History of the Salmon River
The Salmon River has an important place in the history of British Columbia. The Sto:lo of the Fraser Valley regarded the river as an important communication route. They paddled down the Salmon, portaged over to the Nicomekl River, and then floated down to Mud Bay to engage in trade, according to John Cherrington, in his book “The Fraser Valley: A History.
The river and portage area were known as the Tsalkwakyan. The portage route was approximately 8,000 yards over marshy areas near what is now Glover Road in the Milner area of Langley . This same route was used by the Songhee, Semiahmoo and the Saanich people in yearly migrations when they came to share in the rich harvest of salmon. The village near the junction of the Salmon and the Fraser rivers (near present-day Fort Langley) became a centre for trade and was one of the few permanent village sites in the Lower Fraser region. The local Kwantlen tribe became rich and powerful.
The Tsalkwakyan also plays a large part in the early history of the fur brigades. Simon Fraser is said to have stopped briefly at a large aboriginal village near Fort Langley(possibly on McMillan Island ). Then, in November 1824, a party of 39 led by Chief Factor James McMillan made their way from Fort George on the Columbia, north to Mud Bay and then via the Nicomekl and the Tsalkwaykan to the Salmon River floodplain and the Fraser. When McMillan returned in 1827 to establish a permanent base, he naturally returned to the junction of the Salmon and the Fraser to establish Fort Langley (originally at Derby Reach then later moved to the present site).
As the name would suggest, the early settlers soon found the Salmon River and surrounding waterways an abundant source of salmon. By 1829 the fort had established a trade in salmon with the aboriginal people and, in the 1830s, a thriving trade in fish curing was established. Salmon was dried and packed in barrels for shipment to Hawaii. Hardwood for the barrels was obtained across the Fraser from the area now known as the Stave River.
The area south of Fort Langley (Milner Prairie) was developed for farming with the Salmon River providing the route for barges loaded with produce.