Skeena River
Skeena River is the second largest river in British Columbia, after the Fraser River.1 The Skeena originates in northwestern British Columbia and flows 570 km to the Pacific Ocean at Chatham Sound. Skeena is an adapation of the Tsimshian phrase k'shian, which means water of the clouds.2
In 1793, Joseph Whidbey explored the mouth of the Skeena.3 Whidbey reported to Captain George Vancouver that the river was insignificant because its entrance was rocky and muddy.4 Walbran argues that the Skeena was overlooked [by early explorers] much in the way as the Fraser, from ignorance as to what the entrance of a large river would be like when deploying the sea.5
This despatch shows that, in 1859, a group of explorers navigated the Skeena River by canoe, going a distance of 177 km from the sea. Douglas writes that the leader of the expedition, Mr Downie, made several important discoveries in course of his adventurous journey. He found gold in small quantities on the Skeena River; he also saw very valuable and extensive beds of coal.
In the same letter, Douglas speculates correctly that The valley of the Skeena is thus shewn to be an available avenue into the interior of British Columbia, and will, I have no doubt, soon become a most important outlet for the upper Districts of Fraser River; which, from the course of the River and the direction of the Coast, are brought in close proximity with the sea.
  • 1. Site Specific Water Quality Guidelines for Skeena River, Tri-Star: Environmental Consulting.
  • 2. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 548.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1971), 459.
Mentions of this place in the documents
People in this document

Douglas, James

Downie, William

Vancouver, George

Places in this document

British Columbia

Fraser River