Big Bend Country
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Big Bend Country is a term used in the Canadian province British Columbia to refer to the region around the northernmost bend of the Columbia River, where the river leaves its initial northwestward course along the Rocky Mountain Trench to curve around the northern end of the Selkirk Mountains to head southwest between that range and the Monashee Mountains, which lie to the west. The term is the namesake of the gold rush and associated gold mining district that flourished there in the 19th century. Long known to the indigenous peoples of the region, and in fact raided and at times occupied by the Blackfoot, the Big Bend is traditional territory of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people, but also claimed by the Ktunaxa. Boat Encampment, near the Big Bend of the Columbia's most northerly point, is the historic site of a long-established fur trading cache and campsite on the annual York Factory Express.
News of gold strikes in the Big Bend Country attracted miners in the fall of 1865, prompting a migration from the Cariboo and other mining districts to the west, via steamboats on Kamloops and Shuswap Lakes, and up the Columbia, also via steamboat, from Washington Territory; a few others came around the Selkirks, down the Columbia from Wild Horse Creek, where there had been another small rush. The mining district was not at the river's bend itself, but nearby on the southward course to the north of today's Revelstoke, along several streams such as Downie Creek, the Goldstream River, French Creek, McCulloch Creek, Carnes Creek, and Gold Creek. The excitement proved to be relatively short-lived and the rush had largely ended by the fall of 1866, with an ongoing exodus through the later 1860s of the few remaining miners began after the easy finds were mined out and the remaining gold was found difficult to extract. By the end of the decade the boom was essentially over.
Long after the gold rush, the region remained important as one of the only land routes possible for any wagon road to connect the Pacific Colony with the rest of British North America, and although proposed as the route of an inter-colonial wagon road by Governor Douglas such a route was not built until the construction era of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. As Canada's transportation infrastructure improved, the route around the Big Bend became the route of the main inter-provincial highway, the section of said route from Revelstoke to Golden becoming known as the Big Bend Highway (opened June 1940).
With the routing of the Trans-Canada Highway through the Rogers Pass in 1962, and the construction of Mica and Revelstoke Dams, most of the highway and the former settled area of the Big Bend Country—a few small hamlets and farms, as the area was never heavily populated despite its important early role in the province—is under water, though the name Big Bend Highway remains as a reference to British Columbia Provincial Highway 23. Mica Creek is the only settlement of any size in the region, other than in areas close to Revelstoke and Golden.