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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 142: Bear and Boyer Rivers

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

It's not unusual for conflicts to arise over the naming of creeks and rivers.

As historian Merrily Aubrey explains, there have long been arguments over the name of Bear Creek versus Bear River, near Grande Prairie.

Well, many local residents refer to it as Bear Creek. And in 1909, the Dominion Land Survey recorded the name 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 on whether it's a translation from the Beaver "Sousaka," or the Cree "Muskwa," and both of them mean, "bear."

Maybe it's from both languages.

Another series of discrepancies surround the naming of Boyer River. It flows northeast into the Peace River, about 70 kilometres southeast of High Level.

It is said to be named after Charles Boyer, and he's not the entertainer, although he might have been, you never know. He was a North West Company trader. In a letter written by Alexander Mackenzie in 1789, he refers to Boyer as a "very fit person for the Peace River."

And the 1854 Arrowsmith map shows it as Bouee River. Boyer sounds close to the infinitive form of the French verb "bouillir," meaning, to boil. Maybe the transcribers of the map back in England may have thought that the name had something to do with the roiling 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.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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