimated, affording, as it does, a cheap, speedy and secure line of transit, available for throwing in supplies for the hardy miners at all seasons of the year.  Whatever the delusion, in short, that may for a while possibly tempt miners to adopt a different line of route, a brief experience will correct the error.

            In connection with the new developments in the interior, I rejoice to hear it rumored that the Government of British Columbia is about to alter some of those injudicious enactments which have for some time impeded the progress of that Colony, while materially affecting our own interests.  I allude more particularly to the road tolls, and the still more unpopular and oppressive tax upon the export of gold.  The abolition of these objectionable imposts will afford just satisfaction to the mining community, and doubtless restore that confidence in the prudence of the Government which has for awhile, I regret to say, been shaken.

            In conclusion, I beg it to be understood that I give no opinion, as of my own knowledge, concerning the asserted richness of these mines.  I believe them to be rich – perhaps even richer than has yet been shown or imagined; but my belief is founded on authentic statements to which, for the most part, the public has had access equally with myself.  I regret, however, to perceive from extracts that have recently appeared from some of the New York papers, that the most fabulous statements have gone abroad – how I know not.  The truth, plainly told, is sufficiently alluring without resorting to fictions so unworthy.  Such must have in the end an injurious effect, by tending to weaken that confidence in the good faith and good intentions of the colonists, which it should be their first object by all means to foster and promote.

            I have the honor to be, sir,

                        Your Obedient Servant,

                                    ALEX C. ANDERSON

0052.0018: Route To Big Bend

Newspaper article with correspondence between A.C. Anderson and J. Robertson Stewart on the distance and route to Big Bend. Clarifying the advantages of one route over another.

Medium:  Newspaper - Text
Date:  January 24, 1866
Pages:  3
Publisher:  Victoria Daily Colonist
Collection:  Columbia Basin Institute (0052)


steamer hudson bay company trail route voyageurs


People arrow Andersonarrow
People arrow Stewartarrow
People arrow Whitearrow
People arrow Laytonarrow
Industry arrow Mining arrow Gold Mining arrow Big Bend Countryarrow
Associations arrow Chamber of Commerce arrow Victoriaarrow
Government arrow Fees arrow Gold Taxarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Columbia Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Fraser Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Kootenay Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Canoe Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Snake Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Rivers arrow Yakima Riverarrow
Physical Features arrow Creeks arrow Gold Creekarrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Arrow Lakesarrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Kamloops Lakearrow
Physical Features arrow Lakes arrow Shuswap Lakearrow
Transportation arrow Faresarrow
Transportation arrow Roads arrow Big Bend Highwayarrow
Transportation arrow Ferries arrow Savana's Ferryarrow
Transportation arrow Passes arrow Mount Hooker Passarrow
Physical Features arrow Mountains arrow Rocky Mountainsarrow
Cities arrow Cascadearrow
Cities arrow Colville WAarrow
Cities arrow Jasper ABarrow
Cities arrow Kamloopsarrow
Cities arrow Little Dalles WAarrow
Cities arrow Ogden Cityarrow
Cities arrow Spokane WAarrow
Cities arrow The Dallesarrow
Cities arrow Umatilla Landingarrow
Cities arrow Walla Walla WAarrow
Cities arrow Yalearrow


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