The FRASER RIVER /ˈfreɪzər/ is the longest river within British
Canada , rising at
Fraser Pass near Blackrock Mountain in
Rocky Mountains and flowing for 1,375 kilometres (854 mi), into
Strait of Georgia
Strait of Georgia at the city of
Vancouver . It is the 10th
longest river in
Canada . The river's annual discharge at its mouth
is 112 cubic kilometres (27 cu mi) or 3,550 cubic metres per second
(125,000 cu ft/s), and it discharges 20 million tons of sediment into
* 1 Naming
* 2 Course
* 2.1 Discharge
* 3 History
* 4 Uses
* 5 Fishing
* 6 Flooding
* 6.1 1948 flood
* 6.1.1 Timeline
* 6.1.2 Reasons for the flood of 1948
* 6.2 Later flooding
* 7 Tributaries
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
The river is named after Simon Fraser , who led an expedition in 1808
on behalf of the
North West Company
North West Company from the site of present-day
Prince George almost to the mouth of the river. The river's name in
Halqemeylem (Upriver Halkomelem) language is STO:LO, often seen
archaically as STAULO, and has been adopted by the Halkomelem-speaking
peoples of the
Lower Mainland as their collective name, Sto:lo . The
river's name in the
Dakelh language is LHTAKOH. The Tsilhqot\'in name
for the river, not dissimilar to the
Dakelh name, is ʔELHDAQOX,
Sturgeon (ʔElhdachogh) River (Yeqox).
Map of the
Fraser River drainage basin Source of Fraser
The Fraser drains a 220,000-square-kilometre (85,000 sq mi) area. Its
source is a dripping spring at
Fraser Pass . The river then flows
north to the Yellowhead Highway and west past
Mount Robson to the
Rocky Mountain Trench and the
Robson Valley near
Valemount . After
running northwest past 54° north, it makes a sharp turn to the south
Giscome Portage , meeting the
Nechako River at the city of Prince
George , then continuing south, progressively cutting deeper into the
Fraser Plateau to form the
Fraser Canyon from roughly the confluence
Chilcotin River , near the city of Williams Lake , southwards.
It is joined by the Bridge and Seton Rivers at the town of
then by the
Thompson River at Lytton , where it proceeds south until
it is approximately 64 kilometres (40 mi) north of the 49th parallel ,
which is Canada's border with the
United States .
Fraser River in
From Lytton southwards it runs through a progressively deeper canyon
Lillooet Ranges of the
Coast Mountains on its west and the
Cascade Range on its east. Hell\'s Gate , located immediately
downstream of the town of Boston Bar , is a famous portion of the
canyon where the walls narrow dramatically, forcing the entire volume
of the river through a gap only 35 metres (115 feet) wide. An aerial
tramway takes visitors out over the river. Hells Gate is visible from
Canada Highway 1 about 2 km (1.2 mi) south of the tramway.
Simon Fraser was forced to portage the gorge on his trip through the
canyon in June 1808. At Yale , at the head of navigation on the river,
the canyon opens up and the river is wider, though without much
adjoining lowland until Hope , where the river then turns west and
southwest into a lush lowland valley, known as the
Fraser Valley ,
Chilliwack and the confluence of the Harrison and Sumas Rivers ,
bending northwest at Abbotsford and Mission , turning southwest again
just east of
New Westminster , where it splits into a North Arm,
which is the southern boundary of the City of Vancouver, and the South
Arm, which divides the City of Richmond from the Corporation of Delta
Richmond is on the largest island in the Fraser,
Lulu Island and also
on Sea Island , which is the location of
Airport ; the eastern end of
Lulu Island is within the City of New
Westminster and is called Queensborough . Also in the lowermost
Fraser, among other smaller islands, is
Annacis Island , an important
industrial and port area, which lies to the southeast of the eastern
Lulu Island (Sea, Lulu and Annacis Islands lie between the
North and South Arms. Other notable islands in the lower Fraser are
Barnston Island ,
Matsqui Island ,
Nicomen Island and Sea Bird Island
. Other islands lie on the outer side of the estuary, most notably
Westham Island , a wildfowl preserve, and Iona Island , the location
of the main sewage plant for the City of Vancouver.
After 100 kilometres (about 60 mi), it forms a delta where it empties
Strait of Georgia
Strait of Georgia between the mainland and
Vancouver Island .
