British Columbia, a province of the Dominion of Canada, on the Pacific coast, between lat. 48° 19' and 60° N., and Ion. 113° and 136° W., bounded N. by the 60th parallel, E. by the Rocky mountains, which extend N. W. and S. E. from Ion. 120° to 113°, S. by the United States, and W. by the Pacific ocean and Alaska; area, including Vancouver and other islands, about 233,000 sq. m. The population, according to an enumeration made in the spring of 1871, consists of 8,576 white, 462 negroes, and 1,548 Chinese; total, 10,586, exclusive of Indians, estimated at 35,000 to 40,000, who subsist by fishing, hunting, and trapping fur-bearing animals. The coast line is deeply indented. Vancouver island extends from lat. 48° 19' to 50° 53' N., a distance of 278 m., along the southern portion of the mainland, from which it is separated by the gulf of Georgia, 90 m. in width. The N. entrance to the gulf is Johnston's strait, and the S. entrance is .the strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates the S. shore of the island from the territory of the United States. Queen Charlotte islands, lying between lat. 52° and 54° N., and Ion. 131° 25' and 134° W., are separated from the N. portion of the coast by Queen Charlotte sound.
The country is generally mountainous, though the interior is much diversified. There are extensive tracts of arable land, and large sections suitable for grazing purposes. The E. portion is occupied by the Rocky mountains, the highest summits of which are Mt. Hooker, 15,700 ft., and Mt. Browne, 16,000 ft. The Cascade mountains, a continuation of the Sierra Nevada range of California, intersect the country from N. to S. about 100 m. from the coast. Contiguous to the coast is another lofty range extending N. into Alaska. Between Fraser and Thompson rivers is a large tract of level forest. The surface of Vancouver island is very mountainous and covered with forests of pine and cedar; it contains little agricultural land, but is supposed to be rich in minerals. The rivers are numerous and large, but their navigation is much interrupted by frequent rapids and falls. The Columbia rises in the vicinity of the Rocky mountains, in lat. 50° 30' N. and Ion. 116° W., and flows N. W. to lat. 52° 10', when it takes a S. course to the United States. It is navigable as far as the head of Upper Arrow lake, lat. 50° 30'. Fraser river has its sources on the W. slope of the Rocky mountains, in lat. 52° 25' and Ion. 118° 40', and after a N. W. course of about 160 m. to lat. 54° 30', turns abruptly and flows nearly due S. to lat. 49° 30', when it turns W. and flows to the gulf of Georgia near the United States border.
It drains the E. slope of the Cascades and the W. slope of the Rocky mountains. In a right line it is less than 500 m. long, but with its meanderings 800 m. The river is navigable for about 100 m. of its lower course, and about 80 m. raid-way between its source and mouth. The Fraser has several affluents, the chief of which are Thompson, Harrison, and Lilloeet rivers. The first named rises in the Rocky mountains, flows W., and joins the Fraser in lat. 50°. Peace river rises on the N. slope of the range which deflects the Fraser from its N. to S. course, and flows N., where it joins the Fin-lay. The Stikeen and Simpson are also considerable rivers, in the north of the territory, flowing into the Pacific. There are numerous lakes, the largest of which, the Upper and Lower Arrow, are connected with the Columbia river. Lake Okanagan has for its outlet the river of the same name. Pitt, Harrison, Lilloeet, Anderson, Quesnelle, and Caribou lakes are connected with Fraser river. Some of these lakes are navigable. The open country around Lake Okanagan varies in height up to 1,500 ft. above the level of the sea; round Nicola lake up to 2,000 ft.; round Lake La Hache to over 2,500 ft. The plateau between Clinton and Bridge creeks has an elevation of from 3,500 to 4,000 ft.
