Rocky Mountains

Alberta-BC boundary. Mountain range
Northernmost part of western Canada to New Mexico in southwestern United States

The earliest reference to this mountain chain is that of John Knight, governor of York Factory who, in his diary for 1716, states that Indians had told him that very far to the west there were prodigious mountains so high “they cannot see the tops without it be clear weather.” The first mention of their present name is to be found in Legardeur St. Pierre’s journal for 1752, which refers to the ‘Montaignes de Roche.’

The name of the mountains is a translation of an Amerindian name that is closely related to Algonquian; the Cree name as-sin-wati is given as, “When seen from across the prairies, they looked like a rocky mass”.

“‘There are no Rocky Mountains’ has been the remark of many a disappointed traveller by the Union or Central Pacific Railways,” wrote George Grant in 1872. “The remark will never be made by those who travel on the Canadian Pacific; there was no ambiguity about these being mountains, nor about where they commenced. The line was defined, and the scarp as clear, as if they had been hewn and chiselled for a fortification. There was nothing fantastic about the mountain forms. Everything was imposing. And these too were ours, an inheritance as precious, if not as plentiful in corn and milk, as the plains they guarded. For mountains elevate the mind, and give an inspiration of courage and dignity to the hardy races who own them and who breathe their atmosphere. We could sympathize with the enthusiast, who returned home after years of absence, and when asked what he had as an equivalent for so much lost time, answered: ‘I have seen the Rocky Mountains.’”


  • Arrowsmith, Aaron [1750–1823]. A Map Exhibiting All the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America. 1795
  • Grant, George Monro [1835–1902]. Ocean to ocean: Sanford Fleming’s expedition through Canada in 1872. Toronto : Belford Brothers, 1877. Google Books
  • Akrigg, George Philip Vernon (1913-2001), and Helen B. Akrigg. British Columbia Place Names. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997. Internet Archive
  • Rocky Mountains. Wikipedia

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