The famous governor made a brief appearance on our main waterway, the Peace River. Complete with beaver hat, fine clothes, and gold snuff-box that played a tune when he opened it, and a personal man servant who was also a bag-piper, he had himself conveyed in his gaudily painted canoe as far as the foot of the canyon. Whether he walked or was carried over the portage, he doesn’t say in his journal, but he complained bitterly about it. His voyageurs did, in fact, carry him between canoe and shore. The six Iroquois paddlers were ordered to bring the canoe up the canyon, and somehow they did! That was the only time the canyon was ever traversed by men going upstream. Simpson did give them the rest of the day off while Colin Fraser entertained on the bagpipes. Skirling pipes and swirling waters!
Only one new trail was made for a long time. Governor Simpson inspected the whole territory and re-organized it. He removed the northern headquarters from Fort Chipewyan to Dunvegan. He had Fort Edmonton rebuilt into a huge supply depot. Then he had a road cut from Edmonton to Fort Assiniboine about fifty miles downstream on the Athabasca, northeast of present-day Whitecourt. It was meant only for pack trains and dogsleds, for the last thing Simpson wanted was easy access to the country for farmers. They were successfully discouraged for over sixty years.
In 1898, over fifteen hundred people, mostly men, used nearly the same route. It had long been grown over and blocked by windfall. A man named Chalmers oversaw its reconstruction as the Chalmers Trail, the first leg of the overland, all-Canadian route to the gold fields of the Klondike. Too bad the goldseekers didn’t read the old reports about the – it was more or less a disaster for those who chose to follow it.