The climate is healthy, and generally milder than in the corresponding latitude eastward of the mountains. On the coast the winter is more humid than cold. The lakes are never wholly frozen, and travel is never impeded by the snow except in the mountain passes. All the harbors remain open throughout the winter except that of New Westminster, where the floating ice is dangerous to shipping from January to March. From the middle of October till March there is much rain, with high winds. Winds from the S. and S. E. bring rain, and from the N. and N. W. fair weather. The central and eastern districts have from their elevation a severer climate, and in the upper country the thermometer in winter sometimes indicates 40° below zero. - The soil of the valleys is generally fertile, but is subject to floods. The plateaus are barren, while the hillsides are generally covered with good timber. The districts fit for agricultural settlement are thus estimated: On Fraser and Thompson rivers, 60,000 sq. m.; sources of the upper Columbia, 20,000; Athabaska district, 50,000; Vancouver island, 16,000. The tract extending from Thompson river to the Rocky mountains is described as eminently suitable for colonization.
It possesses abundance of timber and of bituminous coal, is diversified by hill and dale, watered by numerous streams and lakes, and has boundless pasturage. The soil, as elsewhere throughout the country, varies from a deep black vegetable loam to a light brown loamy earth, the hills supplying slate and building stone. The land on the lower course of Fraser river is also good, but it is covered almost entirely with dense forests. Wheat, oats, barley, Indian corn, peas, beans, potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc, have been successfully raised; while garden produce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc, ripen early. There is abundance of grass for cattle and flocks during the summer, and plenty of hay obtained for their support during the winter. Agriculture, however, is in a backward state. In the forests are found cedar, pine, fir, maple, hemlock, birch, poplar, willow, alder, and cottonwood trees, besides a variety of grasses and flowers. Sheep raising has been introduced with success. The country is rich in fur-bearing animals, chiefly black, brown, and grisly bears, lynx, marten, and beaver. It was formerly the richest fur district of the Hudson Bay company. Fish abound in the lakes and rivers; salmon are especially plentiful, and of four species, the largest being from 10 to 20 lbs. in weight.
They proceed up Fraser river in countless numbers, till stopped by shallow water, few of them returning to the sea. - Although gold has been discovered in almost every part of the territory, and especially upon and E. of Fraser river, the fields which have been most extensively worked are in the Caribou district, which lies in the N. bend of Fraser river, about lat. 53° 20'. Gold is also found in the Thompson and many of its smaller tributaries, on the Peace, and also on Gold stream and Leech river in Vancouver island. The gold is mostly in grains, few large pieces or "nuggets" having been found. Mining operations have been limited mainly to alluvial deposits, quartz crushing not having been introduced. The Caribou mines have been worked without interruption since their discovery, but for some years have yielded less than $1,500,000 per annum. The number of miners is about 2,000. According to the report of the commissioner of mines, the total amount of gold exported from the colony in 1869 was $2,417,873, exclusive of about $1,000,000 taken away by individuals. In 1870 it sank to $1,002,717, and in 1871 to $734,792, exclusive of what was taken away privately, about one third more.
From 1862 to Sept. 20, 1871, the whole amount publicly exported was $16,650,036. The tardy development of the mines is attributed to the want of a geological survey, which has now, however, been undertaken. Veins of silver have been discovered near Fort Hope and on Cherry creek near Shushwap lake, but are yet undeveloped. Nuggets of native silver have been found on Peace river, indicating the presence of extensive deposits in that region. Veins of copper and lead are numerous, and prospecting has been done on the former, but without satisfactory results. Rock crystals, cobalt, talc, and iron ore exist near Fraser river. Platinum, cinnabar, plumbago, and agate have also been found. Coal abounds in several localities. Beds of valuable bituminous coal have been profitably worked on Vancouver island, where the annual produce amounts to about 50,000 tons, of which about 20,000 tons were exported in 1869. It is about 10 per cent. lighter than Welsh coal, and its consumption is so much more rapid. The anthracite contains 70 per cent, of carbon, and is of superior quality. A large area of the N. W. portion of the island is mainly of the bituminous coal formation. Similar beds exist also on Queen Charlotte island.
