Paul Leland Haworth.

On the headwaters of Peace River; a narrative of a thousand-mile canoe trip to a little-known range of the Canadian Rockies online

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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthOn the headwaters of Peace River; a narrative of a thousand-mile canoe trip to a little-known range of the Canadian Rockies → online text (page 1 of 19)
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DUE on the last date stamped helow


Limestone Pkak ovkrlooking Qiaimcha Tokks.













L 1 tj i

Copyright, 1917. by

Published October, 1917





^ "I am glad to know that you are to have a fine,

^V« large trip in the Canadian Rockies, into a remote

and little-known wilderness. I hope that you

will be able to go beyond the farthest camping-

^ ground and the last tin can."

— Dr. William T. Hornaday to the author,
March 8, 1916.


As a boy I fixed my heart on being a naturalist; I
learned how to skin and stuff animals and birds; I read
every book on natural history and wild life on which I
could lay my hands. But at the university I entered
the only life that was considered worthy of study was
that of blind fish or of minute organisms whose wriggling
forms could be seen only through a high-power micro-
scope. I did some such zoology as this at the university
biological station, but I specialized in history and gave up
my original ambition.

For many years I was a student of books, a seeker
after vain degrees conferred by pompous pedagogues in
parti-colored gowns. Nay more, for a time I was a
pedagogue myself in a great university beside the Hudson
and lived in the land of the ** Modern Cliff Dwellers,"
harassed by the roar of elevated trains and breathing
the fetid air of the great metropolis of the western world.
I delved into dry subjects in musty libraries, wrote
books that I hoped would seem learned, and came to
have the pale face and stooping shoulders of the pro-
fessional pundit.

But the primeval instinct was not entirely extin-
guished. A month's fishing one golden autumn among
the Thirty Thousand Islands that fringe the iron-bound
coast of Lake Huron revived old and half-forgotten feel-


ings. Mv youthful love of horses and guns, of clear
water and the open country, surged up once more hot
and fierce; the thin veneer of supercivilization began to
slough away. Thencefonvard, except as a matter of busi-
ness, I read little save the books of explorers, naturalists,
and hunters, and many were the golden hours I spent
with Gordon-Cumming, Stanley, doughty Sir Samuel
Baker, Selous, Hornaday, White, and Roosevelt. With
Peary I travelled every foot of his twenty years* weary
journey to the pole; I went with Amundsen on both his
Arctic quests; there was hardly a hunter or adventurer
in any land or clime who was not my bosom friend and
companion in wild experiences. Best of all I liked the
penetrators of our own American northland. I crossed
the Continent with Mackenzie and descended with him
the great river that bears his name; with old Samuel
Hearne I traversed snowy wastes to the Coppermine
and shuddered with him at the massacre at Bloody Falls;
with Whitney, the Tyrrells, Hanbur>% Thompson Seton,
and Warburton Pike I visited the Barren Grounds, was
bitten by myriads of mosquitoes, saw the musk-ox and
la joule of the caribou, shivered in icy tents, famished in
times of famine, feasted when flesh was abundant, and
breathed the scent from the myriad of flowers in summer.
Nor was I content with second-hand enjoyment alone.
One fall I made a trip to the mountains about the head-
waters of the Saskatchewan and Athabasca Rivers, and,
though the trip had to be a short one and in some re-
spects was disappointing, it served to whet my appetite.
I had hardly returned from it before I began to look for-


ward to and then to plan a trip that should be a real trip,
and that is how I happen to be writing this book.

It is no longer an easy task to find in North America
a primeval wilderness — even a little one — in which to
indulge a fondness for wandering in remote regions
"beyond the farthest camping-ground and the last tin
can/* Labrador has been penetrated, the Barren Grounds
have repeatedly been traversed, and Alaska has yielded
up her geographical secrets to argonauts drawn thither
by the lure of gold. For some years, however, my eyes
were turned longingly toward a region that seemed to
promise a persevering traveler an opportunity to set his
foot where no other white man had been — at least no
white man who had left a record of his journey.

