Kanaka Creek was not only a provider of life’s needs, but also became a messenger of death with the arrival of smallpox. Several noted artifacts suggest an ancient culture, one of which was all but decimated by the 1750 plague, when an estimated 70 percent of the native population died from smallpox. The second epidemic of 1810-20 would further diminish the future cultures. Some anthropologists have speculated that Cliff Falls was a sacred site. Various Bands may have gathered to face their last days together.
It was a native ritual to bury tribe members with various artifacts and spread maple seeds over the grave. Archaeologists have found human sculpture bowls in the roots of maple trees while excavating in and around Cliff Falls. A basket was found at the mouth of Kanaka Creek, which was in the traditional territory of the Katzie Band. It has been dated at 4,000 years old. The basket is at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria.
Early Kanaka History
During the 1800’s settlements in Maple Ridge grew slowly. The B.C. Directory for 1882-83 lists only the following residents between Pitt River and Kanaka Creek; 44 farmers, 2 storekeepers, 2 teachers, 1 hotelkeeper and 2 loggers.
Land was cheap for the early settler, 160 acres at $1.00 per acre. The settler, in clearing his land to farm, would sell the wood to steamships at $2.00 per cord.
In Maple Ridge an important industry was salmon freezing. The 1893 B.C. Directory lists Gus Smith as the manager of the Fraser River Freezing Company. Barclay’s Shingle Mill was situated near the mouth of the Kanaka Creek. Farmers clearing land would cut shingle bolts and float them down Kanaka Creek to sell them to the mill.
The guns of Fort Langley offered protection to the Katzie Indian village at the present mill site in Hammond. A group of Kwantlen Indians from down river near present day New Westminster moved to the mouth of Kanaka Creek, directly opposite the original fort site, in order to escape the threat of raids from the Yuculta tribe.
Samuel Robertson of Fort Langley served fulltime with the Hudson’s Bay Company. He planted an orchard on the flat land east of Kanaka Creek. When Samuel Robertson arrived, some of the Kanakas from Fort Langley came with him across the Fraser and worked on the Robertson Estate.The Kanakas were recruited from the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaiian Islands) as crewmen for the Hudson’s Bay Company trading vessels. They moved up creek as there were Kwantlen Indians living at the mouth. The Apnauts, Mayos, and Vivicary families were well known Kanakas who lived near the creek. This was a creek, called to this day “Kanaka Creek”, in compliment to the Hawaiian, or Kanaka, labourers at Fort Langley. “Kanaka” is a Hawaiian term meaning “labourers”. One of these labourers, upon leaving his home Island, promised his grandfather to name something in the new country in honour of his people. A creek situated across the river from the fort was named Kanaka Creek as a result of this promise.
James Thorne took up land on Kanaka Creek behind Samuel Robertson’s property.
Hector Ferguson became known as the “one man logger”. He used to fall trees himself. He sold cordwood to the Haney Brick Yard, transporting it by scow via the Kanaka Creek and the Fraser River. Later Hector and his son, Rolley, logged and farmed the area around the Kanaka Creek estuary. They dumped the logs into Kanaka Creek, floated them down to the Fraser where they were made into bigger booms and sold to Maple Ridge Lumber in Haney.
1880The Kanaka Creek Village was disrupted when the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks were built in the 1880’s.
1885The trains eventually came through, despite the Haney Slide. The entire clay bank between Hammond and Haney collapsed, causing many smaller landslides and considerable loss of life among the Chinese workers toiling to build the rail line.
20th Century Kanaka
The Tretheweys arrived and bought 160 acres from a Mr. Alexander who homesteaded the land. Mr. Trethewey logged his property in the area of Kanaka Falls. 1910Kanaka Falls (now known as Cliff Falls Park) on Kanaka Creek was a popular spot for local families for picnics, hikes through the woods, and Sunday School excursions.
Marten’s Road (now 256th) from the south end of the bridge over Kanaka Creek was a simple track (replaced by a plank road in 1924) through the woods leading to Marten’s farm.
David Spencer’s Limited of Vancouver bought about 400 acres of land, east of Kanaka Creek, for a dairy farm and stop-over place for cattle from the prairies. The Abernethy and Lougheed Logging Company, largest of its kind in the province, operated through the 1920’s. A & L rail lines brought loads of logs across a trestle bridge over the CPR lines to their log dump at the junction of the Fraser and the Kanaka, the only place where a logging train crossed the CPR mainline.
Present day users of Kanaka Creek Park can still see the remains of the A & L Railway log dump pilings at the creek mouth. The old rail line is now part of the Loop Trail located at the River Front.
The River Road bridge over Kanaka Creek was built. The Kanaka Creek crossing on Dewdney Trunk Road, near Webster’s Corners just west of Sampo Hall, was originally a wooden trestle bridge.
Many new residents began moving into Maple Ridge. More prosperous times brought the establishments of parks, a hospital, street lighting and other services.
In the Spring, the arrival of warm weather led up to the worst flooding on the Fraser River since 1894. Much of the fertile agricultural land in the Fraser Valley was at risk, as dykes that hadn’t been put to the test since the floods of 1936 began to crumble. High winds sent the waters over the dykes. In Maple Ridge, Kanaka Creek mouth and Albion Flats were under water. Soon all access to the interior of B.C. was cut off when the CPR line was washed out and all roads flooded. B.C. Premier Byron Johnson declared a state of emergency on May 31st.
GVRD began acquiring land for the Park. GVRD acquired a significant parcel of land, 102 hectares of Forest Core known as Blue Mountain, and Kanaka Creek’s headwaters.
GVRD and DFO coordinated the construction of the hatchery in Kanaka Creek Regional Park. The Bell-Irving Hatchery was officially opened in March 1983, with the first egg take that fall.
The fish fence on Kanaka Creek was relocated to the present location, just west of the 240th Street bridge.
GVRD purchased the estuary area of Kanaka Creek and the Riverfront project began. The newly acquired land includes 1.6 kilometres of Fraser River waterfront at the mouth of Kanaka Creek. This section was opened on July 18th, 1993 with the park now growing to 400 hectares (approximately 1,000 acres).
Local Kanaka Creek watershed residents were very concerned with water conservation and environmental issues. A partnership was discussed as a way to protect the environment of Kanaka Creek including the depleting fish stocks and vegetation. Kanaka Education & Environmental Partnership Society (KEEPS) was established.
KEEPS achieved society status in December 1998 as a registered non-profit society, governed by a board of directors and currently with over 100 volunteers and members. GVRD replaced two wood bridges with metal spans at Cliff Park. The GVRD acquired an additional 415 hectares, dedicated as park land and reserved for green spaces which will be significant to the protection its habitat.
Construction began on the Rainbow Creek Bridge, approximately 1 km downstream from the fish fence site, as part of the Trans Canada Trail. The Bridge was officially opened March 31, 2001. Murv and Ritta Baker, members of KEEPS and Nikken Distributors, spearheaded the Wood Duck Nesting Box Project. Ducks Unlimited provided the design of the boxes. B.C. Corrections supplied the lumber. Building and installation provided by Thomas Haney students, KEEPS members, GVRD and the Bell-Irving Hatchery.