The Travels, Explorations and Surveys of Simon Fraser (1776-1862)

Simon Fraser

Simon Fraser on the river that that bears his name

Simon Fraser’s explorations in British Columbia have always intrigued me and even more after I had read his surviving journals. While researching Thompson’s 1814 map of northwestern North America and the geographic features contained within, I was once again drawn to Fraser; specifically, his 1808 journey down the river which now bears his name.

Within the cartouche of the 1814 map, it’s noted that the surveying of the Fraser River was performed by John Stuart, Simon Fraser’s lieutenant, thus creating the first accurate portrayal of the river. The charting of the river by David Thompson came directly from his review of Fraser’s journals and Stuart’s survey notes for the North West Company. After reviewing the notes with his friend Roderick Mackenzie, he likely had conversations with Simon Fraser himself who lived a short distance from Thompson in retirement. Making comparison between Fraser’s journal and the notations along the river within the map, it became clear that the Fraser’s notations in his journal appear on the map and other notations therefore could have only come from Stuart.



A comparion of Stuart's Survey and the present day position of the Fraser River

A comparion of Stuart’s Survey and the present day position of the Fraser River

A comparison of a spatial layer of the river within the map to the actual position of the river revealed just how invaluable John Stuart was and the significant role he performed with respect to Fraser’s descent and ascent of the river which now bears his Fraser’s name. Unfortunately, John Stuart’s log and survey notes have long disappeared and therefore no written record has survived. Therefore, the map that Thompson creates is not just a visual record of his own exploration and travels but of others as well. In this case the notes and surveys of Simon Fraser and John Stuart.

Spatial layers were created displaying his known movements between 1805 and 1808 utilizing a modern geographic information dataset.