Far up in northern British Columbia the mighty
Peace River takes its rise, and after gathering to itself
the waters of a vast area, breaks its way eastward through
the barrier of the Rockies toward the Mackenzie and the
Arctic Sea. The Peace is formed by the junction of
two streams — the Parsnip flowing up from the south and
the Finlay flowing down from the north. The main
course of each of these streams is fairly well known,
though the Finlay has rarely been ascended. Extended
research enabled me to learn that in 1824 John Finlay,
in the interest of the Northwest Fur Company, ascended
the river that now bears his name to one of its sources
in Thutade Lake; his journal of the trip was long pre-
served at Cumberland House but has now been lost.
However, about a quarter of a century ago Mr. J. B.
Tyrrell took notes from it, and through his courtesy I


am able to publish them in an appendix. In 1873 Cap-
tain W. F. Butler ascended the Peace and went up the
Finlay about fifteen miles to a western tributary, the
Omineca; fought his way up this stream some distance;
and later published a short account of the region in his
book entitled The Jf'ild Northland. In the sixties and
at intervals thereafter a few prospectors panned some of
the lower Finlay bars for gold. For many years there
has been a tiny Hudson's Bay trading-post about sixty
miles up-stream, and to this post the Indians of the
region resort to sell their furs. In 1893 the Canadian
Geographical Survey sent out a party, headed by R. G.
McConnell, which ascended the Finlay to the Fishing
Lakes above the Long Canyon, and McConnell drew a
map of the river and wrote a description of the region
from a geological point of view. A few years later would-
be Klondikers attempted to use the river as a link on
their way to the Yukon country and experienced many
hardships from cold and hunger and narrowly escaped a
conflict with the Indians.

In short, though Finlay River had never been
"written up" In a popular way, its main course was
well enough known, and I had no great difficulty in as-
certaining a number of facts about it. I learned, for
example, that most of the western tributaries had all
been more or less explored by prospectors, for it was
from these western streams that the precious gold-dust
came. But to the eastward of the Finlay is a great stretch
of the Rocky Mountains — the stretch lying south of the
Liard River and north of Laurier Pass— that had never


been explored; and there existed rumors, started by
trappers who had sought pelts along the border-land, that
hidden away in the ranges there were "peaks taller than
Mount Robson."

The latest attempt to enter this region had been made
in 1912 by Mr. Frederick K. Vreeland in the interests of
the United States Biological Survey. Mr. Vreeland
and his party went into the country with pack-horses
from Hudson's Hope on Peace River, penetrated slightly
north of Laurier Pass, killed specimens of caribou and
mountain-sheep, and were turned back by the weather,
rough country, and down timber. Mr. Vreeland pre-
sented some of the results of this journey in an address
before the American Geographical Society.

I believed that it would be interesting to attempt to
enter the unexplored country. It seemed safe to assume
that one would be likely to find game there; the trip
thither and back was certain to be worth while; and merely
to renew my acquaintance with the Canadian Rockies
would be a pleasure beyond price.

The proposed trip appeared the more feasible because
the recent completion of two railroads had rendered the
region I wished to visit more accessible. In a few months
I would be able — if all went well — to make a journey that
only recently would have occupied the greater part of a
year. From Edmonton, my outfitting-place, I must travel
far to the west, then far to the north, then far to the east,
and then far to the south back to the starting-point.
Thanks to the new Grand Trunk Pacific, I could do
the four hundred miles of the westward swing in less


than a day and a night, while the just-finished railroad
to Peace River Crossing would enable me to cover in
the same manner more than three hundred miles of the

Ultimately I decided to make the venture. I had no
hope or expectation of exhaustively exploring the region,
or of making any great addition to the fund of geo-
graphical knowledge. Experiences were what I was seek-
ing. If I could make the long trip successfully, have a
bit of hunting and fishing, and determine somewhat gen-
erally the character of the unexplored mountain region, I
should feel satisfied.

I set out for the remote Northwest alone.

Paul Leland Haworth.

Eastover, West Newton, Indiana,
March, 191 7.