The annual exportation of coal, chiefly to San Francisco, amounts to about $200,000. - The chief port and commercial town is Victoria, the capital, on Vancouver island, containing about 4,000 inhabitants. New Westminster is on Fraser river, about 15 m. from its mouth, and has about 1,000 inhabitants. The other principal points are Langley, Fort Hope, Fort Yale, and Lilloeet on Fraser river, and Douglas on Harrison lake. Most of these places are connected with the United States by telegraph. The exports are gold, coal, furs, spars, lumber, fish, fish oil, wool, and cranberries; the imports are provisions, clothing, furniture, and tools. Large numbers of spars, unequalled in length and quality, are exported. The exports of lumber amount to about $120,000 annually. The aggregate value of imports which passed into the colony through the port of Victoria in 1869 was $1,776,623, and of exports, including gold, $719,203. In 1870 the exports, exclusive of gold, amounted to $208,364. The entrances in 1869 were 864 vessels, of 199,634 tons, and the clearances 896 vessels, of 202,551 tons. The next year, 835 vessels of 173,209 tons entered, and 804 of 170,624 tons cleared.
The total exports from British Columbia and Vancouver island to the United Kingdom amounted to £63,681 in 1867, £76,614 in 1868, £51,490 in 1869, £60,751 in 1870, and £76,644 in 1871. The chief articles of export in 1871 were train or blubber oil, to the value of £9,651; seal skins, £6,850; other skins and furs, £41,472; hewn wood and timber, £16,819; wool, £268; other articles, £1,584. The imports from Great Britain amounted to £103,206 in 1869, £73,581 in 1870, and £78,431 in 1871. The total revenue raised throughout the colony in 1869 amounted to $530,470, and the expenditures to $517,332. - British Columbia is represented in the parliament of the Dominion of Canada. The territorial officers are a governor, appointed by the English crown, a secretary, a commissioner of lands and public works, and a collector of customs. The law officers are two judges, an attorney general, a registrar, and a high sheriff". The legislative council consists of 15 members, 5 of whom are public officers, 5 are selected by the governor, and 5 are elected by the people subject to the approval of the governor.
The elected assembly of Vancouver has been discontinued, and that island is represented in the legislative council of British Columbia. Four newspapers, of which two are daily, are published in the province, and there are three libraries with 4,000 volumes. - British Columbia, comprising the territories formerly known as New Caledonia, New Georgia, New Norfolk, and New Cornwall, was prior to 1858 entirely under the control of the Hudson Bay company, whose trading posts were stationed at various points on the coast and in the interior. The discovery of gold in that year caused an influx of population and the formation of a colony. It is estimated that the number of immigrants in 1858, chiefly from California, was not less than 20,000. On the first influx, the governor of Vancouver island took prompt measures to secure to the British government the royalty of the minerals by imposing a license tax, and to maintain the Hudson Bay company's monopoly by forbidding the importation of goods other than through the company's agencies. He also forbade to foreign ships the navigation of Fraser river. By an act of parliament passed Aug. 2, 1858, British Columbia was created a distinct colonial government, comprising the territory .as far N. as Simpson river and the Finlay branch of Peace river.
In 1863 the N. boundary was extended from about lat. 56° to 60° N. The colony included all the adjacent islands except Vancouver, which was incorporated with British Columbia under one government in 1866. In 1871 British Columbia was admitted into the Dominion of Canada. The leading condition of the union was an agreement on the part of the Dominion government to construct a railroad connecting the Pacific coast with the eastern provinces. This railroad, the Canadian Pacific, is to be not less than 2,500, and may be 2,700 in. long, extending from Victoria to some point in the province of Ontario, possibly to Lake Nipissing, about 200 m. N. of Toronto. It is to be completed by 1881. It is expected to develop the valuable mineral districts of the province, and divert the China and Japan trade from its present channel.
See Beitish Columbia.