As we approach the Rivers Day celebration at the Allco fish hatchery on Sept. 25, it seems a good time to remember our history with this glorious community asset.
The human relationship with the Alouette River began with Katzie First Nation. As European settlers began to arrive, and then people of other nations, they soon found the Alouette an important resource for three areas of life – food, work and play.
Fish were the food provided by the Alouette. According to Katzie history, there were several varieties of salmon, trout and steelhead that could be netted or speared.
As a dietary supplement or staple, the Alouette was a reliable source of fish until it was compromised by the construction of the dam in 1926.
Claude Holt, who lived along the river and fished every day, recorded his dismay in his diary as the muddiness of the water increased and his success at fishing fell away.
Through the efforts of the Alouette River Management Society and the hatchery run by B.C. Corrections, some of the deleterious effects of the dam were reversed in the mid-1990s, and today some of the salmon runs have been re-established.
For the logging industry, the Alouette provided a means to get forest products down to the Fraser River, where they could be distributed to sawmills and shingle mills. Shingle bolts and full logs would be rolled into the river in the hope that they would eventually float down to the lower reaches, where they could be boomed for transport to the mills.
The river – even undammed – usually didn’t have enough water in it to move the larger logs, so the loggers waited for river-filling rainstorms to move their product. The side effect was that large logs combined with rampaging water served to remove one or more of the small community’s bridges with every storm.
Council notes from the 1890s are full of complaints from residents demanding that the loggers pay for bridge replacement rather than the poor taxpayer.
Last, but not least, the Alouette has been a magnet for fair weather recreation since settlement began. The best swimming in the district was to be found at Davidson’s Pool.
The pool and the large rock on the south side of it have an important place in Katzie history, too.
When the geographic features of what we call Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows were being set in place, a powerful being named Khaals turned a one-legged fisherman into that very rock so that he could guard the stream and ensure that Katzie people treated the fish and the river with respect.
The pool has had more than one name, usually taken from the nearest landowner. First it was Smedley’s pool, then Davidson’s Pool.
It was considered so important as the best swimming hole in the district that in 1934 in the middle of the Depression, municipal council set aside funds to provide a road access to the pool.
The adjacent ‘Hot Rocks’ were equally popular and could be gotten to via the Cross property where the family had built numerous small cabins to attract summer tourists from the big city.
So join us at Rivers Day, when the museum will have more displays on the history of the Alouette, and remember to always treat the river with respect – that rock is watching.
Val Patenaude is director of the Maple Ridge Museum.