Fraser Canyon

The historic Alexandra Bridge turns 150 this year

  • Apr. 1, 2013 2:00 p.m.

Alexandra Bridge in the Fraser Canyon.

The Fraser Canyon Highway takes you through a scenic landscape rich in human history. It’s worth taking time to stop at some of the scenic and historic sites along this ancient path.

First Nations traversed the canyon walls using ropes, ladders and bridges. They built a trail network that connected their villages, enabling trade, hunting, and resource gathering. The Tikwalus Trail (north of Spuzzum) is a native trail that you can hike today, providing spectacular views of the canyon.

The first European to travel the canyon was fur trader Simon Fraser in 1808. Visit Hell’s Gate and you’ll see the sheer granite walls and boiling river that terrified Fraser and his men.

Transportation in the canyon accelerated with the discovery of Fraser River gold in 1858. Mule trails were built up the canyon in 1860 and you can find a section of mule trail near the southern entrance to Hell’s Gate Tunnel. New gold strikes at Barkerville in 1861 forced the colonial government to upgrade the mule trail to a wagon road.

The Cariboo Wagon Road celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Completed in 1863, the road was built by hand and linked the gold rush boom towns of Fort Yale and Barkerville — a 600 kilometre distance.

The crowning touch of the wagon road was the Alexandra Bridge, which you can still walk over when visiting Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park, 40 kilometres north of Hope on Highway 1.

Two national railways followed in 1885 and 1915. The first automobile road came in 1926, but the modern highway wasn’t completed until the early 1960s.

As you travel the canyon today, you will pass through seven tunnels, ranging in length from about 57 metres to 610 metres. Engineers were forced to blast through canyon rock in order to complete this section of Highway 1.


Fraser River Gold Rush

It was March 23, 1858 when Edward Hill discovered gold at his feet while enjoying lunch. Later named Hill’s Bar, its discovery triggered the Fraser River Gold Rush, and the bar would become the richest gold producer on the entire Fraser River. However, Edward Hill was not really the first person to profit from gold on the Fraser.

First Nations had been quietly mining gold in their territory for at least a decade prior to 1858. Sto:lo and Nlaka’pamux people traded gold, furs, and salmon with the British forts at Hope and Yale, in exchange for valuable goods such as hunting rifles, cooking pots, and steel tools.

Although the British laid claim to the B.C. mainland as a fur trading territory, First Nations held real political power on the ground. They vastly outnumbered Europeans in these early contact years, and Aboriginal economic and cultural traditions flourished in collaboration with the fur traders.

When news of the gold strike at Hill’s Bar reached San Francisco, thousands boarded steamships bound for Fort Victoria. By the summer of 1858, American miners were pouring into the narrow confines of the Fraser Canyon and overrunning First Nation villages. Some miners stole food and property, and assaulted and killed Sto:lo and Nlaka’pamux people. The First Nation communities naturally retaliated in defense of their security and sovereignty. The Canyon War was short and bloody, causing the deaths of dozens of miners and natives. It was only brought to an end by the diplomacy and peacemaking of Nlaka’pamux chief David Spintlum.

The Canyon War, and the sudden influx of American miners into British-claimed territory, forced British authorities to act. They therefore requested a company of soldiers and lobbied London for full colony status.

Just Posted

Summer comes early in the Fraser Valley

Record temperatures in Chilliwack before the season arrives elicit warnings

It may be ‘lights, camera, action!’ for talented Chilliwack doctor

Rob Forde is waiting to hear if he’ll become The Basement Doctor in his own reality show

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

UPDATE: Minor injuries in rollover crash that closed Sea-to-Sky

Hwy. 99 not expected to re-open until 2:30 p.m.

Fraser Valley about to heat up

Temperatures to climb into the low 30s next week

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

B.C. RCMP looking for $70,000 in stolen collector cash

Money, in Canadian and Chinese denominations, goes missing in Chilliwack

Port of Prince Rupert names Shaun Stevenson as new CEO

Stevenson has worked for the port for 21 years as vice president of trade development

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

Mosquitoes out in full force already? Blame the weather

But a B.C. mosquito expert says the heat wave will help keep the pests at bay

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of B.C. couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Five B.C. families stuck in Japan as Canada refuses visas for adopted babies

Lawyer points to change in American policy around adoptions from Japan

Most Read