History & Settlement
For thousands of years prior to European contact, First Nations have been present in what is now known as the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. The Davie Trail is a traditional trail that follows the Rocky Mountain Trench and Kechika River Valley from the Kwadacha community of Fort Ware to the Kaska community of Lower Post. Kaska Dena First Nations have expressed an interest in restoring the Davie Trail for future use.
Trapping & Fur Trade
European settlement in the Fort Nelson area is documented as early as 1805 by fur traders and trappers, with a trading post established at Fort Nelson by the North West Company, and a post later established by the Hudson's Bay Company on the Fort Nelson River. There is also evidence of prospectors' attempts to find a short route through north-eastern BC to the Yukon during the 1898 gold rush. Trapping has served as a traditional activity and livelihood for people in the north since the early 1800s, and continues in what is today the M-KMA.
The Peace River Chronicles documents R.G. McConnell of the Geological Survey of Canada as amongst the first to survey the Kwadacha River from Fort Ware, in 1893, surveying to the junction of Kwadacha River and Warneford River (p.482). By all accounts he was responsible for naming Lloyd George Mountain after the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Subsequent surveys, including air surveys in the 1920's, surveyed other parts of the M-KMA area such as the Rocky Mountain Trench, Kechika and Gataga Rivers, and Redfern Lake.
Guide outfitting has existed in the area since the early 1900's, when guide outfitters settled the area and initiated guiding hunters into the area.
Outlined below are examples of two official expeditions that were intended to explore north-eastern BC.
The Bedeaux Expedition, consisting of 50 people, officially started July, 1934 in Edmonton, Alberta,. Charles E. Bedeaux, led the expedition, intending to travel to Fort St. John, through north-eastern BC and to the Alaskan Pan Handle. His group travelled with 50 horses and vehicles called Citroen half tracks (tractor-like vehicles) for which an advance party was sent ahead to prepare the track for vehicles. However, the Citroens broke down and were abandoned in favour of horse travel in August. Natural barriers slowed travel including wetlands, river crossings, heavily forested areas, weather, and difficult topography, and in the end the expedition was not completed.
The Canadian government contributed $600.00 to the expedition for mapping areas, with surveyors/geographers Frank Swannell and Al Phipps accompanying Bedeaux. The expedition cost approximately $250,000.00.
Mary Henry Expedition
One of the earliest expeditions undertaken to document plants in north-eastern BC was Mary Henry in 1931, and in her subsequent expeditions. Mary Gibson Henry, from the United States, was travelling and conducting research in Canada. She spent 9 months planning for a journey that would be completed largely by horseback, and received assistance from the Canadian Federal Government.
The objective of her first expedition was to travel north to investigate the "Tropical Valley," which she had heard of from trappers in the area. Along the way she collected plant samples and documented the landscape and other natural features in her journal. Mary passed through what is now the M-KMA, including the Halfway River, Redfern Lake, Prophet River, Tetsa River, and Toad River Hot Springs areas. Mt. Mary Henry was named for her.
The building of the Alaska Highway, initiated in 1942, played a key role in increasing activity levels in north-eastern BC and transforming the area to its present-day level of development. Considerations for developing the highway were politically motivated and included reasons of military defence. The American army, responsible for construction costs and man-power, was granted access rights Canadian resources along the route.
The construction of the Northwest Staging Route was a major factor in determining a route for the Alaska Highway. A road linking Northwest Staging Route airfields would provide a secure supply route, out of range from Japanese attack. The airfields supported and protected highway construction, while the highway supplied the airfields. (Government of Yukon, Department of Tourism and Culture, 2002, [http://www.yukonheritage.com], accessed 05/19/05)
The Bedeaux Expedition and the Geological Survey of Canada were summarised from: Peace River Chronicles. Selected and Edited by Gordon E. Bowes. Prescott Publishing Company. Copywrite 1963 Gordon E. Bowes.
The Mary Henry Expedition was summarised from Henry Foundation for Botanical Research: Henry, Mary G. Director American Horticultural Society. "Collecting Plants Beyond the Frontier in Northern British Columbia." National Horticultural Magazine. 1934.
The Muskwa-Kechika Management Area is 6.4 million hectares, approximately the size of Ireland.