Thompson River

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Thompson River
North Thompson River.jpg
A CN railway crossing of the North Thompson River in Kamloops
Country Canada
Province British Columbia
Source Confluence of the North & South Thompson Rivers
 - location Kamloops
 - elevation 1,113 m (3,652 ft)
 - coordinates 50°40′49″N 120°20′36″W / 50.68028°N 120.34333°W / 50.68028; -120.34333
Mouth Fraser River
 - location Lytton
 - elevation 472 m (1,549 ft)
 - coordinates 50°14′07″N 121°35′00″W / 50.23528°N 121.58333°W / 50.23528; -121.58333Coordinates: 50°14′07″N 121°35′00″W / 50.23528°N 121.58333°W / 50.23528; -121.58333 [1]
Length 489 km (304 mi) [2]
Basin 56,000 km2 (21,622 sq mi) [3]
Discharge for Spences Bridge
 - average 773 m3/s (27,300 cu ft/s)
 - max 4,200 m3/s (148,000 cu ft/s)
 - min 171 m3/s (6,039 cu ft/s)
A map of the Thompson River's watershed
For the river in the United States, see Thompson River (Montana).

The Thompson River is the largest tributary of the Fraser River,[3] flowing through the south-central portion of British Columbia, Canada. The Thompson River has two main branches called the South Thompson River and the North Thompson River. The Thompson was named by Fraser River explorer, Simon Fraser, in honour of his friend, Columbia Basin explorer David Thompson.


South Thompson River[edit]

The South Thompson originates at the outlet of Little Shuswap Lake at the town of Chase and flows approximately 55 kilometres (34 mi) southwest through a wide valley to Kamloops where it joins the North Thompson. Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway and the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway parallel the river. Little Shuswap Lake is fed by the Little River, which drains Shuswap Lake, which is fed by several rivers & creeks.

North Thompson River[edit]

The North Thompson originates at the toe of the Thompson Glacier[4] in the Cariboo Mountains west of the community of Valemount and flows generally south towards Kamloops and the confluence with the South Thompson. For most of its length, the river is paralleled by Highway 5, and the Canadian National Railway (both of which cross the river a couple times). The North Thompson passes by several small communities, the most notable being Blue River, Clearwater & Barriere.

The North Thompson picks up the Clearwater River at the town of Clearwater. The Clearwater, the North Thompson's largest tributary, drains much of Wells Gray Provincial Park.

A notable feature along the North Thompson is Little Hells Gate, a mini-replica of the much larger rapid on the Fraser downstream from the mouth of the Thompson. About 17.4 km upstream from the small town of Avola, the river is forced through a narrow chute only about 30 feet wide creating a rapid that resembles the Fraser's famous rapid.


The darker waters of the Thompson meet the Fraser at Lytton.

At Kamloops, the combined Thompson River river flows 15 km from the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers before reaching Kamloops Lake, which is roughly 30 km in length, ending at the town of Savona. From there it flows in a meandering course westwards through a broad valley area. At Ashcroft, the Thompson Canyon begins and the river turns southwestward to its confluence with the Fraser. The river is paralleled by the Trans-Canada Highway, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railway.

From Ashcroft to Lytton, the river is completely confined within Thompson Canyon, making for spectacular scenery. The Thompson River joins the Fraser River in Lytton. There is a striking stretch of dark black cliffside just downstream from Ashcroft and visible from the Logan Lake-Ashcroft highway is officially-named the Black Canyon. Just below the town of Spences Bridge was the site of a major rail disaster in the early 20th Century. Communities along this section are Bighorn, Shaw Springs, and Goldpan.

Major Tributaries[edit]

North Thompson River[edit]

South Thompson River[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Thompson River". BC Geographical Names. 
  2. ^ Thompson River, The Columbia Gazetteer of North America
  3. ^ a b Thompson River,
  4. ^ "Thompson Glacier". BC Geographical Names. 

External links[edit]