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Hudson’s Hope Museum news - Finlay’s River

What memories of the Peace do you have? 
The Finlay rapids in 1927, part of the Peace River Expedition Photograph Collection.

Summer is here, and the warmer weather always invites visitors to Hudson’s Hope. I’m pleased to say we have summer staff this year, students Jenna Roberts and Quentin Kenny will joining us to host tours and help us with various projects. 

Our good friend and longtime assistant, Christian Eschenburg, is also back. Thanks for all you do, it’s always been appreciated. 

Scrolling through social media, a book a friend of mine was reading caught my eye - Finlay’s River by R.M. Patterson. An adventure-seeker, historian, and more, Patterson explored the waterways, mountains and trails of the Parsnip, Finlay, and Peace River area with his son Alan in 1949. 

This trip became the basis for Finlay’s River in 1968, publishing what he considered an anthology on the Finlay and his experiences on similar rivers. 

Patterson wrote at length about the Rocky Mountain Trench and the rivers contained within. He had a great sense of the region and respect for the pioneers and explorers who came before him to find their fortunes in the vast wilderness. 

“It cuts through this land of mountain and flood with all the drive and purpose of a Roman road, and no less than five of the major British Columbian rivers rise in it, flow in it, or are modified by it,” he wrote. “From south to north they come in this order: the Kootenay and the Columbia; the Fraser, the Peace and the Liard.” 

Joining with the Parsnip River, the Finlay was the main head of the Peace River, named after John Finlay, a fur trader who voyaged through the Rockies with the North West Company in 1797. 

Patterson tended to personify the rivers in his writing, often in awe of nature and the rugged terrain. 

“The crazy pattern of them is bewildering: some flow determinedly northwestward as if embarked on a journey to a known destination; then they suddenly they change their minds and swing around in great arcs to flow in the very opposite direction, southeastward for many miles again, only to turn west in the end and break through the mountain barrier to the Pacific,” he wrote 

Some of the writing comes off as bittersweet, as the filling of the Williston Lake reservoir had begun that year, with the completion of the W.A.C Bennett Dam. The Peace Canyon Dam soon followed, erasing more history, including a whole section of dinosaur tracks. 

In 2006, Patterson’s daughter, Janet Blanchet, wrote a forward to the book and spoke to the value of her father’s trip. 

“Much of the country through which [Patterson] and Alan travelled has vanished forever. Finlay’s River is much more than the story of summer canoe trip in Northern British Columbia; using his journey on the river as a framework, [Patterson] recounts much of the area’s fascinating history,” writes Blanchet. 

This fall we’re set to see the valley flood a third time with the Site C reservoir. 

As such, the museum has begun collecting photos to help fill our archives - we’re asking for the public to send in their photos of the river before Site C buries another part of the Peace underwater. 

From Peace Canyon to Bear Flat, we’d like to see it all. There’s no deadline for this project and you can drop off photos in person or by email. The Hudson’s Hope Museum is open seven days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. 

If you would like any further information, please call 250-783-5735 or email at

Tom Summer is the Vice President of the Hudson’s Hope Historical Society.

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