History of the Fraser

Everyone and everything has a history. You probably know when you were born, where your home is, and exciting things that have happened to you. The Fraser River also has a history – except it’s much older than yours!

Timelines tell us about things that happened, and when they happened. Explore the timeline of the Fraser River, and notice how the river changed over time.

Time Immemorial

Since time immemorial, the Fraser River has been a source of life for the many First Nations that live within the Watershed, providing the resources needed to survive and a way to connect with one another.

Late 1770s

British Columbia is home to thousands of First Nations people. European people, called colonists, begin arriving in the province and settling near the river. These colonists wanted to explore this new land use the natural resources they found.

Early 1800s

In 1808, Simon Fraser, a colonist and fur trader, sets off to explore the river that will later be named after him—although the river already had many names in local First Nation languages. Fraser and his group begin the journey near Prince George, traveling down the river to the Salish Sea. At the time, Simon Fraser actually believed he was traveling the Columbia River, which is located south of the Fraser. He wanted to find out if the river could be used as a fur trade route.

Other colonists also trade with the First Nations people, exchanging metal items like pots and knives for furs. This was called the ‘Fur Trade’. Since so many people wanted furs, hunting and trapping increased. The Fur Trade also resulted in diseases, like smallpox, being passed to First Nations communities.


Because of the Fur Trade, what do you think happened to the number of animals living around the Fraser River?
There were more animals living there
The number of animals living there stayed the same
There were fewer animals living there

Mid-late 1800s

Gold is discovered near the Fraser River, and people from all over the world move to British Columbia to mine it. This was called the ‘Gold Rush’. During this time, many gold mines, roads, and towns were built. The Gold Rush caused conflict between colonists and Indigenous communities, which led to the Canyon War.


How do you think this affected the Fraser River?
The water and nearby habitat was damaged
The water and nearby habitat stayed the same
The water and nearby habitat improved


More and more people move to British Columbia. These new settlers did not respect First Nations ways of life, and caused harm to the culture and health of Indigenous communities. Roads and buildings were built as cities grew, and industries like lumber, mining, and farming increased. Even though these industries were useful to people in the area, they polluted the environment and water around them.


As more people moved into the Fraser River Watershed, what do you think happened to animal habitats?
There was more space for animal habitat
The space for wildlife habitat remained the same
There was less space for animal habitat


Pollution, habitat destruction, and resource depletion (using up resources faster than they can be replenished) are problems that still affect the Fraser River today. Fortunately, we are learning more everyday about how our actions can help the river instead of harming it. Lots of people—including First Nations, who continue to be important stewards to the land—are working together to make the Fraser River a healthier place for people and wildlife to live for generations to come.

Human actions can affect the Fraser River and the wildlife living in or around it. These actions can be big, like mining, or small, like leaving garbage behind.

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Teacher’s Guide

Teacher’s Guide – Salmon Fry (best suited for elementary school students)

Teacher’s Guide – Salmon (best suited for high school students & older)


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Additional Resources – Salmon Fry (best suited for elementary school students)

Additional Resources – Salmon (best suited for high school students and older)

Keep learning about Watershed CPR with this resource from the Fraser River Discovery Centre: My River, My Home


The Watershed CPR Education Program is a self-guided, virtual learning experience all about the Fraser River, created by the Rivershed Society of BC.

In this virtual experience, users are introduced to the three pillars of Watershed CPR—Connect, Protect, and Restore—through a series of engaging activities and interactives about the Fraser Watershed. Users will learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit the Fraser; the First Nations who have lived in this area since time immemorial; some of the conservation issues affecting the watershed; and how to “perform Watershed CPR” and become a Watershed Defender.

To learn more about Watershed CPR and the Rivershed Society of BC, visit rivershed.com.


Thank you to our partners in development: Cicada Creative and Canadian Geographic, and immense gratitude to the Kwantlen First Nation for their time and contributions to the program. Consultation from Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Funding provided by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Environment and Climate Change Canada, via the Environmental Damages Fund.

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Enquiries and concerns regarding our Privacy Code or your personal information should be directed to the Privacy Officer, RSBC address.

This Golden Paw Print means that this is information that can help make your migration journey successful in the Watershed Defender section.