The lands south of the City of
Vancouver , including the cities of
Richmond and Delta , sit on the flat flood plain . The islands of the
delta include Iona Island, Sea Island, Lulu Island, Annacis Island,
and a number of smaller islands. While the vast majority of the
river's drainage basin lies within British Columbia, a small portion
in the drainage basin lies across the international border in
Washington in the United States, namely the upper reaches of the
Chilliwack and Sumas rivers. Most of lowland Whatcom County,
Washington is part of the
Fraser Lowland and was formed also by
sediment deposited from the Fraser, though most of the county is not
in the Fraser drainage basin.
Similar to the
Columbia River Gorge east of
Portland, Oregon , the
Fraser exploits a topographic cleft between two mountain ranges
separating a more continental climate (in this case, that of the
British Columbia Interior ) from a milder climate near the coast. When
an Arctic high-pressure area moves into the
British Columbia Interior
and a relatively low-pressure area builds over the general Puget Sound
Strait of Georgia
Strait of Georgia region, the cold Arctic air accelerates
southwest through the
Fraser Canyon . These outflow winds can gust up
to 97 to 129 kilometres per hour (60 to 80 mph) and have at times
exceeded 160 kilometres per hour (100 mph). Such winds frequently
reach Bellingham and the
San Juan Islands , gaining strength over the
open water of the
Strait of Juan de Fuca .
The estuary at the river's mouth is a site of hemispheric importance
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network .
The Water Survey of
Canada currently operates 17 gauge stations that
measure discharge and water level along the majority of the mainstem
from Red Pass just downstream of Moose Lake within the Mount Robson
Provincial Park to Steveston in
Vancouver at the river mouth. With an
average flow at the mouth of about 3,475 cubic metres per second
(122,700 cu ft/s), the Fraser is the largest river by discharge
flowing into the Pacific seaboard of
Canada and the fifth largest in
the country. The average flow is highly seasonal; summer discharge
rates can be ten times larger than the flow during the winter.
The Fraser's highest recorded flow, in June 1894, is estimated to
have been 17,000 cubic metres per second (600,000 cu ft/s) at Hope .
It was calculated using high-water marks near the hydrometric station
at Hope and various statistical methods. In 1948 the Fraser River
Board adopted the estimate for the 1894 flood. It remains the value
specified by regulatory agencies for all flood control work on the
river. Further studies and hydraulic models have estimated the
maximum discharge of the Fraser River, at Hope during the 1894 flood,
as within a range of about 16,000 to 18,000 cubic metres per second
(570,000 to 640,000 cu ft/s).
The Descent of the Fraser River, 1808, by
On June 14, 1792, the Spanish explorers
Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and
Cayetano Valdés entered and anchored in the North Arm of the Fraser
River, becoming the first Europeans to find and enter it. The
existence of the river, but not its location, had been deduced during
the 1791 voyage of
José María Narváez , under
Francisco de Eliza .
The upper reaches of the
Fraser River were first explored by Sir
Alexander Mackenzie in 1793, and fully traced by Simon Fraser in 1808,
who confirmed that it was not connected with the
Columbia River .
In 1828 George Simpson visited the river, mainly to examine Fort
Langley and determine whether it would be suitable as the Hudson\'s
Bay Company 's main Pacific depot. Simpson had believed the Fraser
River might be navigable throughout its length, even though Simon
Fraser had described it as non-navigable. Simpson journeyed down the
river and through the
Fraser Canyon and afterwords wrote "I should
consider the passage down, to be certain Death, in nine attempts out
of Ten. I shall therefore no longer talk about it as a navigable
stream". His trip down the river convinced him that Fort Langley could
not replace Fort
Vancouver as the company's main depot on the Pacific
Much of British Columbia's history has been bound to the Fraser,
partly because it was the essential route between the Interior and the
Lower Coast after the loss of the lands south of the 49th Parallel
Oregon Treaty of 1846. It was the site of its first recorded
settlements of Aboriginal people (see
Musqueam , Sto:lo , St\'at\'imc
Secwepemc and Nlaka\'pamux ), the route of multitudes of prospectors
Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and the main vehicle of the
province's early commerce and industry.