Preface vii


I. The Middle Passage i

II. The Portal ii

III. From Pacific to Arctic Waters .... 35

IV. Golden Days on Crooked River ... 48
V. From Fort McLeod to Finlay Forks . . 70

VI. Bucking the Finlay 91

VII. A Lucky Day no

VIII. The Last Outpost 117

IX. Deserter's Canyon 131

X. To THE Mouth of the Quadacha . . . 140

XI. What Makes the Quadacha White ? . . 148

XII. The Great Glacier 178

XIII. We Try the Fox River Range .... 187

XIV. An Experience with Mountain-Goats . . 197
XV. We Turn Down to the Long Canyon . . 208

XVI. An Opportune Meeting with a Bear . 218

XVII. Stone's Mountain-Sheep ...... 226




XVIII. We Build a Raft and Run Part of the

Long Canyon 234

XIX. Back to Finlay Forks 246

XX. The Mighty Peace River 254

XXI. The End of It 280

Notes from John Finlay's Journal , . 293


Limestone Peak overlooking Quadacha Forks . Frontispiece


"Where Poundmaker and other befeathered chieftains once built

their corrals, and slaughtered the buffaloes by thousands" 4

A glimpse of Mt. Edith Cavell 16

Scow running the Grand Canyon of the Fraser 18

The start from Hansard 36

The start on Summit Lake 44

On the divide between Pacific and Arctic waters .... 44

Down one of the " Wagon Roads" 56

Ivor Guest paddling where Crooked River becomes a consider-
able stream 64

Cut bank on Parsnip River 80

Moose run down by Ivor Guest on snow-shoes 82

A trapper's main camp 88

Peterson's place at Finlay Forks ......... 88

Cabin of a trapper who went to the war 106

The largest log jam that I recall lies some distance below Pete

Toy's Bar 106

Poling her up a ripple 108

Fort Grahame from across the Finlay 118

"A more ideal spot for the sport could not be found in a dozen

kingdoms" 134




An Arctic "trout" — they arc a shapely fish with a long black

fin 134

The entrance to Deserter's Canyon 136

Three Dolly Varden trout caught at Desertp-'- Canyon 138

A bear's handiwork 138

Quadacha just above the mouth 146

Quadacha above the Forks 146

On the summit of Observation Peak 180

Looking northeastward from Observation Peak, glacier in dis-
tance 182

"She started to turn away but she was too late" .... 192

"I came in sight of an immense, ragged boulder, 'big as a

house' " 212

Huston party on way up mountains 222

"He was a fine, fat, black hear" 222

The Finlay Valley and the Kitchener Mountains from where I

shot the black bear 224

Our camp in the Balsam Grove 230

A Stone's Sheep 230

"The Camp Robbers, or Canada Jays, found our meat-rack

irresistibly attractive" 232

The Gorge of Sheep Creek 232

"It was three o'clock . . . before the good craft Necessity was

launched" 242

Indian graveyard at Fort Grahame 248

Gibson's place just above Finlay Forks 248

Slim Cowart's cabin near Mt. Selwyn 256

Rock .Arch on Wicked River 256



The entrance to Peace River Canyon 264

Beaver tepee at Hudson's Hope 264

Looking back at the Rockies from beyond Clearwater . . . 282

The Peace below Dui, vegan 290



Map of the headwaters of Peace River showing route taken

by the author 8

Map of the Quadacha and Long Canyon country .... 154



I REACHED Winnipeg early one July morning after
the most unpleasant railway journey it had ever been
my misfortune to experience. Practically the whole of
the United States was sweltering under a hot wave of
almost unprecedented severity, and it was not until
my train neared the Canadian border that a cool breeze
from the north began to afford relief. A night spent in
a St. Paul hotel had been the hottest I ever suffered,
but my stay in that city was somewhat recompensed by
a long conversation with a charming- old gentleman who
had settled there in the '50's, when St. Paul was a vil-
lage and Minneapolis unthought of, and who had many
interesting anecdotes of the early days, and of his friend
"Jim'* Hill. I also recall, with an enthusiasm that even
the memory of the heat is unable to dim, a gorgeous
blood-red sunset on Lake Pepin seen from the car win-

Half a century ago the westward trip from Winnipeg,
then Fort Garry, across the Great Plains was one of
unique interest, and was likely to be attended with
numerous adventures. There were picturesque half-


breeds, creaking Red River carts, shaggy buffaloes, prong-
horned antelopes, wild Crees and Blackfeet; and the
journey occupied months. To-day the trip takes a day
and a night, and after it has been made once it is likely
to.prove a bit monotonous. When settled, the Canadian
plains become as tame and unexciting as the Kansas
prairies, and wheat and oat fields now ripple where
Poundmaker and other befeathered chieftains once built
their corrals and slaughtered the buffaloes by thou-
sands. It is progress, civilization, perhaps, but the
change half saddens me, for I am not one of those who
want to see the whole world transformed into market-
gardens, or staked off into town lots. Where, pray tell
me, will our descendants two or three generations re-
moved go to find their wilderness .?

