Fraser River

River. British Columbia: Flows NW from Rocky Mountains
49°07’06” N 123°11’27” W — Map 92G/3 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1813 (David Thompson).
Name officially adopted in 1910. Official in BCCanada
Simon Fraser

Simon Fraser

Adopted in the 9th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 30 June 1910, as long-identified on maps and in journals. Re-approved 28 May 1915 to specifically identify as the main source the channel sometimes known as the South Fork Fraser River (the portion between Yellowhead Lake and Prince George).

North West Company explorer Simon Fraser (1776–1862) opened the fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains, and was the first white man to descend the Fraser River to its mouth. Fraser was born in Bennington, Vermont, and came to Québec with his mother after his father, a Loyalist officer, died as a prisoner of war during the American revolution. Fraser joined the North West Company in 1792 and was sent to the Athabasca department. He became a partner in the company in 1801. He founded the New Caledonia posts of McLeod Lake (1805), Stuart Lake (later Fort St. James, 1806), Fraser Lake (1806) and Fort George (1807).

During May and June of 1808, with a party of nineteen French Canadian voyageurs, two clerks, and two Indians, Fraser made his journey down the Fraser River from Fort George to present-day Vancouver. It was a bitter disappointment for him to discover that the river was not the Columbia, and that it was not a practical canoe route to the coast.

The Fraser River was discovered by Alexander Mackenzie during his journey to the Pacific in 1793. On a map printed with his Voyages in 1801, Mackenzie called the river “Tacoutche Tesse, or Columbia River.” The Spaniards never found their way up the mouth of the Fraser, but in 1791, finding evidence that they were near the mouth of a major river, they named it “Rio Floridablanca” in honor of the prime minister of Spain. The Fraser River was also known in the early days as the New Caledonia River. It was named after Fraser in 1813 by David Thompson (the Thompson River was given its name by Fraser.)


  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the years 1789 and 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. Internet Archive
  • Fraser, Simon [1776–1862]. The letters and journals of Simon Fraser, 1806-1808. Toronto: MacMillan, 1960. Internet Archive
  • Thompson, David [1770–1857]. David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Trutch, Joseph William [1826–1904]. Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude. Victoria, B.C.: Lands and Works Office, 1871. University of Victoria
  • Story, Norah. The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1967
  • Akrigg, George Philip Vernon (1913-2001), and Helen B. Akrigg. British Columbia Place Names. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997. Internet Archive
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Government of BC. Fraser River. BCGN

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