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The Bonaparte River - The Prequel #36 Traditional Geocache

Hidden : 08/11/2022
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Size: Size:   regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest.  This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.


The Bonaparte River

The Bonaparte River is a tributary of the Thompson River, joining it at the community of Ashcroft, British Columbia. The river is about 150km long, including the 17km length of Bonaparte Lake. Rising on the Silwhoiakun Plateau to the northwest of Kamloops, the Bonaparte River flows west and south to join the Thompson River. The river's name first appears on a map made in 1827 by Archibald McDonald of the Hudson's Bay Company. The name probably honors Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in 1821.

The Bonaparte River has played an important role in the indigenous communities for many years.   It has been the provider of food, fresh water, and transportation.  The Secwepemc name for this river is “Kluhtows”, meaning “gravelly river”.  The Bonaparte River watershed lies within the traditional territory of the Bonaparte Indian Band to non natives, also known as the Bonaparte First Nation. The community is part of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people and community members are referred to as Stuctwesecm in the Secwepemctsin language, which means “People of Stuctuws”. The Secwepemc were the first people to live in the Bonaparte River region. They used the Bonaparte River for fishing, transportation and as a source of water for their crops. 

The fish that came out of the Bonaparte was rainbow trout, or steel head, and in the summer months the Secwepemc people would erect "Mat houses" along the river.  This temporary home, as the people were nomadic, was made from reeds, bark and supports made from trees.  In the winter they moved into pit style houses. The Secwepemc caught salmon and other fish in rivers and lakes using nets, spears, gaffs, and lines with hooks. They fished from rocks and from canoes. They also fished from platforms built at places where the fish hugged the shore while travelling upstream. In winter, fish were caught through holes in the ice. Lines were made of fine material like deer sinew. Hooks were made of stone or bone with bait used to lure the fish. When the fish reached the hole, they were speared. To see the fish better, sometimes the people wore eyeshades. At other times, they covered their head and shoulders with a mat.  These are just some of the ingenious methods used by the Secwepemc to catch fish.

In 1808, Simon Fraser explored the Bonaparte River and built a trading post near where the Bonaparte River joins the Thompson River. The Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post in the same area in 1821. The Bonaparte River was an important part of the Cariboo Wagon Road, which was built in the 1860s to bring gold miners and supplies to the Cariboo Gold Rush and caused much displacement to the Secwepemc peoples. 

Researched and written by Brandy Cooper-Chardon


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