Leather Pass

Alberta-BC boundary. Former name
Yellowhead Pass
Earliest known reference to this name is 1859 (Arrowsmith).
Not currently an official name.

From 1826 to 1853, the Hudson’s Bay Company intermittently used the Yellowhead Pass to transport leather and grease from the Saskatchewan District to New Caledonia, in the interior of present-day British Columbia. In terms of provisions, New Caledonia was the poorest district in the entire fur trade. As an early trader put it, “New Caledonia being nearly altogether destitute of large animals both the Natives and Traders live entirely upon Fish.” Leather, principally dressed moose skins, and to a lesser extent buffalo skins, was used in its various forms in New Caledonia as the principal article of trade with the Natives, and by the fur traders themselves for shoes, clothes, pack-cords, snowshoes, tents, window parchment and a variety of other purposes.

The pass was usually referred to as the route or portage via Tête Jaune Cache. On a few occasions in the 1820s, the officer in charge of New Caledonia referred to the route as “the Leather track,” but this term encompassed the entire distance between Fort George and Jasper house. There is no record of any trader of the period ever calling the pass the Leather Pass.

The name “Leather Pass” appears to have been first used on an 1859 Arrowsmith map of British Columbia, the source of the name likely being the Royal Engineers, who were then conducting surveys in other parts of the colony. This name was frequently used in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s.

This name appears on B.C. Surveyor General Joseph Trutch’s 1871 map of British Columbia.


  • Arrowsmith, Aaron [1750–1823]. A Map Exhibiting All the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America. Engraved by Lowry. Cadell and Davies, 1795. Historical Atlas of Canada
  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • 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
  • Harvey, Athelstan G. “The mystery of Mount Robson.” B.C. Historical Quarterly, (1937)
  • Smyth, David. “The Yellowhead Pass and the fur trade.” BC Studies, 64 (1984). BC Studies
  • Smyth, David. “Some fur trade place names of the Yellowhead Pass: west of the summit to Tête Jaune Cache.” Canoma (journal of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names), Vol. 11, No. 2 (1985)

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