Spuzzum First Nation Chief Jim Hobart unveiled the new Tikwalus Heritage Trail sign at the trailhead last Friday in the Fraser Canyon.

Restored heritage trail opens in Fraser Canyon

Tikwalus Heritage Trail is located north of Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park

The Tikwalus Heritage Trail officially opened last Friday in the Fraser Canyon.

Canadian senators Lillian Quan Dyck and Vivienne Poy joined Spuzzum First Nation, New Pathways to Gold Society, and the Hope Mountain Centre to celebrate the completion of the $98,000 project to restore the 12-kilometre loop on Lake Mountain. The trailhead is located one kilometre north of Alexandra Bridge on Highway 1.

The project is a part of New Pathways Heritage Trails Program, which is provincially funded by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Investment. It is also federally supported by Western Economic Diversification, Canadian Heritage, and National Trails Coalition.

Improvements to the Tikwalus Heritage Trail include a refurbished campsite, six new geocache locations, and the installation of eight interpretive signs showcasing the historical influence of the route.

“Through this project we’ve been able to repatriate the history and significance of this trail to the Nlaka’pamux Nation, and Spuzzum First Nation in particular, and to illustrate how the Hudson’s Bay Company fits in as a small part of a much bigger story in the development of the province as we know it today,” said Michael Klassen, an archeologist with Klahanee Heritage Research.

The Nlaka’pamux First Nation traveled the trail through the Fraser Canyon for thousands of years.  It was used for hunting, trapping, plant gathering, and as a safe route that bypassed the sheer rock canyons at Hell’s Gate.

In 1946, the Oregon Treaty forced the Hudson’s Bay Company to look for an alternative route to the Pacific. Chief trader Alexander Caulfield Anderson enlisted the First Nations guides to show him the Tikwalus Heritage Trail in June 1847. The company expanded the trail into a “horse portage”  and in 1848 sent the annual brigade down the rugged trail. Lack of food for the horses and the difficult water crossings resulted in 70 horses and 22 valuable packs being lost. The HBC  abandoned the trail in favour of a route between Hope and Princeton.

A decade after the fur trade disaster, more than 30,000 gold seekers arrived in the Fraser Canyon  and the trail was used to get pack trains from Spuzzum to Boston Bar. By 1863, the Cariboo Wagon Road was built and replaced with the Tikwalus Heritage Trail.

Upgrades to the trail are part of a larger restoration project for Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. The next stage will focus on the Highway 1 pullout and include a revamped information kiosk, new picnic tables, wheelchair accessible washrooms, enhanced interpretive signs and trail upgrades. Repairs to Alexandra Bridge are also in the works.

Built for automobiles in 1926, the current bridge replaced the original wagon bridge of 1863. The structure requires repairs to bring it up to current building standards capable of carrying maintenance vehicles. Deterioration of cement and caps on the bridge towers that hold the cables in place specially need to be addressed. Terry Raymond, co-chair of New Pathways, said the recent assessment released by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure noted that the bridge is safe to walk across but requires work in order to protect and preserve the structure. The repairs are estimated to cost $5-9 million.