Early morning on the Homathko
|Etymology||From a Mainland Comox word meaning "swift water"|
|- location||Coast Mountains|
|- elevation||2,126 m (6,975 ft)|
|Bute Inlet, Coast Mountains|
|0 m (0 ft)|
|Basin size||5,680 km2 (2,190 sq mi)|
|- average||269 m3/s (9,500 cu ft/s)|
|- minimum||30.0 m3/s (1,060 cu ft/s)|
|- maximum||3,140 m3/s (111,000 cu ft/s)|
The Homathko River is one of the major rivers of the southern Coast Mountains of the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is one of the few rivers that penetrates the range from the interior Chilcotin Country to the coastal inlets of the Pacific Ocean. The Homathko River reaches the sea at the head of Bute Inlet adjacent to the mouth of the Southgate River, just to its east.
The mountains flanking the Homathko River are the highest in the Coast Mountains, and include Mount Waddington west of the river in the Waddington Range and Mount Queen Bess east of the river, adjacent to the Homathko Icefield. Also flanking the Homathko River on the west are the Niut Range, which is in the angle of the Homathko and its main west fork, Mosley Creek, and the Whitemantle Range, which is to the south of the Waddington Range massif, forming the mountainous ridge dividing Bute and Knight Inlets. The Pantheon Range lies west of Mosley Creek and the Niut Range and adjoins the Waddington Range immediately on the north.
The Homathko begins at an unnamed lake in the northern part of the Niut Range. It flows northeast to the Chilcotin Plateau, skirting it briefly near Tatla Lake, then turns south to Tatlayoko Lake, which is just west of Chilko Lake, part of the Chilcotin River basin.
From there the Homathko River flows south and west, piercing the Pacific Ranges. It is joined by numerous tributaries, including the north-flowing Nostetuko and the Stonsayako Rivers. Downriver, the Homathko is joined by Mosley Creek, which flows south from the Pantheon Range.
Bute Inlet and the lower reaches of its major rivers, such as the Homathko and Southgate, were and are home to the Xwe’malhkwu, or Homalco First Nation people. The Xwe’malhkwu are part of the K'omoks, or Comox people, and speak a dialect of the Mainland Comox language, part of the Coast Salish branch of the Salishan language family. Colonial influence eroded Xwe’malhkwu culture in the late 19th century. Indian Residential schools further destroyed traditional Xwe’malhkwu culture and language.
The upper part of the Homathko River basin were home to the Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) people. Although there was occasional trade between the Tsilhqot'in and Xwe’malhkwu, generally the two peoples were antagonistic and sometimes violent.
The Xwe’malhkwu and Tsilhqot'in never ceded their lands. Both are currently in the process of treaty negotiations with British Columbia and Canada. Both claim aboriginal title to parts of the Homathko River's watershed.
In 1861 Alfred Waddington of Victoria sent surveyors to the Homathko River and Bute Inlet, seeking to build Waddington's Road, to compete with the proposed Cariboo Road. Both roads were a reaction to the Cariboo Gold Rush and intended to provide access to the remote Cariboo region. In 1864, just below the confluence of Mosley Creek and the Homathko River, a conflict between Waddington's survey party and a group of Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) resulted in the death of fourteen members of the surveying party.
This was the opening round of the Chilcotin War of 1864. The land-surveyed townsite of Port Waddington on today's maps is a relic of those times. The townsite had been surveyed as part of roadbuilder Alfred Waddington's obligations in having the licence to build the road, as well as profit from the sale of lots (and some lots were sold, but the townsite never came to anything).
In 1871 the Crown Colony of British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation with certain conditions, one of which was the construction of a transcontinental railroad to link the seaboard of British Columbia with the rest of Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway began to survey the several proposed routes. One such route crossed the Chilcotin Plateau then followed the Homathko River to Bute Inlet and continued across Sonora Island and Quadra Island (then thought to be a single island known as Valdes Island) to reach Vancouver Island via Seymour Narrows. This route would then follow the eastern coast of Vancouver Island to terminate near Victoria.
In 1890 a new surveying expedition set out to explore the Homathko River route to the Chilcotin Plateau. Despite memory of the Chilcotin War and fear of the Tsilhqot'in, and although the terrain was challenging in places, the party reached Tatla Lake in the Chilcotin Country without undue incident.
There have been various plans to develop the Homathko and its neighbouring rivers for hydroelectric power. The Homathko alone has immense hydroelectric potential. Full build-out as first conceived would divert the Taseko Lakes and Chilko Lake into the Homathko system via Tatlayoko Lake. A series of dams on the Homathko and its tributaries, using the extra power of the water from the Chilcotin's tributaries, would have generated some of the most power per project in British Columbia.
The creation of Ts'il?os Provincial Park (the '?' represents a glottal stop) and Big Creek Provincial Park have shelved the grand plan, as Chilko and Taseko Lakes are protected and cannot be diverted (also for salmon fishery reasons). But the dams proposed for the Homathko Canyon are still on the books and are effectively on sale by the export subsidiary of BC Hydro, Powerex. If ever built, the largest dam and powerhouse will stand at a point in Waddington Canyon that is marked on the map as "Murderer's Bar"—no less than the spot on which the Chilcotin War began.
This is an incomplete list of tributaries listed in upstream order.
- Cumsack Creek
- Heakamie River
- Jewakwa River
- Brew Creek
- Whitemantle Creek
- Scar Creek
- Klattasine Creek
- Tiedemann Creek
- Mosley Creek
- Tellot Creek
- Mercator Creek
- Scimitar Creek
- Five Finger Creek
- Crazy Creek
- Twist Creek
- Hell Raving Creek
- Middle Lake
- Razor Creek
- Valleau Creek
- Bluff Lake
- Sapeye Lake
- Nude Creek
- Ottarasko Creek
- Tatlayoko Lake
- Lincoln Creek
- Skinner Creek
- Cochin Creek
- Quakie Creek
- "Homathko River". BC Geographical Names.
- Elevation derived from ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model, using GeoLocator, and BCGNIS coordinates.
- "Historical Hydrometric Data Search". Water Survey of Canada. Retrieved 22 November 2016. Search for Station 08GD004 Homathko River at the mouth
- "Canadian 1:50K topographic maps" (map). TopoQuest.com. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Homalco History". Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia" (PDF). British Columbia Supreme Court. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "LANDS - Rights & Title". Tsilhqot'in National Government. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "First Nations Negotiations; Tsilhqot'in National Government". British Columbia. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "First Nations Negotiations; Homalco (Xwemalhkwu) Indian Band". British Columbia. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- Mole, Rich (2011). The Chilcotin War: A Tale of Death and Reprisal. Heritage House. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-1-926936-30-7. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- Harvey, R. G. (2011). Carving the Western Path: By River, Rail, and Road Through B.C.'s Southern Mountains. Heritage House. pp. 211–212. ISBN 978-1-927051-11-5. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- Mole, Rich (2011). The Chilcotin War: A Tale of Death and Reprisal. Heritage House. pp. 30–32. ISBN 978-1-926936-30-7. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- Layland, Michael (2013). The Land of Heart's Delight: Early Maps and Charts of Vancouver Island. TouchWood Editions. pp. 161–162. ISBN 978-1-77151-015-8. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- Bonner, Veera; Sisters, Witte; Bliss, Irene E.; Hazel Henry Litterick (1995). Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories. Heritage House Publishing Co. pp. 24–27. ISBN 978-1-895811-34-6. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Homathko River". Sunshine Coast Conservation Association. Retrieved 22 November 2016.