In 1998, the river was designated as a Canadian Heritage River for
its natural and human heritage. It remains the longest river with that
The Fraser is heavily exploited by human activities, especially in
its lower reaches. Its banks are rich farmland, its water is used by
pulp mills , and a few dams on some tributaries provide hydroelectric
power . The main flow of the Fraser has never been dammed partly
because its high level of sediment flows would result in a short dam
lifespan, but mostly because of strong opposition from fisheries and
other environmental concerns. In 1858, the
Fraser River and
surrounding areas were occupied when the gold rush came to the Fraser
Canyon and the Fraser River. It is also a popular fishing location for
residents of the Lower Mainland.
The delta of the river, especially in the
Boundary Bay area, is an
important stopover location for migrating shorebirds
Fraser Herald , a regional position within the Canadian Heraldic
Authority is named after the river.
Fraser River as seen from
the grounds of Westminster Abbey , above Hatzic in Mission, British
Columbia . Sumas Mountain in background.
Fraser River is known for the fishing of white sturgeon , all
five species of Pacific salmon (Chinook ,
Coho , Chum , Pink , Sockeye
), as well as
Steelhead Trout . A typical white sturgeon catch
averages between 14 to 45 kilograms (30 to 100 lb).A large white
sturgeon weighing an estimated 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) and measuring
3.76 metres (12 ft 4 in) was caught and released on the Fraser River
in July 2012
but it was reportedly measured nose to tip of tail, not nose to fork
as is the officially recognized method for accurate measurement of
this species. Thus the reported length of this fish, and its estimated
weight, were likely greater than what its actual measurements would
have been if standard data collection had been utilized in this case.
Regardless of this discrepancy, landing large sturgeon like this is
reasonably uncommon, however fish nearing or achieving this size are
caught on rod and reel in the Fraser river virtually every year, and
reports of even larger fish being lost occur with fair regularity. A
variety of guiding outfits throughout the Fraser valley and lower
mainland offer services to pursue this magnificent sportfish.
THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION. You can help by adding to it . (June
After European settlement, the first disastrous flood in the Fraser
Valley occurred in 1894. With no protection against the rising waters
of the Fraser River,
Fraser Valley communities from Chilliwack
downstream were inundated with water. In the 1894 floods, the water
mark at Mission reached 7.85 metres (25.75 ft).
After the 1894 flood, a dyking system was constructed throughout the
Fraser Valley. The dyking and drainage projects greatly improved the
flood problems, but unfortunately over time, the dykes were allowed to
fall into disrepair and became overgrown with brush and trees. With
some dykes constructed of a wooden frame, they gave way in 1948 in
several locations, marking the second disastrous flood. Flooding since
1948 has been minor in comparison.
1948 saw massive flooding in
Chilliwack and other areas along the
Fraser River. The high-water mark at Mission rose to 7.5 metres (24.7
* Throughout the May 24 long weekend, the waters of the Fraser were
rising steadily, but only a few thought any real danger lay ahead.
* On May 28, 1948, the Semiault Creek Dyke broke.
* On May 29, 1948, dykes near Glendale (now Cottonwood Corners) gave
way and in four days, 49 square kilometres (12,000 acres) of fertile
ground were under water.
* On June 1, 1948, the Cannor Dyke (east of Vedder Canal near Trans
Canada Highway) broke and released tons of
Fraser River water onto the
Greendale area, destroying homes and fields.
* On June 3, 1948, the steamer Gladys supplied flood-stricken
Chilliwack with tents and provisions as well as moving people and
stock onto high ground.
Reasons For The Flood Of 1948
Cool temperatures during March, April and early May had delayed the
melting of the heavy snowpack that had accumulated over the winter
season. Several days of hot weather and warm rains over the holiday
weekend in late May hastened the thawing of the snowpack. Rivers and
streams quickly swelled with spring runoff, reaching heights surpassed
only in 1894. Finally, the poorly maintained dike systems failed to
contain the water.
At the height of the 1948 flood, 200 square kilometres (50,000 acres)
stood under water. Dykes broke at Agassiz, Chiliwack, Nicomen Island,
Glen Valley and Matsqui. By the time the flood waters receded a month
later, 16,000 people had been evacuated, damages totaled $20 million.
Due to record snowpacks on the mountains in the
Fraser River catch
basin which began melting, combined with heavy rainfall, water levels
Fraser River rose in 2007 to a level not reached since 1972.
