History of the Tikwalus Heritage Trail

Fraser Canyon | General

Photo Credit: Alexandre Thissen

Have you ever been to a place overlooking a magnificent view and felt a connection with the spirits of those who once carefully placed the soles of their feet on the soft earth upon which you stood?

Photo Credit: Alexandre Thissen

At one time, all of our ancestors were deeply connected to the earth, depending completely on their environment for survival. Self-sustenance was very hard work. As descendants of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, we all hold a special place in this vast country’s rich history and are part of an ongoing journey through time; a journey that is as fluid as a river’s current. Our times of enjoying nature might only be reserved for weekends or short vacations, but they are experiences many of us crave. Life invites us all to connect with the earth, the water, the sky, and with the spirit of the courageous souls who walked this earth long before us.

The Fraser Canyon is one of BC’s most scenic drives, offering beautiful views, challenging trails and several points of interest. The Tikwalus Heritage Trail is a culturally significant route, sitting high above the Fraser Canyon and accessible from Highway-1. Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park is located approximately 50 km north of Hope and just beyond the Park, travellers need to watch for Alexandra Lodge, which is on the right. Just 400 metres past the lodge is trailhead parking and an information kiosk. It’s a steep hike to the top of Lake Mountain. The elevation gain is approximately 788 meters and the trail is 13 kilometres, round-trip.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Thissen

The Tikwalus Heritage Trail is just one of many trails that were used for at least 9,000 years by the Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) First Nation, who travelled extensively throughout the region. The trail connected villages, fishing sites and provided access to areas where they could hunt, trap, trade and collect plants for food and medicine. It was a safer route to negotiate than the dangerously steep cliffs at Black Canyon and Hell’s Gate. Their village, Kequeloose, was supported by the Fraser River’s abundance of salmon. From Kequeloose, the Nlaka’pamux could take the trail up Lake Mountain, travel east to Nicola Lake (Merritt) and (Fort) Kamloops, then north to Boston Bar and Lytton.

In 1847, Chief Pahollok of the Nlaka’pamux agreed to assist Alexander Caulfield Anderson, the Chief Trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Anderson needed to find a safe route over the Cascade Mountains for his horse brigades that would carry furs from Fort Kamloops to the Fraser River. Chief Pahollok showed him a section of the Tikwalus route that went east over the top of Lake Mountain and connected to a horse trail which followed the river to Merritt and Fort Kamloops.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Thissen

In the spring of 1848, Anderson’s fur-laden horse brigade set out from Fort Kamloops, heading for Fort Langley on the Fraser River. It proved to be a very taxing journey for the 50 men and 400 horses. In the Cascade Mountain passes, there was little for the horses to eat and some starved to death. When the brigade finally reached Kequeloose (Alexandra Lodge), Anderson’s men and remaining horses were exhausted. He decided a better route needed to be found so in 1849, and for the following 11 years, Anderson used the Blackeye’s Trail (named after Similkameen Chief Blackeye) which became known as the HBC Brigade Trail. Eventually, the Cariboo Wagon Road proved to be the easiest route into the interior.

First Nations continued to use Tikwalus Trail for hunting and plant gathering and the trail was eventually used by gold seekers during the 1850’s and 60’s.
Please join us at Tuckkwiowhum Village in the Spring of 2021 to learn more about our history in the beautiful Fraser Canyon.

Blog written by Tuckkwiowhum Village