The New Student's Reference Work/British Columbia

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British Columbia, Canada's maritime province on the Pacific Ocean, is the largest in the Dominion, its area being variously estimated at from 372,630 to 395,610 square miles. It is a great irregular quadrangle, about 700 miles from north to south, with an average width of about 400 miles, lying between latitudes 40° and 60° north. It is bounded on the south by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the States of Washington, Idaho and Montana, on the west by the Pacific Ocean and southern Alaska, on the north by Yukon and Mackenzie Territories, and on the east by the Province of Alberta. From the 49th degree north to the 54th degree the eastern boundary follows the axis of the Rocky Mountains and thence north to the 120th meridian. Pop. 502,283.

The province is traversed from south to north by four principal ranges of mountains—the Rocky and the Selkirk on the east and the Coast and Island ranges on the west. The Rocky Mountain range preserves its continuity, but the Selkirks are broken up into the Purcell, the Selkirk, the Gold and the Cariboo Mountains. Between these ranges and the Rockies lies a valley of remarkable length and regularity extending from the international boundary line, along the western base of the Rockies northerly 700 miles. West of these ranges extends a vast plateau or table land with an average elevation of 3,500 feet above sea level, but so worn away and eroded by water courses that in many parts it presents the appearance of a succession of mountains. In others it spreads out into the wide plains and rolling ground, dotted with low hills, which constitute fine areas of farming and pasture lands. This interior plateau is bounded on the west by the Coast Range, and on the north by a cross range which gradually merges into the Arctic slope.

Rivers and Lakes[edit]

One of the noticeable physical features of British Columbia is its position as the watershed of the North Pacific slope. All the great rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean, with the exception of the Colorado, find their sources within its boundaries. The more important of these are the Columbia (the principal waterway of the state of Washington), which flows through the province for over 600 miles; the Fraser, 750 miles long; the Skeena, 300 miles; the Thompson, the Kootenay, the Naas, the Stikine, the Liard and the Peace. These streams with their numerous tributaries and branches drain an area equal to about one tenth of the North American continent. The lake system of British Columbia is extensive and important, furnishing convenient transportation facilities in the interior. Some of the principal lakes are Atlin, area 211,600 acres; Babine, 196,-ooo acres; Chilco, 109,700 acres; Kootenay, 141,120 acres; Upper Arrow, 64,500 acres; Lower Arrow, 40,960 acres; Okanagan, 86,-240 acres; Shuswap, 79,150 acres; Harrison, 78,400 acres.

Many of the smaller streams are not navigable but these furnish driveways to the lumbermen and supply power for sawmills and electric plants and water for irrigation. Water power is practically unlimited and so widely distributed that no portion of the province need be without cheap motive power for driving all necessary machinery.


Varied climatic conditions prevail in British Columbia. The Japanese current and the moisture-laden winds from the Pacific exercise a moderating influence upon the climate of the coast and provide a copious rainfall. The westerly winds are arrested in their passage east by the Coast Range, thus creating what is known as the dry belt east of those mountains, but the higher currents of air carry the moisture to the loftier peaks of the Selkirks, causing the heavy snow fall which distinguishes that range from its eastern neighbor, the Rockies. Thus a series of alternate moist and dry belts is formed. As a consequence of the purity of its air, its freedom from malaria and the almost total absence of extremes of heat and cold, British Columbia may be regarded as a vast sanitarium.

The climate of Vancouver Island and the coast generally corresponds very closely with that of England; the summers are warm with much bright sunshine, and severe frost scarcely ever occurs in winter. On the mainland similar conditions prevail till the higher levels are reached, where the winters are cooler. At Agassiz, on the Lower Fraser, the average mean temperature is in January 33 degrees and in July 64 degrees; the lowest temperature on record at this point is 13 degrees, and the highest 97 degrees. There are no summer frosts, and the annual rainfall is 67 inches, 95 per cent, of which falls during the autumn and winter.

