The Blaeberry River flows into the Columbia River out of the Rocky Mountains to the east about halfway between Golden and Donald. Its source is in Howse Passes to the east. These passes were used by First Nations people such as the Kootenay to the west and Piegan Blackfeet to the east. In 1807 David Thompson, astronomer and geographer for the Hudson’s Bay Company, was the first European to cross through Howse Pass and travel down the Blaebarry River to the Columbia River.
Although by 1882 the CPR was committed to the Kicking Horse Pass route, Major Rogers harbored private doubts that a railway could be built and operated on the slope west of the Kicking Horse Pass. He knew that nearby Howse Pass, which was the source of the Blaeberry River to the west and the North Saskatchewan river to the east, was scarcely explored so he instructed his assistant Tom Wilson to head north over Bow Pass, follow the Howse River southwest to its source on Howse Pass, then descend the Blaeberry River to its junction with the Columbia River north of Golden. The journey nearly cost Wilson his life requiring twelve days for him to emerge, trail-weary and starving, on the bank of the Columbia River. The elevation of Howse Pass 5,049 feet (1,539 m) is only 289 feet lower that the Kicking Horse Pass (elevation 5,338 feet, 1,627 m).
The CPR would have had two options in routing the rails across Howse Pass. Follow the Bow Valley to its head and Bow Pass, then descend the Mistaya River valley to the North Saskatchewan River (this was the route taken by Wilson) and then up the North Saskatchewan River to Howse Pass. Alternatively, the railway could have headed north on the prairies aiming to enter the mountains by way of the North Saskatchewan River valley instead of the Bow River valley. However, at 6,788 feet (2,068 m), the Bow Pass is 1,456 feet (444 m) higher than Kicking Horse Pass. Also, fears of the United States expansion negated locating the railroad farther north on the prairies. Choosing the more southerly route strengthen Canada’s claim to the surrounding territory.
Men and packhorses at a camp in Howse Pass, Alberta, Canada 1902.
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In recent years high quality silica sands have been mined in the Rockies between Golden and Blaeberry. They are white sands sought after for lining bunkers on golf courses. But, there more substantial marker is as Frac sand used in the hydraulic fracturing process (known as "fracking") to produce petroleum fluids, such as oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from rock units that lack adequate pore space for these fluids to flow to a well. Heemskirk Canada Limited has a pit mine accessed by a road up the Blaeberry Valley and a processing and rail loading facitilte next to the CPR mina line at the mouth of the Blaeberry River.
On my Mountain Subdivision 1887 route I have placed a facility, where the Heemskirk processing facility is now located, to process river sand and to be distributed and used by the locomotives for traction on the mountain inclines.
The Selkirk Range. 1905. A. O. Wheeler, Ottawa Printing Bureau.
The Spiral Tunnels and the Big Hill: On the Canadian Pacific Railway, 2009. Graeme Pole, Mountain Vision Publishing.
September 18, 2016
September 18, 2016