Learn More About the Fraser River

The Fraser River

Long before man settled this region known as British Columbia, sometime between the dinosaurs and their disappearance, it’s believed that the Fraser River started to take shape. Eons passed, and very slowly the Rocky Mountains grew, altering the flow of rivers and streams. It appears that part of the Fraser River, north of the Chilcotin drained east, into the Inland Sea, while south of the Chilcotin, it drained south and west to the Pacific. During the Tertiary period, these two rivers formed what is now the Fraser River.

The Fraser River located in the Province of British Columbia, Canada, rises on the western slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, near the border with Alberta. It is the largest river in B.C., at over 850 miles or 1378 km in length, and the fifth largest river in Canada. It flows north-westerly before turning south near Prince George, and then down the center of the province to the Pacific Ocean (Strait of Georgia), near the city of Vancouver.

Its headwaters are at Mt. Robson in Jasper. The drainage of the Fraser River watershed is larger than the area of Great Britain! The Fraser River usually flows at a rate of 5,195 cubic yards or 3,972 cubic meters per second. At that rate it can fill three swimming pools every second! Every year the Fraser River picks up 37.4 billion pounds or 17 billion kilograms of sediment (clay, silt, sand, gravel). This weighs about the same as 1.5 million killer whales.

The Fraser River is considered one of the world’s greatest salmon resources. Tens of millions of Pacific salmon return annually to spawn in the main stem Fraser River and tributaries that includes all five species of salmon, Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Chinook, Coho and Steelhead. Some salmon, which migrate upriver to spawn in northern tributaries, swim as far as 1000 miles from the ocean to the gravel beds where they were born to complete their life cycle. Approximately 800 million juvenile salmon migrate along the river every year. There can be up to 20 million salmon on any given day in the estuary. More than 60 other kinds of fish use the Fraser River also, such as the mighty Sturgeon.

The Fraser River Watershed Explained

The Fraser River begins high in the Rocky Mountains. It is fed by heavy rain, snowfall and melting glaciers. The river flows slowly northwest until it gets to Prince George. Here it turns south into the middle of British Columbia. It is joined by the Stuart, Nechako, and Chilcotin Rivers. The water from each of these large rivers causes the Fraser River to grow and pick up speed.

As the Fraser flows south it winds through dense evergreen forests, wetlands, grasslands and dry canyons. The clear blue Thompson River joins the muddy Fraser south of Lillooet. The Fraser rushes on, boiling and powerful through the narrow Fraser Canyon.
Near Hope, the Fraser escapes the narrow mountain canyon. It turns west into a broad flat valley and this is where Chilliwack is. The river widens and slows down. It winds through the Fraser Valley. The Chilliwack, Sumas, Stave, Pitt and Coquitlam Rivers are some of the last tributaries to flow in. Finally, near Vancouver the mighty Fraser drains into the Pacific Ocean.

Other Rivers and Lakes We Fish

Vedder River

This tributary of the Fraser has over 20 miles of river accessible for fishing. This is one of the most productive fishing rivers in BC due to a successful fish hatchery. During the winter and spring a large run of steelhead spawn in the river providing excellent fishing opportunity and the salmon fishing during the fall is legendary due to the massive annual returns.  Starting at Chilliwack Lake and running through a beautiful valley, the breathtaking scenery is something to behold.

Lillooet River

This is truly an adventure destination. Accessed by jet boat from the Harrison River/Lake system, this is a unique opportunity to fish a remote location with excellent Dolly Varden and Cutthroat Trout fishing. Salmon do travel to these waters and can present a sudden and exciting change. This is a trip for those looking for something different.

Harrison River

This large body of water flows from the Harrison Lake to the Fraser River in a relatively short distance of 5 miles and is through a very scenic valley. Due to its gentle currents this river is a fisherman’s dream. All five of the salmon species, as well as Cutthroat trout and Steelhead abound in this river. There are lots of room in the pools and runs to fly fish or spin cast to your heart’s content. This river is a major path for migrating salmon to the rivers feeding Harrison Lake, as well as the Morris Creek hatchery, therefore in the summer and fall the fishing is spectacular.

Pitt River

A short drive from Vancouver and then just a quick boat ride; there lies a watershed that has hardly felt the influence of modern society. A glacier fed, medium- sized river, the upper Pitt has a feel of utter remoteness.  This is a prime location to catch Dolly Varden, Cutthroat and Bull Trout.

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