The monotony of the trip across the plains in the
present instance was greatly relieved by evidences that
the country was at war. Winnipeg was full of soldiers
from Camp Hughes, farther west; there were model
trenches dug in one of the public squares; dead walls
were crowded with exhortations to French Canadians,
Highlanders, Scandinavians, Americans, and even Ice-
landers to **do their bit" for "King and Country";
while every train bore scores of men in uniform. On the
sleeping-car that carried me westward I made the ac-
quaintance in the smoking-compartment of one such,
whom I shall call "Scotty." Scotty was a discharged
veteran of the immortal "Princess Pats," and previously
had seen service among the kopjes against the Boers.
His short, stubby body bore the scars of four wounds


received in fighting the Germans, and he had lost two
fingers of one hand, and half of a foot. He told some
exciting stories of his military experiences, but, being
somewhat "lit up," seemed prouder of his exploits in
beating the prohibition laws of Manitoba than of his
deeds on the battle-field. He also explained with glee
how he was hoodwinking the doctors in order to obtain
extra big allowances from the government, and shame-
lessly declared that he meant to get all he "could out of
it." He made it his boast that he was never able to
keep money, and told with gusto of how he had once
had nine hundred dollars in a bank, had drawn it out,
and had run through it in three days. A Winnipeg busi-
ness man who listened to his story ventured to urge, in
a fatherly way, that he ought to save his money and
settle down, but Scotty declared with great determina-
tion that he meant to die without a cent.

Alas for a hero !

Altogether different in character was another sur-
vivor of the same regiment, an employee in the Hudson's
Bay Company's store at Edmonton. He was a tall,
erect man of perhaps thirty-five, quiet and little inclined
to talk of the war. By questioning him I ascertained
that he had lost the sight of one eye in battle, and his
description of the hell of fire that virtually destroyed
his regiment did not differ materially from Scotty's.

"Did you feel that you gave as good as you re-
ceived ?" I asked him.

"There were several times when we had good shoot-
ing," he said, his face lighting up reminiscently.


"Twice they came on in mass formation, and we simply
piled them up in heaps. We considered these oppor-
tunities a recompense for what we suffered."

The story of the Princess Pats is one of the most
heroic in the annals of war, and will forever be trea-
sured in Canadian history. Enlisted largely from among
men with previous military experience in actual warfare,
it was early at the front, and bore without flinching pun-
ishment that few organizations have ever endured. I
talked with a returned veterinary surgeon who told me
that once he saw the regiment when it could put only
78 men in line, and there are stories to the effect that
at times it was even weaker.

The Grand Trunk Pacific, on which I was travelling,
runs diagonally from Winnipeg to Edmonton through
comparatively new country, and one saw from the car-
windows occasional evidences of wild life. Now and
then coveys of prairie-chickens rose from beside the
track, while the presence of many hawks indicated that
the chickens did not always enjoy peace and safety even
during the closed season. The number of hawks one
sees upon these plains is, indeed, discouragingly large
from the point of view of the preservation of small game,
and serves to explain why, now and then, in the fall
especially, some of the States in the Mississippi Valley
are full of hawks, both big and little. Fortunately, hawks
are not an unmixed evil, as they destroy great numbers
of prairie-dogs, mice, and other vermin.

Many of the small lakes bore coveys of ducks, some
of them not yet able to fly, while now and again the


traveller beheld a musquash, that is, a muskrat, swim-
ming through the water, usually with a bunch of grass
or straw in his mouth. Some of the muskrat houses on
these lakes are as large as many beaver lodges I have
seen. A few of the lakes are so heavily impregnated
with alkali that they are avoided not only by animals,
but also by the ducks and other water-fowl.

If time had permitted I should have liked to stop
for a day or two at Wainwright to visit the great Canadian
wild-animal park. We saw the park from a distance,
but could distinguish no animals. The park now con-
tains the largest herd of American buffaloes in the world,
about two thousand, to say nothing of moose, antelope,
and other animals. The buffaloes represent, in the main
at least, the celebrated Pablo herd, which the United
States parsimoniously permitted to be sold to Canada
and sent beyond our borders.