To the eastward of the Coast Range, in Yale and West Kootenay the climate is quite different. The summers are warmer, the winters colder and the rainfalls are rather light—bright dry weather being the rule. The cold of winter is, however, scarcely ever severe, and the hottest days of summer are made pleasant by the fact that the air is dry and the nights are cool. Further north, in the undeveloped parts of the province, the winters are more severe.


With the exception of nickel (which has not yet been discovered in quantity) all that the other provinces of Canada boast of possessing in the way of raw material is here in abundance. British Columbia's coal measures are sufficient to supply the world for centuries; it possesses the greatest compact area of merchantable timber in North America; the mines have produced $430,000,000 and may be said to be only in the early stages of development; the fisheries produce an annual average of over $12,000,000, and apart from salmon fishing their importance is only beginning to be realized; there are immense deposits of magnetite and hematite iron of the finest quality which still remain undeveloped; the agricultural and fruit lands, cattle ranges and dairies produced approximately $22,000,000 in 1912; and less than one tenth of the available land is settled upon, much less cultivated; the province has millions of acres of pulpwood as yet unexploited; petroleum deposits, but recently discovered, are among the most extensive in the world; and much of the province is still unexplored and its potential value unknown.

With all this undeveloped wealth within its borders can it be wondered at that British Columbians are sanguine of the future?


Considerable tracts of land in the province are highly suitable for mixed farming, and in some districts fruit growing is extensively and most profitably engaged in.


The educational facilities of the province are varied and excellent. The expenditure for schools amounts to over $1,100,000 a year. The government builds a schoolhouse, makes a grant for incidental expenses and pays a teacher in every district where 20 children between the ages of 6 and 16 can be brought together. For outlying farming districts and mining camps the arrangements are very satisfactory. High schools also are established in cities, where classics and mathematics are taught. Several of the cities in the province have full charge of their own public and high schools, and these receive a very liberal per capita grant in aid from the provincial government.

Trade and Transportation[edit]

In 1903 the imports amounted to $11,141,068, and the exports totalled $15,604,896. In 1913 the imports were $66,596,479 and the exports $27,087,369, or a total increase in the trade of the province of over $66,000,000 in ten years. The leading articles of export are fish, coal, gold, silver, copper, lead, timber, masts, spars, furs and skins, whale products, fish-oil, hops and fruit. A large portion of the salmon, canned and pickled, goes to Great Britain, eastern Canada, the United States, Hawaiian Islands, Australia and Japan; the United States consumes a large share of the exported coal; and immense quantities of lumber are shipped to Great Britain, South Africa, China, Japan, India, South America and Australia. A large interprovincial trade with Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the eastern provinces is rapidly developing, the fruit grown in British Columbia being largely shipped to the prairie provinces, where it finds a good market. With the shipping facilities offered by the Canadian Pacific Railway and its magnificent fleets of steamships running to Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii, backed by her natural advantages of climate and geographical position, British Columbia's already large trade is rapidly increasing. The tonnage of vessels employed in the coasting trade is 12,025,510 tons, and of sea-going vessels carrying cargoes to and from the ports of the province, 4,672,058 tons. The Canadian Pacific is the principal railway in the province. It has two main lines, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Crowsnest Pass Railway, and several branches and steamboat connections on the inland lakes, besides its large fleet of oceangoing and coasting steamers. The railway mileage of the province is about 2,000 miles.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company operates the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway on Vancouver Island, running from Victoria to Alberiiie, a distance of 145 miles. The company also administers the Esquimalt and Nanaimo land grant, some 1,500,000 acres, the settlement of which required the extension of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo main line and the building of branches.

Districts of British Columbia. British Columbia is divided into the following districts : Kootenay (East and West) 15,000,000 acres

Yale.................... 15,500,000 acres

Lillooet................ 10,000,000 "

Westminster............. 4,900,000 "

Cariboo ................ 96,000,000 "

Cassiar .................100,000,000 "

Comox (Mainland)....... 4,000,000 "

Vancouver Island........ 10,496,000 "

Additional information concerning each of these districts is given elsewhere in these volumes.