The majestic Thompson finds a worthy chronicler

A new book looks at the mighty Thompson River in all its glory

Bernie Fandrich's British Columbia's Mighty Thompson River is an in-depth look at all aspects of the river and its history.

Bernie Fandrich's British Columbia's Mighty Thompson River is an in-depth look at all aspects of the river and its history.

It’s all too easy to take our region for granted. Sweeping vistas, beautiful views, and natural wonders that thrill visitors barely register with residents, who are more intent on getting from point A to point B. Sometimes, while driving in our area, I’ll try to view my surroundings as a tourist would see them; and I never fail to be impressed by the beauty around me.

Bernie Fandrich’s British Columbia’s Majestic Thompson River captures this beauty; not only in the pictures, many of them in colour, but in the loving descriptions of the Thompson and its surroundings from Savona to Lytton. As befits the founder of Kumsheen Raft Adventures, Fandrich – whose intimate knowledge of the Thompson in all its moods extends over four decades – devotes the early part of the book to an examination of the river from the perspective of one who is travelling it. The 117 km journey is covered in four chapters (Savona to Ashcroft; Ashcroft to Spences Bridge; Spences Bridge to Nicomen; and Nicomen to Lytton), with each chapter detailing what a traveller on the Thompson will see as she makes her way down the river. Whether it be the site of a land- or rockslide, an interesting geologic feature, a town, the remains of a long-abandoned village, or one of the river’s many rapids, rocks, and put-ins, Fandrich identifies and describes it, often reaching far back into the past to do so.

I recently drove down to a spot on the river I had long been meaning to visit. The only identifying sign was a railway marker bearing the single word “Martel”. When I got home I consulted Fandrich’s book, and learned that I had stopped at the Martel Put-in, 46.9 km north of Lytton. Martel was Joe Martel (1864-1933), originally from Quebec, who took over a ranch 1.5 km south of the put-in’s location in the 1880s or 1890s and established an orchard there. He was a friend of anthropologist James Teit, and obviously had a good sense of humour; when a friend said to him, after an accident on the river, “Joe, you could have been killed!” Martel replied “Oh, that’s all right. Lots more Frenchmen in Quebec.”

It is this level of research and detail that makes Majestic Thompson River more than “just” a book for river rafters. There are chapters covering the first descent of the Thompson by European explorers (in 1828); the towns along the river, and the historic events that took place on and near it, as well as those which occurred on the roads, trails, and rails in the Thompson’s vicinity; the construction and early days of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a look at the Chinese workers who played such a large part in the CPR’s construction; the plants to be found along the river (you will never confuse sagebrush and rabbit bush again); some of the characters who gave colour to the area over the decades; and a miscellany of facts, history, legend, and geology. For example, David Thompson never saw the river which was named after him; he was busy mapping the headwaters of the Columbia River in 1808, not those of the river which now bears his name, as Simon Fraser (who did the naming) thought.

And did you know that in 1881 a paddlewheeler called the Peerless made it all the way down the Thompson from Savona to Ashcroft and back again? Measuring 131 feet long and 25 feet wide, she would have been an impressive sight on the river, and the relative ease of the journey encouraged thoughts of a regular supply run from Kamloops all the way down to Spences Bridge, supplying the railway camps along the river and transporting goods in both directions. The plan was scuppered when it was found that while passage downriver to Spences Bridge was not difficult, the return trip – against the flow of the river – was perilous at best, with the Peerless nearly coming to grief in the treacherous Black Canyon section of the river south of Ashcroft. Only the captain’s skill kept the boat from smashing to pieces, and a supply run down the river to Spences Bridge was permanently shelved.

All this and much more is covered in loving detail in British Columbia’s Majestic Thompson River. Map coordinates and distance from Lytton (in kilometres) for almost every site mentioned make it easy to identify locations; this is the perfect book to have in the car as you travel to or from the Coast. Armchair travellers can enjoy the many photographs and revel in Fandrich’s vivid descriptions, and perhaps plan their next picnic or day trip.

The author’s delight in, and admiration for, the Thompson River and its environs shines through on every page, making the book a joy to read, as well as an invaluable guide. It’s a book that can be dipped into again and again, with something new to savour and enjoy each time. In that, it is much like the river it chronicles so well.

Copies of British Columbia’s Majestic Thompson River are available at the Journal office and many other local retailers, as well as at Chapters.

Barbara Roden

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

The Desert Daze Music Festival is doggone good fun, as shown in this photo from the 2019 festival, and it will be back in Spences Bridge this September. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
‘Best Little Fest in the West’ returning to Spences Bridge

Belated 10th anniversary Desert Daze festival going ahead with music, vendors, workshops, and more

Internet speed graphic, no date. Photo credit: Pixabay
Study asks for public input to show actual internet speeds in B.C. communities

Federal maps showing Internet speeds might be inflated, so communities lose out on faster Internet

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read