Buffalo Dung Lake

British Columbia. lake
Former name of Yellowhead Lake
Earliest known reference to this name is 1825 (MacMillan)
Not currently an official name.

Fur trader James McMillan [1783–1858] passed through the Yellowhead Pass in 1825. He wrote to William Connolly [1786–1848], “The country I passed through is not so bad as I expected, and with very little trouble horses will pass their loads with ease even at present it is not so bad as the Columbia portage. It was once supposed that a better communication would be found by coming up Millettes river and making a portage to Buffalo dung Lake, thence down to Moose Lake etc.”

in 1863, Yellowhead Lake was referred to as “Buffalo Dung Lake” by Milton and Cheadle. Cheadle wrote in his diary, “Thursday, July 9th. — Made a long morning, camping for dinner at the head of Buffalo Dung Lake.”

The lake had previously been referred to as “Cow Dung Lake,” including by John Arrowsmith on his on 1859 map and by the Overlander gold seekers who crossed Yellowhead Pass in 1862.

In his report on the 1911 Alpine Club of Canada–Smithsonian Robson Expedition, Ned Hollister wrote:

A few years ago buffalo skulls, old and weathered, were not uncommonly found in the mountains bordering the upper Athabasca Valley. Numbers were found on the east side of the Athabasca River, some fifteen miles south of Henry House, at a point locally known as Buffalo Prairie. Mr. Lewis Swift told me that at the time he came into this country, some seventeen years ago [ca. 1895], the oldest Indians could not remember the living buffalo. People then seventy-five years old knew nothing of the animals beyond the fact that the bleached skeletons were there. These buffalo probably wandered into the region by the route of the present road, and this point doubtless marks the western limit, at a very early day, of the former range of the species in Yellowhead Pass.


  • McMillan, James [1783–1858]. Winnipeg: Hudson’s Bay Company archives. Portion of letter James McMillan to William Connelly HBCA B.188/b/4 fo. 9-10 (1825).
  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • Cheadle, Walter Butler [1835–1910]. Cheadle’s Journal of Trip Across Canada 1862-63. Ottawa: Graphic Publishers, 1931. University of British Columbia Library
  • Milton, William Wentworth Fitzwilliam [1839–1877], and Cheadle, Walter Butler [1835–1910]. The North-West Passage by Land. Being the narrative of an expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific, undertaken with the view of exploring a route across the continent to British Columbia through British territory, by one of the northern passes in the Rocky Mountains. London: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 1865. Internet Archive
  • Hollister, Ned [1876–1924]. “Mammals of the Alpine Club Expedition to the Mount Robson Region.” Canadian Alpine Journal, Vol. 4 No. 2 (1912):6-44

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