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Clearwater, British Columbia, Canada

The District of Clearwater is situated at the confluence of the North Thompson and Clearwater Rivers.  Clearwater, also known as the “Gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park”, is situated in the North Thompson Valley approximately 124 km north of Kamloops on the Yellowhead Highway #5.  The population of Clearwater is approximately 4,960.   There are 3 main centers – the old village beside the Thompson River, the new townsite on the far side of the Clearwater Bridge, and beside the Yellowhead Highway where there are a few hotels, restaurants, gas stations, Visitor Info Centre, etc.

Vancouver is located 417 km to the southwest, Seattle, Washington is 597 km south and Edmonton, Alberta is 623 km north.  With rail service and the Yellowhead Highway through the region, Clearwater is well situated for commerce and tourism.   As a gateway, Clearwater serves as a service center to its own residents and the traveling public.

Clearwater was originally named “Raft River” by John Smith, the founder of the settlement.  The fur trade brought non-native settlers through the area in the 1850’s. The early days reveal a vast commerce in furs and wood through the North Thompson.  Muriel Dunford, a local historian writes “A report written in 1862 by French fur traders shows the Clearwater River as Fourche L’eau Clair” (Fourche because it was considered a fork of the Thompson River).  This is the earliest mention of the words “Clear Water” to describe the pristine river that flows through volcanic rock, having left its silt in the settling ponds of the big three lakes upstream.”

Europeans first settled the valley around the turn of the century.  Dutch Lake, in the center of Clearwater, was settled around 1900 and Clearwater soon became a central service centre for the entire North Thompson Valley.  Steamboats traveled as far north as Vavenby until 1914 when CN Rail’s main line was constructed through the valley, becoming the dominant form of long distance transportation.  During the first 30 years of the 20th Century, Clearwater experienced little growth until a road was constructed from Clearwater to Kamloops and families began to homestead the area.  A bus service from Kamloops to Clearwater began in 1932 and the first school was built in 1939.  The Trans-Mountain Pipeline was constructed through Clearwater in 1953.  The construction of the Yellowhead Highway began in the early 1960’s and it opened in 1970 even though not all of the bridges were completed. The settlement of Clearwater was incorporated under the Water Act as an improvement District in 1968.  Seven trustees manage the Clearwater Improvement District which covers an area of approximately 60 square kilometers. 

Clearwater has a trading area that encompasses Birch Island, Vavenby, Avola, Blue River and Little Fort. Little Fort provides access to the Cariboo via Highway 24.  Blue River is world famous for Mike Wiegele’s Heli-Skiing Resort and an internationally known luge hill. The dominant industry in the Clearwater area is forestry, but tourism is a significant economic contributor and the fastest growing industry in the region.  Approximately 50 to 75 percent of the area’s labour force is either directly or indirectly linked to the forest industry.  The potential for further growth in the tourism industry is endless given the community’s proximity to Wells Gray Provincial Park, white water rafting on the Clearwater River and the popularity of eco-tourism.  Wells Gray Provincial Park is located in the Cariboo Mountains and is one of the largest wilderness reserves in the province (522,000 hectares).  Helmcken Falls is the showpiece of Wells Gray Park and it is the 4th tallest waterfall in Canada. 

The closest scheduled air services are provided at the Kamloops Airport, but helicopter service is available in Clearwater.  Greyhound Bus Lines serve Clearwater with a regularly scheduled service and there are trucking and taxi services in the area.  Clearwater has an elementary and a secondary school, financial services, health care (hospital and clinics), police protection, legal services, court services and retail/service industries.

The services which the District of Clearwater provides include ballpark and playground, cemeteries, dyke building and maintenance, fire protection, ICBC insurance, Motor license office, sewage treatment, street lighting and waterworks system.   Not all properties are serviced with the community water/sewer system and these properties rely on a drilled well and individual septic system.

 

 


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