Overview of Chapter Five
Captain Simon Fraser

Simon Fraser of Hoosick, New York, was a toddler when his father died in a Patriot prison in Albany. Forced north to Canada from Washington County with his family, Fraser became an agile and adept explorer who scaled the Rocky Mountains and forded the wild Canadian rivers of the west coast to establish the country’s first permanent white settlements beyond the great divide.


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In 1808, New York’s Washington County–born thirty-two-year-old Simon Fraser was advised to avoid the unfriendly rapids and unwelcoming natives of Hell’s Gate in what became central British Colombia. Disregarding several warnings of aboriginal mountaineers, the Canadian-raised adventurer continued into the chasm that he would later describe as a place “where no human beings should venture.”

By fording this and other dangerous channels, he led an exploration considered to be among the greatest in the continent’s history of settlement: the navigation of the Fraser River from its Rocky Mountain source to its mouth on the western coast of North America.