Again we are beginning our journey with Aemilus Simpson's journals, which means it is hardly necessary for me to tell you anything about this exciting and efficient downriver journey.
His descriptions of the country, which he is seeing for the first time, tell us all we need to know.
Enjoy the ride!
Journal of a voyage across the Continent of North America in 1826 by Aemilius Simpson, R. N.:
Monday 16th [October]. Rain during the night, the morning foggy. Our crews were employed in using the early part of the day arranging our boats and preparing for our voyage down the Columbia River. Our arrangements finished, we wished Mr. Finnan MacDonald [safe journey] across the mountains, and embarked at a quarter past noon, and commenced our descent of the Columbia, our party being embarked in three boats (constructed in imitation of canoes) including Mr. Deases', and consisting of about 33 hands. We now proceed on our journey with great rapidity, descending the stream, at about 7 to 8 miles per hour. In some parts along the banks a low margin of land extends to the base of the bounding ridges of mountains, but generally it is confined by Rocky cliffs of primitive formation, some of them composed of a similar lime stone which thus constituted the main mass of the Mountains. The face of the country is thickly cloaked with wood of a very great growth, principally the pine & cedar trees.
Tuesday 17th. The morning hazy. At 7 am we run the Upper Dalles rapids, a very grand shoot [chute], the running of which is attended with considerable danger and requires great skills on the part of the steersman & bowsman. The passengers and paper chest are landed at the head of the rapids, a very proper precaution. One of our boats struck a stone in running the rapids, but fortunately escaped without sustaining any considerable damage. The bounding cliffs present a great variety of curious specimen for the mineralogist, but the great rapidity with which we passed afforded little time for their collection, among those which I collected is laminated kyanite.... Continued fair with a cold and sharp wind during the day. We saw a few Indians in their very curiously constructed canoes. In the afternoon ran the 2nd Dalles rapids, our boats shipping a good deal of water. The scenery about these rapids is very fine. At 6 pm. we entered the upper lake & encampt upon a [sand] flat at its entrance, having come about 89 miles during the day.
Wednesday 18th. Commenced with rain, which continued until 8 am, accompanied with strong breeze pm., SW, retarding our passage.... One of our boats having fallen out of sight, we waited her arrival. We passed a few of the Lake Indians, who were engaged in fishing salmon, the most miserable looking fish I ever beheld being in the last stage of existence after having continued their ascent from the sea this great distance they become so red and they hardly bear any resemblance to what they were....
Their mode of fishing with a spear, a man stands erect in a small canoe with this spear in readiness, and on seeing a fish running along the bottom in the shallow water, he immediately darts it at the fish and they are so expert, that they seldom miss. At 4.30 we completed our descent of the Lake when we entered the river, but our boat having again fallen in the rear, we encampt for the night so as to allow her [to] come up before dark.
Thursday 19th. This morning hazy. At 4 am. we embarked when we [descended] the river for 5 leagues and then entered the Arrow Lake, which we continued to descend for the remainder of the day. In the afternoon we had a favourable wind from the N to which we spread our sail cloth and [sailed] a good deal. this Lake is generally very narrow for [such] a sheet of water, seldom exceeding two miles. The water of this Lake has a sea green colour from which I would infer that it has a great depth, on entering this lake you come into the SW from which it gradually turns to the ESE. At 6pm we encampt having traveled fourteen hours & coming a distance of about 20 leagues.
The communication between the lakes is a continuation of river for about 6 leagues. On entering the Arrow Lake it runs to the SW and gradually turns to the SSE, and on passing the Arrow Rock, a remarkable cliff on the left it turns to the ESE & SE. The Arrow Rock, so named on account of a round hole in its face full of arrows, said to have been fired at it by Indians, when practicing the bow & arrow before a war excursion.
[Can you believe it -- when I collected this many years ago, I omitted the next! How priorities change over the years!]
