History of the Thompson River

YOU ASKED: Our library contains a number of books about David Thompson, after whom Simon Fraser named a large river flowing into the Fraser. David Thompson mapped the Columbia River. That being the case, who discovered or mapped the Thompson River?

-John Lion

OUR ANSWER: First off, John, a handshake and a hug to you for asking us a history question. We absolutely love these kinds of queries because every time we get one we learn something new about our community.

Which is exactly what happened in this case.

We started our search with a few phone calls and emails to various government departments and B.C. universities. We also sent your question to Alberta resident Pat McDonald who runs a website devoted to the famous cartographer (davidthompsonthings.com).

"I believe it was Simon Fraser who took that great trip," said McDonald, "(naming) the Thompson River in honour of his good friend David Thompson."

McDonald is correct, according to the one man who knows more about our regional history than anyone - Ken Favrholdt, a geography instructor at Thompson Rivers University.

"It was Simon Fraser, in 1808 on his journey downstream on the river named after him, who was the first white man to identify the river flowing into the Fraser at Camchin (Lytton), which he named the Thompson after his fellow Nor'wester who was exploring the Columbia watershed," says Favrholdt.

"David Thompson never saw the river named after him but showed it (and Simon Fraser's discoveries) on his great map of 1814."

In his day, Thompson mapped an astounding 3.9 million square kilometers of territory in North American. He literally put Canada on the map.

So it's really quite interesting that he never actually saw the one river that carries his name.

Another interesting point: before Thompson created his map, the Pacific Fur Company and the North West Company, which had both established forts at Kamloops in 1812, called the Thompson the She-Whap River after the local Indian tribe.

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