We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

About this source

The Bute Inlet Route

The British Colonist, Aug. 1, 1862

Editor British Colonist:- As long as there could be any uncertainty in the public mind in respect to the practicability of a coast route from Bute Inlet to the interior, I carefully abstained from addressing you on the subject; not from any doubt on my part as to the information that had been obtained at so much cost and trouble, but from a feeling of reserve, which your readers will appreciate. But now that the last expedition has fulfilled the desired object, and what I had anticipated is no longer a vision, it becomes a duty to satisfy public curiosity on a subject of so much actual interest to the Colony, and give a few details concerning a route which must eventually become the shortest, cheapest and easiest line of communication with the northern mines.

The exploring expedition alluded to left Victoria on the 15th of May, and was composed of Mr. Tiedeman, the engineer, and four men, one of whom spoke Chilecoten, besides three Indians. The return trip, headed by Henry McNeill, left Alexandria on the 4th of July, and reached the head of navigation on the 15th. One day was lost by illness, and another in procuring provisions, thus making the trip through in eleven days.

The first part of the trail from Alexandria to the Chilcoten is well known, and crosses the vast plain which lies in that direction, and forms one of the great features of the country. This elevated and slightly undulating plateau may be 4000 feet above the sea, and from 1200 to 1500 above the Fraser at Fort Alexandria. It extends from near Stuart River to the mouth of the Chilcoaten, or 160 geographical miles, from north to south, and has an average width of 100 miles, in a westerly and southeasterly direction, where it extends to the foot of the Cascade Mountains, of which it considerably diminishes the height on the eastern slope. This vast plain is drained by small surface valleys, and spotted with numerous lakes; is everywhere covered with the richest bunch grass, and occasionally by clusters of small trees and brushwood. The climate must be sufficiently mild for agricultural purposes, since the Indian horses pass the winter out of doors and without fodder.

As before said, the trail crosses this plain in a southwesterly direction, passing by Saunders' Lake, and thence to the foot of another lake, called Pautza, that falls into the Chilcoaten, and is situated on or near the water-shed which imperceptibly divides the basin of the Fraser from the Pacific. This lake is about 9 miles long and 3 1/2 wide, lying north and south, its distance from Alexandria is about 75 miles, and it is at this point that the Bute and Bentinck Arm trails meet together. At Saunders' Lake, which is about 8 miles long, the party met 20 miners on their way to Cariboo, and on the next day 3 miners from the Stikeen. These men had been 14 or 15 days on their way, and gave rather a rough account of the route. At Pautza Lake, where there are two villages, the Indians reckon a difference of four days at least in favor of the Bute Inlet route over the Bentinck Arm.

At Pautza Lake the party procured two guides, and after traveling 6 miles in a south-westerly direction over plain, level ground, reached the head of Talca Lake, the waters of which fall into the north branch of the Homathco or Bute River. This lake, which follows the same direction, is 30 miles long and 1 1/2 to 2 wide, with level banks, composed of loam, 20 feet above the water, and the stream that flows from it is navigable for light craft. A few miles lower down a tributary falls in from the west, and five miles below the lake is an Indian village, near the west bank of the river, where the party stopped for a day whilst the guides were procuring fish and other provisions. The next day they crossed a second stream from the west, about 50 feet wide, and passed over a small hill about 300 feet high to avoid the river, but a road could be easily made at the foot.

On the following day, 14th, the party pursued their route along the river, which they crossed twice. It continued navigable, running about 2 or 3 miles an hour, averaged 100 yards wide, and was about 6 feet deep. The guides state that it is never less than three feet at the lowest stage. This day they passed over several hill-sides to avoid the river. The country continued level, with fine grazing flats of several thousand acres. On the 15th they crossed several swamps of half an acre each, or less, and 50 to 100 feet wide, the only ones on the whole route. The route had been so far on dry, hard, clear and level ground, with the exception of the hill-sides above mentioned, the highest of which might be about 50 feet.

On the 16th the party entered the valley which forms the opening through the Cascade mountains; three miles below, the river becomes obstructed with rocks, and at the end of 7 miles, or 4 miles further, reaches the Forks, where it falls into the Eastern or main branch of the Homathco. The noble river which thus winds its south-westerly and afterwards more southerly course from Talca Lake to the Cascade mountains is free from snags, rocks, rapids, or sharp turns, its banks are covered with firs and cypress of the finest growth, and it is certainly navigable for light craft during a considerable portion of the year, thus forming with the lake a water communication of 95 miles.

The valleys of the two rivers form a considerable angle at the Forks, to avoid which the party took a short cut and passed over a glacier, which comes down about 3 miles below from a gorge on the western side. This glacier was about half a mile wide where they crossed it, and 50 to 100 feet thick above the mountain stream beneath, and appeared to run up the gorge some 8 miles. It was of the clearest blue ice, and covered with stones and gravel. This is the second glacier on the Bute Inlet Route which comes down flush with the valley.

The party now came to the two hills that were explored last autumn, and which form the only difficulty on the whole route. The first is unimportant, but the other entirely obstructs the valley, and is 700 or 800 feet high, of which about 300 feet in one place are very steep. The pass (for it cannot be avoided) can be easily surmounted by taking the wagon road up a gully, which was known to exist last year, and which the old guide pointed out about four miles up the valley, but which as he said, lengthened the distance a mile and a half. On the south side of the pass the descent is very gradual. The summit of the pass runs at a distance of about a mile from the cañon, where the river is buried in a narrow, perpendicular cleft, forming, as it were, a break in the backbone of the Cascade Mountains. The pass runs on the west side of this deep fissure, at the bottom of which it appears there is a perpendicular fall of 60 or 80 feet, down which the whole river is precipitated, and after a course of two or three hundred yards, issues foaming and splashing from the dark abyss below. Here the river forms one vast torrent for about two miles down to the ferry, where the trail crosses it, and after running less rapidly for 8 miles further becomes entirely navigable for river steamers, and winds its way for 36 miles through a splendid valley to the head of Bute Inlet.

The distance of the whole route, as thus described will be:

Head of navigation to Ferry, 8
Ferry to above the rocks on the North Branch, 14
Thence to head of Talca Lake (by water), 95
Divide between the two lakes, 6
From Patza Lake to the Fraser, say above Quesnelle River, 85

Of which only 113 of land travel!

Victoria, July 31st, 1862.

Alfred Waddington

P.S. The party met the Government schooner Shark, on the 22d inst., surveying near Savary Island.

Source: "The Bute Inlet Route," British Colonist, August 1, 1862.

Return to parent page

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History