Friday 20th. On embarking we continued our descent of the Arrow Lake for about 14 miles, when we return to the river, and continuing its descent in a very winding course between east & south, we arrived at the Kettle Falls. Along our track received the addition of three very large streams, viz. MacGillivrays, Flathead & Mutton Blanche. The morning fine and clear weather, but towards day light a thick fog hung on the bed of the River. ... At 1:30 the Dalles Rapids, a long shoot bounded by steep Rocky cliffs & having a remarkable block of rock rising perpendicular in the bed of the River of considerable height. We arrived at Fort Colvile at 4:30 pm. We were received here by a number of Indians, the chiefs mounted on horses which we were obliged to shake cordially by the hand in return for this compliment. To a stranger they appear grotesque figures, their faces painted a variety of colours and their leather robes fancifully decoration according to their fashion, giving them a very fantastic air. We found this post merely in progress, a few houses only being completed, & no stockades up for defense. The ground about here appears well calculated both for grazing & agricultural purposes & produces at present potatoes of an immense quantity, and I have no doubt will yield ample return of grain, in its being tried. The face of this country has quite a lawn-like appearance. The Indians we found here are the Spokan, Kootenies, Nez Perces and Kettle Falls Tribes.
Saturday 21st. A slight frost during the night followed by fine clear weather. Mr. Dease requiring a copy of the Minutes of Council and some other arrangements being necessary, we remained at Fort Colvile for the day.
York Factory Express Journal, 1827, by Edward Ermatinger:
11th [October]. Fine weather. Left the Portage between 9 and 10 am and having travelled with a swift current all day encamped at 1/4 before 6 about 5 miles below the Dalles des Morts. Killed a fine fat Bear today.
12th. Thick fog all day. We were on the water before 5 am. Entered the 1st Lake about 3. Encamped at 1/2 past 6 pm.
13th. Foggy morning but fine day. Started at 1/2 past 4 am. Paddled thro' the 1st Lake (about 2/3 of it) down the River and encamped a little way in the 2nd Lake at 5 pm. Gummed one of our boats. Saw Indians.
14th. Had a shower of rain but day generally fine. Embarked 2 am. Proceeded thro' the 2nd Lake and re-entered the River about 2 pm. Encamped some distance below McGillivray's river [Kootenay River] at 5 o'clock.
15th. Fine weather. Started about 4 am. and reached Fort Colvile by noon.
16th. Fine weather. People employed this day gumming their boats. One they take over the Kettle Falls portage and one is already there left in the summer. The latter requires pitching all over. Get our baggage transported in carts below the Portage.
Journal of a Voyage from Norway House to Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, 1831, by George Traill Allen:
Tuesday 4th [October]. We embarked on the far famed Columbia, which runs here with tremendous velocity. We reached Fort Colvile, Mr. Heron's quarters, in about four days. The Fort is most delightfully situated in a beautiful plain surrounded by high lands. I may observe here, as a rather remarkable circumstance, that although the lower parts of the Columbia are noted for great rains, it is very rare indeed that it rains at Colvile. There is a farm of considerable extent here and which produced wheat, Indian corn, barley, etc. in abundance.
Diary of a Journey from Fort Vancouver in 1835, by James Douglas:
Sat. 17th [October] Rain & snow all day. Left the Boat Encampment this morning at 7 o'clock and proceed on during the day without accident or detention. Encamped a few miles below Pork Eater's Point.
Sun. 18th. Weather similar to yesterday. Entered the lake at 4 pm. Saw 3 Indians.
Mon. 19th. Encamped at Pine Point, commencement of 1st Lake. Clear weather.
Tues. 20th. Clear weather. Encamped a few miles above McGillivray's River.
Wed. 21st. Arrived at Colvile this day at 2 pm.
As you can see, everyone is eager to get home to Fort Vancouver, and has little to say of this part of the downriver journey.
Still, there are a few good journals coming....
Journal of a Trip from Vancouver to York Factory, Spring 1847, by Thomas Lowe, in charge of the party:
Saturday 30th [October] fine weather in the forenoon, but snow afterwards. Started after breakfast from the Boat Encampment with four boats, [number] men and 23 pieces per boat. the River is in a fine state, and we got a short distance below St. Martin's Rapids.
Sunday 31st. Rained last night, but kept fair during the day. Made a portage of half the pieces at the Rapid de Mort before breakfast and encamped not far from the head of the Upper Lake.
Monday, 1st November. Fine weather. Breakfasted at the entrance of the lake and had a sail wind during the day. Encamped near the end of the lake.
Tuesday 2nd. Snowing in the morning, but fine weather afterwards. Got to the commencement of the Lower Lake to breakfast. Calm today. In the evening put ashore about the middle of the Lake for supper.
