mountains of munroe

🕔Sep 07, 2005

The recent discovery of dinosaur tracks in Kakwa Provincial Park has added to the many outstanding features of a park that claims the two most northerly peaks in the Canadian Rockies over 10,000 feet, and that may one day be part of the Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

Garnet Fraser of Prince George and Bryan Monroe of McBride revealed their find last year, adding to an association that the Monroe family has had with Kakwa for 50 years.

Six generations of Monroes have made North Central British Columbia their home since first settling in the Robson Valley early in the 20th century.

Their relationship with McBride began in the summer of 1914, when George Monroe followed the newly built Grand Trunk Pacific Railway west into B.C. from Alberta where he had been cattle ranching with his brother, Adrian.

Born in Idaho, schooled in West Virginia and related by descent to James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, George Monroe taught school in Washington State before entering Canada in 1903.

Arriving in the Robson Valley in 1914, he built a raft and drifted down the Fraser River to Tumbledick Creek, just west of McBride. There, he filed for homesteading rights. His wife Ethel and their two children, Warner and Sadie, joined him later in the season, and three years later in 1917, another son Everett was born.

George’s brother, Adrian Monroe, arrived from Alberta, and his father, David Monroe, a veteran of the American Civil War, joined them from the U.S. Thus, from the start there were three generations of Monroes living in the Robson Valley.

They trapped, raised sheep and chickens, and grew fruit and vegetables to sell in McBride, where, after 1930, George Monroe also worked as a minister and undertaker.

The 2,301-metre peak above the homestead was officially named Mount Monroe on March 12, 1965, in memory of Canadian Army Lance Corporal Stanley James Monroe, son of Adrian and Lela Monroe. He had drowned on July 1, 1942, age 24, while serving with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Val Cartier, Québec.

Two of Everett Monroe’s sons, Keith and Norm, shared with Northword their family’s history in McBride and their involvement with what is now Kakwa Provincial Park, located 70 kilometres north of that Robson Valley community.

Their tales include the role that their father and their brother Ian had played in helping to bring attention to the area, as well as their own, personal involvements there.

Keith Monroe, retired area manager for BC Hydro in Prince George, obtained his pilot’s license in 1962 and has amassed 3,500 hours of private flying, including taking family and friends into Kakwa on many occasions in his yellow floatplane.

Norm Monroe was assistant superintendent of schools at District 57 in Prince George when he retired last year. He has, together with his wife Barb, been a park host at Kakwa Lake for several summers, during which he has produced a documented photo collection of many of Kakwa Provincial Park’s wildflowers.

Everett Monroe was a farmer, logger, trapper and a big game guide in the McBride area, and it was in the latter capacity that he led a hunting party to what was then known as Porcupine Lake, now called Kakwa Lake, in the late 1950s.

There, while taking a drink from a creek near Babette Lake, he noticed some colourful quartzite. In 1963, Keith Monroe flew his dad into Sheep Creek airstrip in Alberta in an attempt to get more samples of the quartzite, but it proved to be too far to walk over to Babette Lake.

In 1970, Everett, with his daughter Sheilagh, sister Sadie and bother Warner returned to Kakwa to stake an area that was later developed into a quartzite quarry on the slopes of Mount St. George, above Babette Lake. The original quarry has since closed, but another mine site has been partly developed at nearby McGregor Pass, the combined projects resulting in the present land access into the park.

Ian Monroe, another of Everett’s six sons, followed in Keith’s footsteps to obtain his fixed-wing pilot’s license. With a partner, he formed a small charter company and operated two Cessna 185 aircraft, one on floats and the other on wheels, and soon established a base and cabin on Kakwa Lake.

In the early 1980s, he purchased a helicopter that he also used to fly charters into the Kakwa area. Because of his business and personal interests in Kakwa, he lobbied the provincial government to convert what was then a deferred planning area into a recreation area and perhaps eventually into a park.

Others, notably George Evanoff, took up the banner during the Prince George Land and Resource Management Plan in the 1990s, and the world class Kakwa Provincial Park came into being in 1999.

On Sept. 1, 1987, Ian Monroe died after his helicopter crashed while lighting slash fires in the Goat River area west of McBride.

The Monroe family, with the support of BC Parks, arranged to have a mountain directly above Kakwa Lake named Mount Ian Monroe.

A family dedication took place at the site in August 1988. Plaques were placed both on the mountain and near the park headquarters at Kakwa Lake, and the Monroe name officially became part of Kakwa, as it previously had become part of McBride.

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for a future feature article on Kakwa Provincial Park.

Mount Monroe is situated on the north side of the Fraser River, just west of McBride. It is reached via the Paradise Ridge Hiking Trail from Mountainview Road, three kilometres west of Tumbledick Creek, and provides outstanding views of the Rockies and Cariboo Mountains, as well as the Rocky Mountain Trench and the community of McBride, below. This is just one of many accessible mountain hikes between Prince George and the Alberta border.

Kakwa Provincial Park is more remote, but provides added rewards. It is reached via the Walker Creek Forest Service Road, accessed 150 kilometres east of Prince George on Highway 16. Subject to seasonal washouts and muddy sections, this 73-kilometre gravel forest road eventually crosses Bastille Creek. The boundary of the 170,890-hectare park is reached after another 12 kilometres along the upper reaches of the McGregor River at Buchanan Creek, but the last few kilometres are impassable to vehicles, and Buchanan Creek must be forded. Check BC Parks’ Kakwa website for current access advisories. From Buchanan Creek, a 12-kilometre gentle climb takes hikers beneath Mount Sir Alexander to McGregor Pass, where you have the choice of camping at beautiful Mariel Lake below Wishaw Mountain, or descending the last six kilometres to the main campsite on Kakwa Lake. From there, numerous hiking and serious backpacking opportunities open up in the park.

For more information on these areas, see Exploring Prince George: A Guide to North Central B.C. Outdoors by Mike Nash (Rocky Mountain Books, 2004).