Mosquito Creek Watershed
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Region History
Ice and Rock
First Nations People
European Exploration
Trade Expansion
Non-Native Settlement
Logging and Settlement
Shipping and Export
Logging and Water
Watershed History
Heritage Walk Brochure


During the last Ice Age, a glacier 1.5 miles thick covered the North Shore and extended over the Lower Mainland.
As the glacier retreated, land below sea level rose. The ice melted and drained from the mountain valleys - Capilano, Mosquito, Lynn, and Seymour - cutting into the elevated seabed and creating the ravines and stream channels we see today.

10,000 years ago, the glaciers were gone. The land was colonized by plants and animals, and habitable to people.
Archeological sites near the Fraser River date back 9,000 years. Those on the North Shore date back 3,000 years, but older sites likely exist.
First Nations people were living in several villages along the inlet now called Burrard Inlet, as well as around the bay now called English Bay, when the Spanish arrived to chart that part of the coastline in the summer of 1792.
The British arrived to explore the coast that same summer.
Some of the village areas remained occupied up to the present.

Early European exploration (Spain, Britain, Russia) of the northwest coast was prompted by the search for a Northern Passage - a sea route north of North America connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific.
While charting the coast, they also looked for sources of fish, furs, minerals, and sites suitable for harbours, trading posts and settlements.
At that time, ships could only reach the west coast of North America by sailing around the southern tip of South America, or by sailing around the southern tip of Africa, then east across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

In 1774, the first European to sight the Pacific northwest coastline was Captain Juan Perez (Spain) who found the entrance to Nootka Sound and the Queen Charlotte Islands.
There was some dispute over who reached the coast first, but based on present historical information, the credit goes to Juan Perez.
In 1778, the first Europeans to land were led by Captain James Cook (Britain). They met with the indigenous people and traded metal for sea otter pelts.
In 1789 the Spanish built a fort at Nootka Sound and claimed possession.
In the following year, the Nootka Convention of 1790 did not settle ownership claims, but gave equal trading rights to Spain and Britain.
In 1790, the Spanish sailed south to explore the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The next year, 1791, two Spanish naval vessels explored Boundary Bay and Point Roberts. They anchored west of Point Grey and traded with the Musqueam native people. They also mapped the entrance to Howe Sound.
In 1792, Captain Vancouver (Britain) traveled via the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean with orders to explore the west coast of North America from 30 degrees North (200 miles south of the current US-Mexico border) to 60 degrees North (near current Seward, Alaska).
In the summer in 1792, two ships commanded by Captain Galiano and Captain Valdez (Spain) were at Point Grey, completing charts begun the previous year.
The Spanish and British expeditions crossed paths there, met and shared the information each had collected and agreed to cooperate in exploration of the coast.
The British were first to enter Burrard Inlet, sailing to its eastern head (the area of today's Port Moody). They stayed overnight, then left to continue their exploration farther north.
The Spanish stayed in the area, and charted Burrard Inlet, Indian Arm, and the coast around the Vancouver peninsula.
In 1795, the Spanish abandoned their fort at Nootka.

Meanwhile, other explorers were making their way westward from the east by land. Traders and settlers followed.
Everyone's supplies were hauled overland from Montreal - including those for the North West Company's trading posts (competing with the Hudson's Bay Company) located in the interior of today's B.C.
Simon Fraser was a partner in the company. He hoped to discover a suitable route between the west coast and the interior, and to establish a new supply source.

In 1808, Fraser left Fort George (currently Prince George) following a river he believed to be the upper part of the Columbia. After a long and difficult journey, which proved that the river could never be a major trade route, he arrived at its mouth and confirmed that the latitude was not that of the Columbia River.
Fraser had not found a useable route and he immediately returned to Fort George. The unnamed river was later named after him.
In 1821, the Hudson's Bay and North West companies amalgamated under the Hudson's Bay Company name, and the western headquarters was set up at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River (now Vancouver, Washington).
As American settlers and traders moved into that area and American trading ships worked the northwest coast, the company expanded its business farther north.

Settlement began along the lower Fraser River and the coast.
Settlers first arrived as fur traders with the Hudson's Bay Company or as workers and suppliers. Trading posts were established along the trade routes. Fort Langley was founded in 1827, Fort Camosun (Victoria) on Vancouver Island in 1843.

Gold was discovered in 1858 and a gold rush followed in 1858-59. There was a sudden influx of 25,000 people which prompted key changes.
The colony of British Columbia was created in 1858 and, in 1859, New Westminster on the Fraser River became its capital and chief port.
Because the Fraser River froze over during the winter, there was a need for a saltwater harbour nearby to secure the delivery of supplies.
The head of Burrard Inlet (now Port Moody) was chosen and North Road was built as a connector between the port and the city in 1859.
The Fraser froze over down to its mouth for three months during the winter of 1861-62. During that time, goods and passengers were hauled from Port Moody to New Westminster over the North Road by sleigh.

Aside from land surveyors and transient gold seekers, the north shore and the south shore of Burrard Inlet remained untouched.
However, once shipping traffic started passing through Burrard Inlet to and from Port Moody, there was an opportunity for other business ventures.

In 1863, the first industrial lumber mill on Burrard Inlet, Pioneer Mills, opened on the north shore, initiating settlement nearby which became the first town - Moodyville.
As the forests were logged, settlement expanded out from Moodyville and other industries began on the waterfront farther west.
Eventually, the town centre shifted toward today's Lonsdale Avenue, and grew to become the City of North Vancouver.
A second mill began production on the south shore in 1867. A village sprang up just outside the mill property - Gastown. As Gastown grew, settlement spread outward and later evolved to become the City of Vancouver.

Pioneer Mills, on the North Shore, was the first exporter to ship goods from Burrard Inlet to a foreign country. In 1864, a lumber shipment was sent to Australia.
By the late 1860's there was a thriving export trade with Australia, San Francisco, and South America.

The area around Pioneer Mills was logged first, then in 1866 timber licenses were issued to allow cutting over a larger area.
New licenses in 1870 and 1875 increased the size of the cut blocks further still.
At first, large fir trees were selectively logged. As they dwindled, large cedar were taken - most from 1900 to 1930.
Extensive logging took place across the North Shore. Then, as settlement and development progressed, the land was cleared.

Logging and clearing had a negative effect on water quality in the streams and in the residential water supply. Concerns were raised in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
As a result, logging was phased out in some watersheds in the early 1900's.
Logging was officially stopped in the watersheds around 1929 when the Greater Vancouver Water District was formed, but certain areas, including parts of the Capilano watershed, continued to be logged under permit until 1995.