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Bear and Boyer Rivers

It is normal for people to argue over what to name dogs, cats, babies and teddy bears. But did you know that some people argue over the names of rivers and creeks?

There have long been arguments over the name of Bear Creek versus Bear River near Grande Prairie. Many local residents refer to it as Bear Creek. And in 1909, the Dominion Land Survey recorded the name as Bear Creek as well. But the Fort Dunvegan Post-Journal of 1854 refers to it as Bear River, which is now its official name. Sources can't agree if it's a translation from the Beaver "Sousaka", or the Cree "Musqua", and both mean "bear". It could be from both languages.

Another series of disagreements surround the naming of Boyer River. It flows northeast into Peace River about 70 kilometres southeast of High Level. It is said to be named after Charles Boyer, a North West Company trader. In a letter written by Alexander Mackenzie in 1789, he referred to Boyer as "a very fit person for the Peace River".

The 1854 Arrowsmith (not the rock band) map shows it as Bouee River. "Boyer" sounds close to the French verb "bouillir", meaning "to boil". Perhaps the transcribers of the map back in England thought that the name had something to do with the rough nature of the watercourse.

Now, locally there's a portion of the river between Paddle Prairie and the confluence of the Bushy River that is known as Paddle River. And this is corroborated by an 1890 Geological Survey of Canada report that noted the name "Paddle", or "Boyer" River.

In the end, it was the name "Boyer" that stuck. And in the vicinity of Boyer River, there now exists the locality of Boyer, the Boyer settlement, the Boyer Indian Reserve number 164. And on the river itself, the Boyer Rapids. Who would have thought such a fuss would have been made over a river? Truth is stranger than fiction.

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Bear and Boyer Rivers