Our train finally reached Edmonton at ten o'clock
in the evening, and, as this was to be my last chance at
the *' flesh-pots" for many weeks, I put up at a new pa-
latial hotel erected by one of the railroad companies.
When I sallied out next morning I found a different
Edmonton from that with which I had become ac-
quainted six years before. Then it was the "jumping-
off place" for the North and West, and most clerks had
some personal knowledge of what any one intending a
trip into the bush needed; now it differed little from other
towns, and the clerks were like all other clerks, and had
little knowledge of canoes, tents, or guns — of anything
but prices, which were high.


As one beholds the miles and miles of paved streets
and splendid buildings, it seems incredible that, even in
my own lifetime, Edmonton was merely a fur post be-
neath whose palisaded walls wild Crees and Blackfeet
waylaid and scalped each other.

In view of the fact that the trip by water would be
more than a thousand miles long, that some of the streams
were shallow, that many rapids must be run and frequent
portages made, I had already decided that I must have a
light, canvas-covered canoe about eighteen feet long, and
capable of carrying two men and a considerable load.
In correspondence earlier in the year I had been assured
that the supply of canoes in Edmonton was unlimited;
great, therefore, was my disgust when I learned that
there was not in the whole city a canvas-covered canoe,
of the usual type, more than sixteen feet long. I had
about decided to take an ordinary basswood Peterbor-
ough when I heard of a company down on the Saskatche-
wan that had, according to the story, an overstock of
canvas canoes. Much elated, I hurried down the long,
steep hill to the river, to find that the craft in question
were really Chestnut sponson canoes, seventeen feet long.
Now it had never been my intention to take a sponson
canoe on the trip, but the man in charge was insistent
that I should look one of the boats over, and I did so.
She was a stanch, beautiful little craft, weighing about
ninety pounds, capable of carrying six or seven hun-
dred pounds and two men, a bit too low in the sides for
rough water, but safe and sure to float in case she ever
should fill. She was not just what I wanted; I realized


that with all our stuff aboard she would ride pretty low,
but I knew a way of keeping out the swells, and she
seemed to come the nearest my requirements of any-
thing available, so I took her.

Most of my provisions and other stuff I bought at the
Hudson's Bay store, which in Edmonton is merely a big
department store that does not differ greatly from similar
stores in other cities. I picked up a few articles else-
where, and had brought others from the States. As
we were going on a trip where every ounce would count,
and where everything used must be carried along, I
had given the subject considerable care. The completed
outfit, besides the canoe, included the following articles:

One Winchester .401 automatic rifle, equipped with
Lyman sights. I had owned this gun for six years, and
was familiar with its advantages and weaknesses. Like
all rifles, it is more suitable for some kinds of work than
for others, but, on the whole, it is a good weapon in the
hands of one who understands it. For small game I
had brought with me an old Remington .32 rim-fire rifle
and a hundred long cartridges. I had had this rifle
many years, and had killed a great variety of game with it.
To my mind a weapon of this sort is better for small game
than a .22, as it does not tear too much of a hole, will
shoot farther, and can be used, at a pinch, on large game.

One 3A Graflex camera. This also was an old com-
panion, and with it I had done some fair work, not be-
cause I am a good photographer, but because I had an
excellent machine. My mistake on this trip was to
underestimate its capacities. Such a camera is, of


course, rather heavy for mountain work, its weight being
about four and a half pounds. The leather case that the
manufacturers furnish for it leaves much to be desired
as a means of protection against either shocks or water,
and at home I had made a box out of some clear poplar
boards, and had covered it with canvas and fitted it with
carrying straps. This box proved a great success, and
served to lift a heavy load of anxiety off fny mind, for
the camera was really the most essential article of the
trip. The box also furnished a handy receptacle for
numerous other small articles. Most of the films were
in water-tight tins.

One 7K X 7K forester tent of balloon-silk, weight
about four and a half pounds. These tents are open in
front, but I took along a spare piece of canvas, which was
useful as a tarpaulin and was available to keep out rain

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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthOn the headwaters of Peace River; a narrative of a thousand-mile canoe trip to a little-known range of the Canadian Rockies → online text (page 1 of 19)