2011 David Thompson Columbia Brigade Completes Historic Fur Trade Route

By jmickle@telus.net
May 19th, 2011

On June 1, a group of eight paddlers from Rossland, Trail and Nelson will join canoeists from all over North America to salute the Columbia Basin and its past by paddling six-person voyageur canoes 1800 kilometres along a historic route from present day Invermere to Astoria Washington.

The brigade is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the arrival at the Pacific Ocean of David Thompson, fur trader, explorer, surveyor and mapmaker. In 1811 he added the Columbia River as the final leg of the fur trade highway between Montreal and the Pacific Ocean. During his travels Thompson explored and surveyed more than four million square kilometers of wilderness, accomplishing the staggering feat of mapping one sixth of North America. A recent National Geographic story on Thompson stated that David Thompson made Lewis and Clark look like tourists!

Thompson’s great map, which hung in the Great Hall of Fort William was so accurate that 100 years later it remained the basis for many maps issued by the Canadian government and the railway companies. David Thompson’s journals have also enabled us to witness the early fur trade and the ways of a world that has long since vanished.

The 2011 David Thompson Columbia Brigade will be the last in a series of four paddling adventures that began in 2007 with a journey from the headwaters of the Columbia River at Canal Flats and ended in Trail. In 2008 a group of 18 canoes travelled from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta to Fort William, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. One canoe, with an all-women’s team participated in the 2009 voyage from Fort William to Montreal. This summer’s brigade has ten teams who are now in the final stages of preparation for the 45-day trip to the coast. Upon our return, members of the local team will invite the public to see a documentary film which will be made of the trip.

Team Pathfinder would like to thank the Columbia Basin Trust and Teck for their generous support of this initiative.

Local paddlers are: Dave Grant, Jill and Dave Watson, Patricia Senecal, Jan Micklethwaite (Rossland), Peter Oostlander (Trail), Doug Clark (Castlegar), Mary Prothro (Nelson). Ground support will be provided by Bess Schurmann, Carol Potasnyk and Miriam Williams.
Much missed will be Hans Korn of Montrose who took part in two previous brigades, but lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

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