I visited Hell's Gate on the Fraser River this year in July – with my friends Dave Samis and Debbie Poon.
CBC Radio 2 has launched The Great Canadian Song Quest. 13 landmarks will be immortalized in song – one from each province and territory.
Todd Wong will
be heard at 3:30pm PST on CBC Radio 2 Drive with Rich Terfry.
nominating the mighty Fraser River for the Great Canadian Song Quest,
to recognize the river's history to First Nations, Scottish and Chinese
pioneers… This is for the Chinese
railroad builders who died 3 at a time for each mile of track in the
Fraser Canyon, and never rated a word in Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian
I talked with Rich this morning at 11:20am Pacific Standard Time. 4 hours ahead of the broadcast for Atlantic time, even though he was in a Toronto studio.
“Without the Fraser River there wouldn't be a British Columbia,” I told Rich. “It was the gold rush that opened up the province. It was at Ft. Langley that James Douglas pronounced the Colony of BC, 150 years ago.”
“It was in 1867, at Confederation that they decided to build a railroad across Canada. They brought in Chinese workers to build the toughest part. Blood, sweat and death went into building the railroad, as 3 workers died per mile.”
There are many things we can say about the Fraser River… that it was navigated 201 years ago by Hudson Bay Company explorer Simon Fraser in 1808. The river has been used for 8000 years by many First Nations peoples for trade and food and travel.
The largest fishing fleet in the west coast existed until Canadians of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps in 1942, during WWII.
My cousin Rhonda Larrabee's maternal family lived beside the Fraser River as the Qayqayt First Nations, until their reservation land was taken away from them at New Westminster – the first capital city of BC, which was founded 150 years ago.
“Where the Fraser River Flows” is a song written by Joe Hill. It was written to “aid construction workers laying track for the Canadian
Northern Railroad Company in British Columbia who were striking because
of low pay, unsanitary living conditions, bad food, and hazardous
The tram way view down to Hell's Gate…. s-c-a-r-y…..
Check out more of my pictures of Hell's Gate, Fraser and Thompson Canyons at:
This past July, my friends Debbie Poon, Dave Samis and I decided to take the scenic Fraser
Canyon route to Vernon instead of the Coquihalla Hwy. I hadn't driven up the Fraser since August 82, when my friend Sonny Wong and I drove all the way to the Rocky Mountains and Calgary.
It was gold mining that drove thousands of gold seekers to the Fraser Canyon, mostly Americans, following the California Gold Rush. But people came from all around the world. The first reported Chinese immigrant came to BC, from California in 1858… so say the statistics.
I can also remember
scary driving in a snow storm in the 70's on our way to go skiing in
Vernon. This 2009 trip was wonderful and beautiful. Debbie had never
been to Hell's Gate, so we went. I liked how they integrated lots of
historical elements. The power of the Fraser is incredible. About the same equivalent of water passing through Hell's Gate – the narrowest section of the Fraser River – as goes over Niagra Falls… something like that.
I have paddled canoe, kayak and dragon boat in the Fraser River. In the 90's my friend Rod and I dropped a canoe into the Coquitlam River, and paddled to New Westminster Quay. With my friend Wendy, we paddled mini-kayaks from my home on Burnaby Lake, down the Brunette River, into the Fraser River, and out at the Quay.
Every Thanksgiving Saturday, we take the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team to the Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta.
Two Gung Haggis canee teams wait for their runners to finish carrying cranberry juice on their paddle, then jump back into the canoe, and complete the race.
Todd and the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team attended the Richmond Dragon Boat Festival on July 18th. Todd is sitting right side, seat 9, 2nd from left. The races were held at the UBC Rowing Centre on the middle arm of the Fraser River, near the new Olympic Skating Oval.