The Fraser River is named after Simon Fraser, one of North America’s most remarkable early explorers who, as an employee of the North West Company, established western Canada’s first white settlements: Fort McCleod (1805), Fort St James (1806), Fort Fraser (1806) and Fort George (1807). Having traced the route taken by fellow explorer Alexander Mackenzie across the continent, he set out in 1808 to establish a route to the Pacific and secure it for Britain against rival US claims. Instead, he travelled the entire 1300km length of a river – the Fraser – under the mistaken impression he was following the Columbia. “We had to pass where no man should venture,” he wrote, making most of the journey on foot guided by local First Nation people, pushing forward using ladders, ropes and improvised platforms to bypass rapids too treacherous to breach by boat. Reaching the river’s mouth, where he would have glimpsed the site of present-day Vancouver, he realized his error and deemed the venture a commercial failure, despite the fact he had successfully navigated one of the continent’s greatest rivers for the first time. Few people felt the need to follow Fraser’s example until the discovery of gold near Yale in 1858; prospectors promptly waded in and panned every tributary of the lower Fraser until new strikes tempted them north to the Cariboo.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 phenomenal pictures of Canada

19 phenomenal pictures of Canada

Canada is famous for its stunning vistas, from the Arctic shores to the Rocky Mountains. But that's not all the country has to boast about. It also has engro…

30 Jun 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Video: the most beautiful places in Canada

Video: the most beautiful places in Canada

Simply put, Canada is stunning. The second largest country in the world, Canada is a land of crashing waterfalls, turquoise lakes and magnificent soaring mounta…

29 Jun 2017 • Olivia Rawes videocam Video
Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Rugged and vast, Canada is a road-trippers dream. Driving gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace – pull over and drink in the scenery along the wa…

27 Jun 2017 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month