The Whatcom Trail

approximate route of Whatcom Trail

approximate route of Whatcom Trail

Before the gold rush began on the Fraser River, there was a trail used by the Coast Salish which went from Bellingham Bay, beside the Nooksack River to Chilliwack Lake and then eventually met the Fraser River. This trail was used by the Nooksack tribe and they gave place names to settlements and crossings along the trail. Nekiyéy, a settlement at Ten Mile Creek, was such a place.In 1827 the Hudson’s Bay Company built a trading fort at Langley on the Fraser River, opening up new opportunities for trade in the Coast Salish communities. The Nooksack would have followed the trail and were among the tribes that traded beaver pelts and other items there.

The Nooksack route appeared like a good, practical route for gold miners to follow during the early stages of the Fraser River gold rush. Thousands of miners came to Bellingham Bay looking for a short path to the gold bars on the Fraser River.

A group of merchants from the village of Whatcom hired U.S. Army Captain W. Delacy to construct a pack trail of six feet in width. Delacy was familiar with the area as he had spent a few years in the area surveying inland routes in response to the Pig War crisis.

Whatcom Trail

Whatcom Trail

Underfunded and undermanned, Delacy laboriously blazed a trail from the original Whatcom-Fraser River trail past Chilliwack lake and then northeast up the Skagit river watershed north of the boundary to a point where the original Brigade Trail met the Tulameen river. For weeks, The Northern Light newspaper published accounts of Delacy’s exploits building the “Whatcom-Hope Trail” as it was called.

In spite of the law passed by Governor James Douglas that required all gold seekers to purchase a license granted only at Victoria, thousands of gold miners used the Whatcom Trail.