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Migrating Trees Floating Stones New Life

July 10, 2012

News reports of high water on the Fraser River afford further insight into the migration of trees and stones on Fraser River:

“More drift wood went down the Fraser past this port yesterday than has been noticed before. Vast jams, half an acre in extent, chased each other down the racing current for several hours during the morning. Trees, which had evidently been torn up, with tons of rock attached to the roots, went down in a perpendicular position. “

-British Columbian report on the flood of June 1903

As reported by early navigators on the Fraser, floating trees which snagged on the bottom could be straightened by the current, which scoured out a well beneath, into which the tree settled. Such snags, of trees standing upright and protruding the surface, were considered the most hazardous to steamboats.

Given the right conditions,  trees could be carried great distances under flood, and then begin to grow again at a new location when waters receded. At Garry Point stood a tall tree – an anomaly on the outer edge of the estuary — which served as an aid to navigation until it was washed out to sea by high water in the 1890’s.


“When at the entrance, a remarkable solitary bushy tree will be seen on Garry Point, the northern entrance point of the river proper, straight for which is the general direction of the channel; the Sand heads N.N.E. a little easterly, and is just 5 miles distant. Although to steer direct for this tree would not clear the out edges of either bank for the whole length of the channel, yet it will be found an excellent guide, not only to make the entrance, but to give almost the straight line in, should the buoys be removed.”
Captain GH Richards’ sailing directions for Fraser River in  The Vancouver Island Pilot, 1864.

George Gibbs’ observations of the Fraser River in the spring of 1858 offer further insight into the phenomenon of tree migration,  plantation,  fertilization and possible regeneration.


“Sometimes large piles of driftwood, including immense trees, lodge upon the bars, and the eddies caused by the freshets excavate beneath them deep hollows, into which they settle down.
At the time of our ascent, masses of ice were lying upon these flats, melting in the sun or rain, and leaving deposits of earth and stones, which they had brought with them, as well as deep furrows ploughed up in their progress. . .
Immense numbers of the skeletons of salmon, which had drifted down exhausted by spawning, were scattered over the bars, the vertebrae sometimes connected, sometimes broken up, and the bones perhaps lying in piles, where birds had been feeding.”
—George Gibbs, “Frazer River,” in Physical Geography of the North-Western Boundary of the United States, 1869.

Leading Tree - Garry Point -  Entrance to Fraser River

Leading Tree – Garry Pt. – Fraser River
-Detail from map “Haro and Rosario Straits – surveyed by Capt GH Richards & the Officers of HMS Plumper, 1858-9.”

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