The scale of the Fountain Gorge of the Grand Canyon of the Fraser is hard to describe, and only a bit less difficult to depict photographically. The image at left is a close-up of the same scene as at right, which lies at the southward turn of the Great Bend in the Fraser between Glen Fraser and the Bridge River Bridge. At this point, the Fraser carves its course through the rocks shown, turning back northwards for one short mile, then bending west again to turn directly south. Mountains on either side of the river (elev. 1000') soar up to 7000' and beyond on both sides, with the canyon's depths among the driest and most sheltered places north of the Columbia. The grand beauty of the place, and its favourable situation for human habitation, inspired the legend that this was one of the three principal homes in North America of the great spirit-being, Coyote the Trickster. Archaeological finds in the Fountain area are among the oldest in the Northwest, and it is believed that humans have always lived here - after the retreat of the icecap, that is. The 'Xaxlip (Fountain) First Nation of the St'at'imc People reside in a large village on the benchlands adjacent to the gorge containing the Six Mile Rapids, which were among the richest fisheries anywhere within British Columbia for centuries and central to the economy and society of the Interior First Nations peoples of BC, and key to the cultural and political importance of the St'at'imc in the old days, as today.
The canyons of the Lillooet Country focus on Lillooet, but as a group span a region more than a hundred miles square. The great gorge of the Fraser extends far beyond the Lillooet area, however, running north a few hundred miles from Lillooet through Fountain and High Bar to Gang Ranch and Dog Creek, a region that is rarely travelled, although stretches of it are often featured in photographic travelogues of BC, and of course south through the better-known parts of the Fraser Canyon to Yale and Hope.
The lesser-known Fraser Canyon above Lillooet is framed by wide rangeland benches encanyoned by rolling pine alpine plateaux, cut by a deeper low canyon. The vista is a classic one of the Old West. Indeed, it was in the Gold Rush of '58 era that the image of the western wilderness frontier became forged in the popular imagination; thousands of American miners returned from the Cariboo and Fraser gold rushes to California Dixie and New England; at the time most of the American Rockies and Plains (north of the Platte, anyway) were still unmarred by the Indian Wars. In a very real way, the Lillooet and its sister regions in BC (the Cariboo, the Kootenay) embody an actual part of "the American West" that most Canadians and Americans alike are unaware. Any American visitor looking at pictures of the Golden Mile in Lillooet would immediately mistake the town for something out of their own history, rather than Canada's.
This is among the most historically famous of the great scenic views of the Lillooet Country: the view north up the Fraser Canyon from the 12 Mile Roadhouse at Fountain. Travellers from farther south along the Fraser were forced by geography to detour through Fountain Valley in order to get to Lillooet or (before the construction of the Lytton-Clinton stretch) in order to reach the Cariboo Wagon Road for the journey north; this was the view that greeted them as they descended to the Fraser. For a few months in 1858-9, Fountain was nearly as famous and busy a staging ground for the Gold Rush as Lillooet. The ruins of the 12 Mile Roadhouse adjoin the site of this roadside view, which lies along the original route of the Wagon Road through the Fraser Canyon's grandest stretch.
Given the extreme karst topography of the Pavilion Mountain high country and Marble Canyon and the limestone composition of the whole Marble Range north towards Dog Creek, it's reasonable to suspect that there may be cavern or crevice systems here yet undiscovered, so anyone straying off the forestry and range roads in this area should be wary; caves should be considered to very probably be active lairs for something the unprepared individual will not want to encounter, so casual spelunkers should think twice about exploring this area. Similar dangers apply to climbers in the side-canyons off Marble Canyon.
Be also on the lookout for grizzly bears, wolverine and cougar or lynx. There may be also the occaisional rattlesnake.
As you drive up the road near Fountain, you immediately notice this gash in the landscape across the Fraser River.
The pictures below do not even come close to the deep red-purple of the Red Creek Canyon, which sits directly across the Fraser Canyon from Pavilion, slicing the broad benchlands on either side apart. Like all the rock and sand in the Lillooet Country, the canyon's colour changes with the angle and quality of the light. It is a dark red-purple, maybe described as vermilion but somehow almost shifting right outside our usual spectrum; subtly purple and not-purple at the same time. I've seen other vermilion-coloured cliffs and canyons in BC, but Red Creek's is really odd; I don't know if Pavilion locals have ever noticed this and it may sound strange, but I invite you to have a look if you're in the area. It may just be the effect of the canyon's deep shadow or the brightness of the light against the north wall, but I've always been struck by it on drives and walks along Highway 99 (in my day Highway 12) just as you come out of the Pavilion Valley. These views are looking nearly due west - the creek comes down from the fight and has its source in the outer ridges of the Camelsfoot Range; the Slok Creek Forest Road has a main spur that runs up into there, onto a broad, high and very flat plateau that is a yet higher benchland from those of the West.
At one time ther were plans to put a huge dam on the Fraser at Moran. It would have wiped out the salmon that migrate up the river as far as Mt. Robson...700 miles upstream.
The ranches at Pavilion are among the oldest spreads in BC. The upper ranch on the high benchland was founded by Richard Hoey (?) but was bought and developed by Carson in 1866 and stayed in that family until 1942 when it was bought by Spencer. In 1949 Spencer bought up the Bryson Ranch, which is the lower benchland and the lands in the valley of Pavilion Creek farther above. 26 Mile House was the old Carson ranch house, built in 1867, and was located on the upper part of Pavilion, located on the broad high benchland that stretches to the road summit of Pavilion Mountain (the actual mountain summit is some miles SE of the pass); the Carsons were known for their hospitality and their ranchhouse was one of the favourite stopping-places along the long journey from Lillooet to Barkerville. From the higher edge of this plateau, the Cariboo Wagon Road made a staggering switchback descent to the valley of Kelly Lake, which leads towards Clinton where it meets the newer Cariboo Wagon Road (and today's Highway (97) from Yale via Spences Bridge and Ashcroft-Cache Creek. A picture of Kelly Lake and its valley can be found just below, possibly taken from the Cariboo Wagon Road