Many thousands of years ago, when the world was getting on in years but still having its face “lifted” in many of its areas, it seems likely that the wide line of the Parsnip and Finlay River valleys was one continuous waterway. At length came the break — probably caused by volcanic disturbances — in the great barrier of the Rockies and the waters forced and wore their way to the East, through the now famous Peace Pass. After the final settling of the land, the western side was drained from the north and south, and the Parsnip and Finlay rivers joined their forces in the mighty Peace.
But whatever its origin in the prehistoric past, the Peace Pass is known today as a magnificent scenic waterway and the lowest outlet through the Rocky Mountains. Below Finlay Forks lie the Finlay Rapids, the first stop “to look the water over”. A good channel, however, was cleared last year on the south side so in the future, he who “runs” saves time!
After passing Lost Cabin Creek and the last resting place of two misadventures of the grim “Trail of ‘98”, the river breaks through the mountains. The mountains stand silent and impressive, looking down on the Peace below with, occasionally, curious little black dots humming their way on the face of the waters. Man, all the important, “on his way!”
Some twelve miles below Finlay Forks stands “The Mountain on Gold” — Mt. Selwyn, a mountain of low-grade quartz. Opposite, on the north bank, the clear, steel-blue waters of the Wicked River rush down in foaming cascades, through one of the loveliest — and loneliest localities in the Peace Valley. Up Wicked River, for four miles, runs a well-defined trail to the canyon with its natural rock bridge. This bridge, a short, unbroken arch of rock, joins the sheer walls of the canyon above the foaming waters tumbling into the fine fishing pool below. Wicked River is destined to be a famous tourist haunt — may they never be the tin can and paper bag variety!
High on the face of a mountain, just below Wicked, may be seen the big cave — the “Hole in the Wall” or “Cave of the Winds”. The latter is the more fitting title, in accordance with the old Indian legend that this cavern was the source of the four winds.
At the Parle Pas (ne parle pas – “it speaks not” or “silent”) Rapids, the voyageurs may observe a “danger” signal. Though the lettering is completely obliterated, the reason is not, and he would do well to “line” his boat through the channel on the north side, particularly at low water — until the projected channel is blasted out on the south shore.
A short distance from the small cabin at the mouth of the Ottertail River on the flat, slightly sloping rock of the big eddy, may be seen the partial and broken “skeleton” of a dinosaur. The discovery was made last summer by J. Bocock, a geologist in the P.G.E. survey.
The Peace Valley is wider from the Ottertail down and river flats of agricultural and grazing land may be seen, especially on the north bank.
On an “island” between the sparkling waters of Carbon River and “Little Carbon” is located the first homestead in the wilds east of the Rockies — the home of Charlie Jones and his English wife. Here, at the stronghold of the high priest of optimism, the weary traveler, undoubtedly, will “stop, look, and listen”.
At School Creek and “Brennan’s Flats”, Adams, Twenty-Mile and Twelve Mile Creeks are the habitations and holdings of the north side. Jack Adams, also established at Summit Lake and J.W. Beattie (Twenty-Mile Ranch) are both well-known and early residents of the Upper Peace country.
Table (now Gething) Mountain is a lofty and wind-swept summit with a small lake shimmering on the very peak. From here you have a marvelous view, a panorama of snow-capped mountains, lakes and forest, and the winding Peace itself, gleaming in the summer sun or veiled in the mists of distance to the west the massed line of the Rockies. To the south stretches the great country of the “divides” between the Peace, Moberly and Pine Rivers; to the east Bullhead Mountain and the dark timbered shadow of Rocky Mountain Canyon curving south of it. Between Bullhead and the long line of the Butler Mountains you get a glimpse of the country of the Lower Peace beyond.
The main tributaries of the Upper Peace (some of the larger draining well-timbered areas), are Quartz, Selwyn, Point Creeks, Clearwater River, Carbon River and Gething and Johnstone Creeks down in the Rocky Mountain Canyon.
Flowing in from the north, after Wicked River, are the Barnard River, Fisher Creek (at Parle Pas Rapids), Ottertail River, Schooler, Adams, Twenty-Mile and Twelve-Mile Creeks.
The timber of the Upper Peace is mainly, spruce, balsam, jackpine, and poplar. Except in one or two small areas forest fires have done little to mar the scenic value of the Peace Pass. Back from the river, however, north and south, the fire demon has left his mark in certain sections.
The Upper Peace River is comparatively easy to navigate, the fastest water being from Carbon River to Rocky Mountain Portage. Anyone craving faster traveling may, of course, try the great canyon itself — though no one as yet, has run the upper half of the twenty-seven mile gorge. For very obvious reasons! From Gething’s coal holdings above Johnstone Creek, however, the last twelve miles have been navigated occasionally.
This mighty canyon, with its great coal areas, waterpower, timber, dinosaur tracks in the solid rock and wonderful scenic attractions, will be one of the certain magnets of the future — if, or when, the railway or highway comes!
[Note: the river and canyon are now all under water, either in the Williston Reservoir or in the Dinosaur Lake Reservoir below the old Canyon’s location — 1998]