First NationsGold Rush Yale

A Brief History of the Fraser Canyon

Human history in the Fraser Canyon dates back to over 9000 years ago. The salmon which make their way up the river every year made it a place of abundance and spots along the river were widely contested by Sto:lo and Nlaka’pamux families for generations. The large quantities of cedar trees in the forests along the Canyon contributed to all aspects of First Nations life. Living trees along the trails used by foragers, hunters, and traders still show the scars of bark harvesting – these trees are referred to as ‘culturally modified trees (CMT).’

Simon Fraser’s assisted navigation of the Fraser Canyon in 1808 (while searching for a fur trade route for the North West Company) marked the beginning of substantial change for the region’s First Nations as it sparked the beginning of European encroachment and an age of rapid transportation improvements in the Fraser Canyon.

In 1858, miners from across Canada and the United States started flooding the Fraser Canyon in search of gold and riches. The influx of gold, money, and people made it necessary to build safer and more substantial routes through the Canyon; thus, the Cariboo Wagon Road was built (by hand, pick, and shovel) between 1862 and 1864.

In 1885, predominantly Chinese labourers completed the famed Canadian Pacific Railway. This line connected British Columbia to the rest of the country. In less than 77 years, travel in the Canyon had gone from canoes and ladders to a major national rail-line.

Today, visitors travelling on Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) are closely following the old Cariboo Wagon Road as they wind their way through Sto:lo and Nlaka’pamux territory, past historic gold claims, and along the river which arguably gave birth to modern British Columbia.