Low-lying land in areas upriver such as Prince George suffered minor
flooding. Evacuation alerts were given for the low-lying areas not
protected by dikes in the
Lower Mainland . However, the water levels
did not breach the dikes, and major flooding was averted
Tributaries are listed from the mouth of the Fraser and going up
Fraser River in the Glen Fraser area, about 25 kilometres
(16 mi) upstream of
Lillooet An east-facing aerial view of
Ladner beyond Barber Island , Duck Island , Gunn Island and Port
Guichon in the
Fraser River Estuary
* D\'Herbomez Creek
* Ruby Creek
* Spuzzum Creek
* Anderson River
Williams Lake River
* Cottonwood River
West Road River (Blackwater River)
* Salmon River
* Willow River
* Goat River
* Castle Creek
* Kiwa Creek
* Tete Creek
* Swiftcurrent Creek
* Moose River
List of tributaries of the Fraser River
List of crossings of the Fraser River
* List of crossings of the
* List of crossings of the
* List of longest rivers of
French Bar Canyon
* List of
British Columbia rivers
Moran Dam (proposal)
Steamboats of the Lower Fraser and Harrison Lake
* Vanport Oregon flood May 30 1948
Salishan languages and
Chinook Jargon . The
Halkomelem form is
Sto:lo , used as the name of the people of the
Fraser Valley stretch
of the river. "Staulo" is the anglicization used in the Kamloops Wawa
lexicon of the
Carrier language .
Lhtako is also used to mean the Dakelh
people of the Quesnel /North
* ^ Indigenous name recorded by Alexander Mackenzie on expedition
Columbia River ’s headwaters; circa 18-?
* ^ Tsilhqot\'in name meaning
Sturgeon (ʔElhdachogh) River (Yeqox)
* ^ A B C "
Fraser River Fact Sheet". Canadian Heritage Rivers
System. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
* ^ Ambient Water Quality Assessment and Objectives for the Fraser
River sub-basin from Kanaka Creek to the Mouth, BC Ministry of
* ^ A B C "Comprehensive Review of
Fraser River at Hope: Flood
Hydrology and Flows, Scoping Study Final Report" (PDF). BC Ministry of
Environment. October 2008. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
* ^ "Fraser River".
BC Geographical Names .
* ^ Canadian Global Almanac. John Wiley and Sons. 2004
* ^ Cannings, Richard and Sidney. British Columbia: A Natural
History. p.41. Greystone Books. Vancouver. 1996
Dakelh Placenames, Yinka Dene Language Institute website
* ^ "North Arm Fraser River".
BC Geographical Names .
* ^ Mass, Cliff (2008). The Weather of the Pacific Northwest.
University of Washington Press . pp. 146–148. ISBN 978-0-295-98847-4
* ^ "Description".
Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network .
Retrieved February 18, 2008.
* ^ "Ambient Water Quality Assessment and Objectives for the Fraser
River Sub-basin from Kanaka Creek to the Mouth". British Columbia
Ministry of Environment, Water Management Branch, Resource Quality
Section. November 1985. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
* ^ A B Ferguson, John W.; Michael Healey (May 2009). "Hydropower
in the Fraser and Columbia Rivers". Catch and Culture (newsletter).
Mekong River Commission. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
* ^ Hayes, Derek (1999). Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest:
Maps of exploration and Discovery. Sasquatch Books. ISBN 1-57061-215-3
* ^ Mackie, Richard Somerset (1997). Trading Beyond the Mountains:
The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843. Vancouver: University
British Columbia (UBC) Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-7748-0613-3 .
* ^ "Fraser River". Canadian Council for Geographic Education.
Archived from the original on April 17, 2005.
* ^ "Reifel Bird Sanctuary".
* ^ River Water Still Rising. Prince George Free Press, June 6,
* ^ Fraser flood alert imminent Mission gauge under close scrutiny,
river likely to peak at 7.5 m by Saturday. Langley Times, June 6,
* Boyer, David S. (July 1986). "The Untamed Fraser River". National
Geographic . Vol. 170 no. 1. pp. 44–75. ISSN 0027-9358 . OCLC
* The Fraser,
Bruce Hutchison , 1950, classic work by noted BC
editor and publisher