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Aerial pic from Photos by Kat


The Six Mile Rapids - The Bridge River Fishing Grounds

St'at'imc legend says the the great trickster Coyote formed the rock ledges where the Bridge River meets the Fraser by jumping back and forth across the Fraser, the rocks rising to meet his paws.  When he was finished he barked "get your nets ready! - the salmon are coming, the salmon are coming!" and so the people began to reap the immense salmon harvest that Coyote's magic had made possible.  Since that time the rocks at Sxetl have served as the principal fishing site of the St'at'imc and other peoples who came to share in the huge salmon runs of the Fraser and Bridge Rivers.  Here the Fraser is forced into a rocky throat so narrow that natives were able to build a rough bridge across the river to facilitate moving between fishing spots.  It was that bridge that was the namesake of the Bridge River ('Xwisten in St'at'imcets).  The old term Six Mile Rapids is a reference to the distance from the mouth of Cayoosh Creek.
BC Archives # D-00026: Native spear or pole-net fishing on platform at Six Mile Rapids
BC Archives # D-00026
BC Archives # I-29077: Native spear or pole-net fishing on platform at Six Mile Rapids
BC Archives # I-29077
BC Archives # I-29075: Natives pole fishing on rocks at Six Mile Rapids
BC Archives # I-29075
Although governed in native protocol by the local chiefs and families who were predominant along the riverbanks in having the best fishing locations and platforms and drying areas, there were spots allocated along the length of the canyon in this area for peoples and families from other regions to come and fish in the appropriate season.  As a result, the area is significant as a fulctrum of native community and trade, and must have been a very busy place indeed in those days.  All fishing sites and drying racks visible today are owned and administered by specific families whose legacies and claims to those spots are centuries if not millennia old.  I think both of the pictures in the row above are from exactly the same spot - the point of the spur of rock in between the Bridge and Fraser Rivers; the calm water of the modern Bridge River is visible in the foreground at right, in comparison to the rough waters in the same foreground at left.  The use of perches, platforms and poles as visible here is typical of the Fraser River native fishery; in the past spears, dipnets (pics immediately below) and other methods were also used to collect fish.
BC Archives # I-29076: Native spear or pole-net fishing on platform at Six Mile Rapids
BC Archives # I-29076
BC Archives # I-29078: Native spear or pole-net fishing on platform at Six Mile Rapids
BC Archives # I-29078
BC Archives # I-33331  photo: Frank Swannell

Bridge River Fishing Grounds, Lillooet, 1950s
Photo: Andy Cleven
The picture at above left is a today-rare shot of the Bridge River in full torrent; the picture at right from nearly the same position looking the other way higher up the bank, showing the Bridge River's mouth into the Fraser after the diversion through Mission Mountain was completed; in former times the river would have choked the channel visible at right, merging with the Fraser with much more visual force than the relatively calm merger of the Chilcotin or Thompson with the greater river.  It was the foamy impact of this watercourse's impact on the Fraser that led Anderson's men to name the stream the Riviere de la Fontasse (Fountain River, River of the Fount), and why the Six Mile Rapids were also known as the Lower Fountain (the Upper Fountain, or Fountain Flats, being today's Fountain Rapids).  The old bridge visible in the top of the picture at left is an old Royal Engineers' truss-span; it's also visible in the picture at below right.  There are no pictures extant (that I know of) of the old gold rush-era bridge spanning the Fraser at the fishing rocks.

Photo: Mike Cleven
BC Archives # IF-03707, Bridge River at confluence w. Fraser
BC Archives # F-07307
Both these pictures were taken from approximately the same point on the other side of the Fraser, on the "new" highway to Fountain above the rail line.  On the picture at left really shows the rugged nature of the fishing rocks, their shape here at low water a suggestion of what they do to the river at higher volumes.  Just barely visible on the triangular benchland between the two rivers are the buildings of the old Bridge River rancherie and cemetery, magnified in a blowup from the same negative just below.  Note the dry gorge of the Bridge River at left - even though it's clear.from the pic at above right that the lower Bridge Canyon was still such even with larger water volumes; and also notice the native foot-trails to different fishing spots in the modern photo (relative to the archival one at above right, where the trails do not show).

The tiny buildings on the benchland are actually quite large, as is the main cross in the cemetery (the white patch in the foreground of the benchland).  Better pictures of these objects can be found on native.html.
Bridge River Fishing Grounds, Lillooet, 1950s
Photo: Andy Cleven
Bridge River Fishing Grounds, Lillooet, 1950s
Photo: Andy Cleven
Although today fishing at the Bridge River fishing grounds is pretty well restricted to natives only, this was not the case in the past, as suggested by the picture at above right.  I'm not sure what kind of fish the man in the picture is holding - spring salmon I would imagine, for which the Fishing Grounds are most famous.  The fishing grounds themselves are not well-depicted in these photos, even though this is as close as you can get without going down on the fishing rocks themselves.  The trees are on the small triangle of low rocky shore in between the angle of the two rivers.  The bluffs in the background are the flanks of the last summits of the Camelsfoot Range; the Fraser comes around from the right, through the Great Bend and Fountain Canyon.

BC Archives # F-00297: Natives fishing  at Six Mile Rapids
BC Archives # F-00297
BC Archives # A-07262: Natives on Fishing Rocks on Fraser River (near Spuzzum?)
BC Archives # A-07262
These pictures are from somewhere much farther down the Fraser from Lillooet but fishing methods and native customs were much the same farther downstream.  The picture at left is along the CPR line, and I'd almost have to say at Hell's Gate because of the narrow constrict of the current and its mini-waterfall.  I almost would have thought this was the Bridge River Rapids for that reason, but for the photo caption saying "along the CPR" which the Bridge River Rapids aren't; on the other hand Archives captions have all kinds of errors - but this one's written on the negative by the original photographer.  Not that photographers don't make mistakes, either, though.....maybe it's along the Thompson, where there might be a narrow falls like that......

Upper Fountain Rapids from 12 Mile, Photo: Mike Cleven
Photo: Mike Cleven