Open main menu

Page:Quarterlyoforego10oreg 1.djvu/124

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Frederick V. Holman

the United States Government. There were business reasons to ascertain if furs could be shipped by sea and supplies brought up the river. It was well to spy out the land.

Fraser knew that the mouth of the Columbia was about eight degrees of latitude, a distance of several hundred miles, from where he was to start. He knew only of the route so far as Mackenzie had explored the Tacoutche, from what he had learned by his own experience, and from what the Indians had told him. It is doubtful if he had any exact knowledge, or any knowledge, of what Lewis' and Clark had discovered on the Columbia north of Point Vancouver, for their expedition had not returned to St. Louis, Missouri, until September 23, 1806, and the instructions to Fraser to explore the river must have left Montreal in the spring of 1807.

There could have been no doubt in Fraser's mind that his exploration would be a difficult and dangerous undertaking. Mackenzie had turned back because he had found the river so dangerous to navigate. The Indians along the river below he knew were of a treacherous and warlike character. Fraser had no guide. He made very careful preparations for his journey. The expedition consisted of twenty-one men besides himself, in four canoes. The exact day that the expedition started is in doubt, but it is not material. It probably left Fort George on the Tacoutche, which I shall hereinafter call the Fraser, on May 28, 1808. At the outset one of his canoes was almost wrecked at Fort George Canyon. The next two days were very dangerous navigation. May 30 the expedition arrived at the lowest point on the river reached by Mackenzie, where the latter turned back. But Fraser did not hesitate. In his Journal he says that for two miles there was a strong rapid with high and steep banks which contracted the channel in many places to forty or fifty yards, and that "this immense body of water, passing through this narrow space in a turbulent manner, forming numerous gulfs and cascades, and making a tremendous noise, had an awful and forbidding appearance."