Flourmill Cone as seen from the northeast.
|Peak||Spanish Lake Centre|
|Elevation||1,770 m (5,810 ft)|
|Parent range||Quesnel Highland|
|Age of rock||Holocene|
The Flourmill Volcanoes, also known as The Flourmills, are a small volcano range near the west boundary of Wells Gray Provincial Park in east-central British Columbia, Canada. Located north of Mahood Lake and west of the Clearwater River, they form part of the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field.
Two cinder cones form the range, namely Flourmill Cone and Spanish Lake Centre. During volcanic activity 3000 years ago, the craters of both cones were breached, so lava flowed out the south side into the pass between Spanish Creek and Flourmill Creek. The lava then dammed Spanish Creek, creating Spanish Lake, and engulfed about 10 km (6.2 mi) of the Spanish valley to the southwest. This lava flow averages 10 m (33 ft) thick.
The unusual name 'Flourmill' dates to a land survey in 1921 along the Clearwater River. Flourmill Creek, which flows southeast from the volcanic area, was found to enter the Clearwater River exactly four miles (6.5 km) due north of the Mahood confluence. With great logic, the surveyors named it Four Mile Creek. When map-makers in the Department of Lands were about to place this designation on the official map, they realized that there were already several Four Mile Creeks in British Columbia and wisely decided that a less trite name was needed. So they fiddled with the letters and produced Flourmill Creek instead. The creek was named first and the name was extended to the volcanoes in the 1974 edition of the book, Exploring Wells Gray Park. (In 2015, British Columbia had 12 Four Mile Creeks, 3 Four Mile Lakes, and 3 Four Mile Mountains.)
The first recorded visit by non-natives to the Flourmill Volcanoes was on May 21, 1874, by the Canadian Pacific Surveyor Joseph Hunter and three assistants. His diary describes their journey over the Flourmill lava flow:
- "I had to send the pack train back...on account of the absence of feed and the rough nature of the valley, which from here to the summit is covered with volcanic rocks, somewhat similar to the formation near the summit on the Howe Sound Route. In this instance, the surface is not quite so rough and irregular, the rocks are smaller in size, and the volcanic action seems to have been more intense. The centre of the valley here is higher than at the sides by about 100 feet...On the 21st we had travelled about two miles when we came to the end of the volcanic formation, and noticed the water running eastward."
The Flourmill Volcanoes became a political scandal in 1963. Clearwater Timber Products, the major employer in Clearwater, wanted logging rights in Wells Gray Park. Rebuffed in several direct attempts, the company instead purchased a beach estate on Vancouver Island from the Rath family for $186,000, then offered it to the provincial government in exchange for permission to log in Wells Gray Park. The government created Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park from this arrangement, today one of British Columbia's most popular parks, and gave Clearwater Timber logging rights on 137 km2 around The Flourmills. The company built a road along the west bank of the Clearwater River to access this forest tract and during the next six years removed 6.8 million cubic feet of timber, valued at $1.6 million. The deal was cancelled by the New Democratic Party government after it was elected in 1972. Later, the bridge at the Mahood River was removed, preventing access to The Flourmills from the east.
Access to the Flourmill Volcanoes is by a rough road from 100 Mile House on Highway 97. It has numerous unsigned forks and directions such as those found in Exploring Wells Gray Park are essential. The road ends at Spanish Creek and a trail leads 3.2 km (2.0 mi) to the base of the south cone and 0.5 km (0.3 mi) further to a section of the lava flow.