Yellowhead Lake

British Columbia. Lake: Fraser River drainage
Just SW of Yellowhead Pass
52°52’00” N 118°32’00” W — Map 83D/15 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1872 (Grant).
Name officially adopted in 1951. Official in BCCanada
Yellowhead Lake looking east.
Photo: Mary Schäffer, 1908

Yellowhead Lake looking east.
Photo: Mary Schäffer, 1908
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

Yellowhead Lake

Yellowhead Lake

This lake near the Yellowhead Pass has been known by several names. In 1824, Hudson’s Bay Company governor George Simpson, heading for the Athabasca Pass, noted, “the track for Cranberry Lake takes a Northerly direction by Cow Dung River.” The Cow Dung River was the Miette and Simpson’s Cranberry Lake may have been our Yellowhead. In 1862, when the Overlander gold seekers crossed Yellowhead Pass (which they called Leather Pass) they camped on Cow Dung Lake. A year later, the lake was known to Milton and Cheadle as Buffalo Dung Lake. In 1872 George Grant suggested its present name, recalling the namesake of the pass.

“It is a very charming litle sheet of water,” wrote Arthur Wheeler, “four miles long, with a greatest width of half a mile. There are several narrows, and the irregularities of its form are by no means the least part of its charm. For the most part it is surrounded by green forest and is distinctly one of the most beautiful lakes in the district. In colour the waters are a creamy sap green.”

On Arrowsmith’s 1859 map the two sections of Yellowhead Lake are called “Moose L.” and “Cow dung L.” Present-day Moose Lake is called “L. d’Original,” a misspelling of the French Canadian “Lac Orignal.”


  • Simpson, George [1792–1860]. Fur trade and empire. George Simpson’s journal entitled Remarks connected with fur trade in consequence of a voyage from York Factory to Fort George and back to York Factory 1824-25. Merk, Frederick. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. UBC Library
  • Milton, William Fitzwilliam, and Cheadle, Walter B. 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
  • Grant, George Monro [1835–1902]. Ocean to ocean: Sanford Fleming’s expedition through Canada in 1872. Toronto : Belford Brothers, 1877. Google Books
  • McEvoy, James [1862–1935]. “Map Showing Yellowhead Pass Route From Edmonton To Tête-Jaune Cache.” (1900). Natural Resources Canada
  • Schäffer, Mary Townsend Sharples [1861–1939]. Old Indian trails. Incidents of camp and trail life, covering two years’ exploration through the Rocky Mountains of Canada. [1907 and 1908]. New York: Putnam, 1911. p. 339. Internet Archive
  • Wheeler, Arthur Oliver [1860-1945 ]. “The mountains of the Yellowhead Pass.” Alpine Journal, Vol. 26, No.198 (1912):382
  • MacGregor, James Grierson [1905-1989]. Overland by the Yellowhead. Saskatoon: Western Producer, 1974. Internet Archive

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