|BOOK REVIEW: FINLAY'S RIVER
Written by R.M. Patterson
One of the consequences of progress and growth is that history, or at least the preservation of it, falls victim to the inexorable re-shaping of our, land, our buildings, our cities, and our culture. Archaeologists make a living off of this, rediscovering our past, and trying to reconstruct an accurate picture of times and places long buried by progress.
In British Columbia, as we contemplate the building of the Site C Dam, we should never forget that we will be consigning someone’s world, someone’s history, to a watery grave, perhaps to be found by a future generation of archaeologists.
Finlay’s River is one such part of our past. The river, its hills and valleys, its forests, communities, and of course its stories, now lie underneath the waters of Williston Lake in Northeastern British Columbia. The lake was formed by the construction of the original Peace River Dam project in 1968.
Ray Patterson is one of Canada’s first outdoor adventure writers—and, with his five books, one of the most prolific. Born in 1898, he spent most of his life pursuing adventure in the Canadian West.1
Finlay’s River is the story of his journey up Finlay’s River (yes, that’s the original name of the river, as opposed to “the Finlay River”, as it came to be known) with his son in July 1949. He uses the story of his own journey as a stepping-off point for the recounting of the stories of those who came before him: explorers from the Hudson’s Bay Company, government surveyors, the Northwest Mounted Police, and of course the settlers and First Nations who called the valley their home. His narrative is incredibly well-researched, brilliantly descriptive, and intimately detailed.
Take a tour of a part of our beautiful British Columbia’s past that is now possible only through the work of men like Raymond M. Patterson. If you love B.C. history, the outdoors, or just want to take a virtual trip up a mighty river, then this book is for you.
1. From cover notes, Finlay’s River, TouchWood Editions, 2006