Sidebar: The Mighty Fraser

In English, there is no word for a great river that flows to the ocean. The French call them ‘fleuves.’ Two of the most famous such rivers in Canada are the Saint-Lawrence, on the east coast, and the Fraser, on the west coast.

I grew up along the Saint Lawrence, have traveled it in its entirety. It has lost its mythical qualities through familiarity, but, for some reason, I think the Fraser will always possess that magical quality that stokes the imagination.

Four months I spent commuting across the mighty Fraser, competing with other Lower Mainlanders for one of its few crossing points. My bridge of choice was the Alex Fraser, named for a former BC Minister of Transport. The Fraser itself is named for the famed Canadian explorer, Simon Fraser. I think they just like to confuse the tourists.

In the Greater Vancouver Region, the Fraser is muddy and smelly, but as you go inland and climb north, it becomes fresher, wilder, more like the river I imagine Simon Fraser discovered.

That is, until you reach Hell’s Gate, the narrowest point across the river, which Fraser claimed was not unlike the gates of hell.

Today, Hell’s gate is a tourist trap, with an airtram that crosses the river to a souvenir shop on the other side. It is possible to hike down and cross the river on a bridge and then return on the tram at a reduced price. I intended to hike down and back, having sworn to never ride on an airtram again, but May 3rd was ‘customer appreciation day’ and the tram was free! The ride down and then back up wasn’t as bad as that on Sulphur Mountain, but almost. 🙂

It is difficult to imagine what the river would have looked like in Fraser’s day, there having been so much construction since then. The building of a tunnel rendered the whole area unstable and half the mountain came down into the river, destroying a salmon run. Today, most of the debris has been removed, but for the salmon to return, manmade barriers that slow down the water had to be constructed. The views are still spectacular, but no longer wild, and I hope Simon Fraser would be appalled by this.

The first few pictures are of my commute to work, include some shots of the Skytrain bridge. These photos are my vision of the future, with environmentally sound monorails zipping about. Earlier in the gallery, there is a shot of Columbia Street in New Westminister in which you can see the concrete structures on which the Skytrains run.

The last pictures are of Hell’s Gate. The final picture in the set is of Miranda off in the distance, included because all I could think as I walked towards her was “Hey, I can see my house from here!” The simplest things amuse me. 🙂

Blog Widget by LinkWithinShare on Facebook
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Got anything to say? Go ahead and leave a comment!