The Thompson Valley was inhabited by First Nations people when the first explorers ventured south through the mountains in the 1860s in their search for gold in the Fraser Valley and the Cariboo. The major First Nations band in the valley was the Okelhs, who, together with the Canim band, were defeated in 1870 by the fierce Chilcotins. Place names such as Fight Lake, Fight Creek, and Battle Mountain all date back to that time.
The Valley was settled shortly after the turn of the century. Clearwater was originally called Raft River by prospector John Smith, the apparent real founder of the settlement.
By 1916 the Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed through the valley to become the main mode of transportation, replacing the steamboats that had previously travelled as far north as Vavenby, 30 kilometres east of Clearwater.
Today, Clearwater is a vacation paradise, with the majestic mountains of the world-famous Wells Gray Provincial Park serving as a picturesque backdrop. The remote wilderness, the virgin forest, and the rivers, lakes, and streams all combine to make Clearwater all that it claims to be.
Clearwater has three centres; the old village beside the Thompson River, the new townsite on the far side of the Clearwater Bridge, and beside the highway are a few hotels, restaurants, gas stations, services, and the Visitor Info Centre.
Clearwater is located on the Yellowhead Hw 5, at the southern end of Wells Grey Provincial Park, 124 km (77 mi) north of Kamloops.
The Clearwater Visitor Info Centre displays exhibits on local and area history, the Overlanders, and Simpcw Native history and culture.
The Clearwater Trout Hatchery was originally built in 1985 for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to rear salmon for release in the North Thompson drainage. In 1997, the Province purchased the facility and refitted it for trout and kokanee production. The hatchery stocks fish into approximately 330 lakes annually, in all regions except Vancouver Island; however, most stocking occurs in an area covering most of the interior and northern lakes in BC. Over 3 million fish are released each year including several strains of rainbow trout, as well as brook trout and kokanee.
Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities; hiking for every ability, ranging from a few minutes on a level trail to many days with a map and compass; boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, river-rafting, fishing, and hiking; and the history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors, or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray's many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.
A lovely campground situated at the confluence of the Clearwater and North Thompson Rivers. Popular with travellers on Highway 5, with young families, or as a base camp for visitors exploring Wells Gray Park and the Clearwater area.
Wells Gray offers the full range of experience in canoeing, and is one of the top destinations in British Columbia for canoe trips. You can rent a canoe for a few hours or do an extended wilderness trip. Each lake in Wells Gray has its own unique character, but all of them are framed by mountains and forests.
Fishing is a popular activity in Clearwater, with many remote lakes in the area to test your angling skills. Try it on your own or employ one of the many licenced guides available.
The many hiking trails, varying in skill level from very easy to extremely challenging, provide a healthy means for enjoying the abundant scenery and wildlife which populate the North Thompson Valley. Enjoy a short hike into one of the many waterfalls in the area or plan for a longer hike into the more remote locations.
In winter, the area is a snowy wonderland where you can experience 80 km (50 mi) of groomed cross-country ski trails, excellent back-country skiing, snow-shoeing, dog-sledding and challenging snowmobiling.
Tourism Wells Gray
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia