Trail played role during fur trade era

Fur Brigade Trail in Okanagan has long history

A trail which passes through Summerland played a role during Canada’s fur trade, but its historical significance is much greater than that period of history.

David Gregory, a Summerland historian, said the trail, from Fort Okanogan on the Columbia River to Fort Alexandria near present-day Quesnel, B.C., was known as the Fur Brigade Trail from 1826 to 1846.

Earlier, it was used as a First Nations route.

“It’s carbon dated at 6,000 years old,” Gregory said. “It’s 1,500 years older than the Egyptian pyramids.”

The First Nations name for the trail is Nqəlxwwàs, which means “main trail.”

The trail was identified on maps after European contact starting in 1811, when it was recorded by David Stuart in 1811.

It was an active fur trade route from 1826 to 1846, when the main furs in the area were marten and fox.

From 1846 until 1858, it was not very active, but the Cariboo Gold Rush in 1858 brought new activity to the trail. Miners, mostly from the United States traveled the route in groups of up to 400.

The route was also a main cattle drive to provide meat for the gold miners in the Cariboo, and at least 22,000 head of cattle went through this area, Gregory said.

At least 22,000 head of cattle went through this area

The portion of the trail in and near Summerland is the only section of the Fur Brigade Trail protected as part of a park.

The trail project was one of Summerland’s centennial projects in 2006. That year, the municipality created Conkle Mountain Park, the Centennial Trail and the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail Linear Park.

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