Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats

Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser

By Jack Boudreau

Categories: BC History
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781894759205, October 2006


Forbidding canyons, raging rapids and menacing rocks -- this was the daily challenge that faced whitewater men who worked the wild rivers and creeks to bring freight and supplies to northern BC in the years before the Grand Trunk Railway. In particular, the Grand Canyon of British Columbia's Fraser River was infamous for swallowing at least 200 luckless occupants of rafts and small craft between the years 1862-1921. Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats: Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser is the story of the "Canyon Cats" who made their living running the Grand Canyon and other equally dangerous waterways; men such as George Williams, affectionately known to his peers as "The Wizard of the River," and Frank Freeman, a powder expert who tamed the wildest water by blowing out many of the worst boulders and logjams thereby allowing safer passage for the scows, sternwheelers, rafts and boats that travelled the murky river. A total of twelve steamers worked the upper Fraser River during the period 1862-1921 and the dangers faced by these vessels and their steel-nerved captains are legend. It was a perilous existence hauling supplies to the isolated construction camps of the GTP Railroad and in retrospect it seems ironic that these steamers were made obsolete by this same railway upon its completion. Sternwheelers and Canyon Cats: Whitewater Freighting on the Upper Fraser is a chronicle of the men whose feats almost defy belief and whose contribution to BC history has gone long unrecognized.