Wednesday 3rd. Last night started about 10 o'clock and pulled all night. Had a favorable breeze in the daytime, which took us through the remainder of the Lake about noon. Has been a fine day. Encamped a little below the Pend'Oreilles River.
Thursday 4th. Beautiful clear weather. Breakfasted at Dease's Encampment, and arrived at Colvile a little after noon. Had the boats hauled up on the beach, and the pieces taken into the Fort.
Friday 5th. Snowed the whole day. Two of the boats were [transported] to the other end of the Portage, but with much difficulty as the road is almost impassible on acct of the snow.
Saturday 6th. More snow again today. Had the other boat taken across and most of the pieces.
Journal from Vancouver to York Factory with Express, Spring 1848, by Thomas Lowe:
Monday 16th [October]. Fine weather. In the forenoon the three men who were behind with their horses last night arrived. The Boat which we left here in the Spring was properly gummed and arranged today, and in the afternoon about 4 o'clock we started from the Boat Encampment with 3 boats, having about 20 pieces per boat, and 13 men each. The river is in a fine state, and we swamped a short distance above St. Martin's Rapid. Mrs. Fraser & family return with us to Colvile.
Tuesday 17th. Beautiful day. Ran St. Martin's Rapid early, and breakfasted a short distance above the Rapid des Morts. In running the latter Pierre's boat took in a good deal of water as he had to run straight through the middle of the heavy waves, not being able to trust [the men on] the eddy on account of the awkwardness of the crew, who were too frightened to do as they were ordered. Passed a lodge of Indians in the afternoon, and traded a little dried meat. Shortly afterwards we killed a female Caribou on the beach. Encamped a short distance below the Upper Dalles.
18th, Wednesday. Fine weather. Breakfasted at the entrance of the Upper Lake. Pulled against a strong head wind all day, and encamped about the middle of the lake. Before encamping it began to rain and rained until past midnight when it cleared up, and the moon rose. We then pushed off, and pulled until day light when we found ourselves near the end of the lake.
Oct. 19th, Thursday. Beautiful day. Breakfasted near the commencement of the Lower Lake, and after breakfast had a fine strong wind, with which we sailed most of the day. Put ashore for supper a good piece more than half through the Lake, and started afterwards. Pulled all night.
20th, Friday. Fine weather. At daylight found ourselves at the end of the Lower Lake, and breakfasted a good piece down the River. Pulled hard all day, and at sunset got to Colvile, where we found Mr. [Alexander Caulfield] Anderson and his men all well. Had the pieces taken up to the Fort.
21st, Saturday. Fine day. Had two of the Boats hauled across to the other end of the Portage and all the Pieces. In the evening came on to rain, and we could not get the third boat across. It is a new boat and had to be arranged properly & caulked.
22nd, Sunday. Fine weather. Had the third boat hauled across this morning, and the Boutes were employed gumming the whole of them today. All the men slept with the property. In the evening a man of the name of Angus McLeod arrived overland from Vancouver, with letters from below.
If you want to see good images of this part of the river drawn at the same time the expresses were coming downriver (or going up) then find the library book, Paul Kane, The Artist: Wilderness to Studio by Kenneth R. Lister (Royal Ontario Museum Press).
It's not likely you can afford to buy this book -- it's a big one.
I will quote a little from it to help you see what he saw.
"The brigade left Boat Encampment on November 16, 1846, and four days later, on November 20, they reached Fort Colvile at Kettle Falls.
"They had passed through the calm of the Arrow Lakes and run such rapids as Les Dalles des Morts in the upper reaches of the river and the Lower Little Dalles a short distance north of the Colville River.
"On his return journey, Kane arrived back at Fort Colville on August 6, 1847.
"He remained in the area for more than a month, leaving on September 22 and arriving back at Boat Encampment on October 10, 1847....
"In the Fort Colville area, Kane came into contact with the largest number of Native peoples, and in this upper Columbia River region he produced the greatest number of sketches.
"Fort Colville was established by the HBC in 1825, the site chosen for its proximity to Kettle Falls and the salmon fishery.
"As well, the site provided land for farming and, being close to the falls, provided the means, such as draft animals and wagons, for negotiating the Kettle Falls portage.
"Fort Colville became the headquarters for the district, the largest HBC post between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range."