Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Traverse at Little Fort


At the foot of the Big Hill, the outgoing New Caledonia brigade rode their horses south and east along the edges of the hills until they reached the place they called the Traverse, at modern day Little Fort, British Columbia.
Here they crossed the North Thompson River (shown to the left) in a 40 foot Native canoe that was provided by the Thompson's River post some miles downriver.
Today, people who want to cross the North Thompson River at the fur traders' traverse use the little ferry pictured at the top of the page.
This is a one-man ferry that takes one or two cars at a time; the operator waits on the west bank of the river (at Little Fort) until someone wants to cross.
Those who are coming from the east bank drive up to the dock and honk their horn to catch his attention.
The operator generously gave us a ride across the river; it was beautiful and so quiet you could hear the water bubble as it flowed under and around the ferry.
Obviously, the main road runs down the west bank of the North Thompson at this point; but the brigade used to cross the river and travel down the east bank of the North Thompson to the old Thompson's River post, at modern day Kamloops.

The brigaders made many crossings of the river in the Thompson's River post's big canoe, but they swam their horses across.
On the east bank of the river they loaded up their 15o-200 packhorses and rode downriver toward the post at the junction of the North Thompson and the South Thompson Rivers.
In later years (long after Anderson left New Caledonia) the HBC built a small post at the location of the modern day town of Little Fort; which stands on the west bank of the river where I have indicated the traverse.

Today the highway passes down the west bank of the river and Little Fort is barely a blip on the map.
But we spent some time here, enjoying our dinner and social time in an old pub that usually entertains motorcycle riders.
In 1840, when Alexander Caulfield Anderson left New Caledonia, Chief Trader Sam Black was in charge of the old Thompson's River fort.
By the time Anderson returned to New Caledonia in early winter, 1842, Sam Black was dead and John Todd was already constructing the new Kamloops fort across the North Thompson River from the old post.
After 1840, Anderson never again travelled over this old route as a fur trader.
But he did visit this territory once more, when in 1877 he and the other Indian Reserve Commissioners settled many of the Native reserves in this district.
Shortly after Dominion Day 1877, the Commissioners left Kamloops by steamship, travelling up the North Thompson River to Chief Andre's reserve.
They rode beside the chief over his lands, and travelled as far north as the old crossing place where, before 1843, the brigaders had carried their loads across the river in the Native canoe.
I think that Anderson looked back at his fur trade days as good times, regretting that these days were gone.
As we drove away from Little Fort, we looked back across the river valley at the Thompson plateau we had just crossed.

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