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David Thompson Bicentennial

Community, Historic Site or District
David Thompson portaging Kootenai Falls in Montana. – Painting by Joseph Cross

David Thompson, intrepid fur trader, astronomer and surveyor, mapped more of North America than any other land geographer of his time, exploring 90,000 km by horseback, canoe, dog sled and on foot. Thompson left a significant mark on the landscape of the region, intellectually as well as physically, creating vital inter-cultural links with the Native people he encountered and also establishing new standards of behavior in the fur trade, by travelling with his wife and children.

David Thompson's Trans-mountain Activities (1807-1811)

Thompson's search for a river route to the Pacific Ocean brought him over the Rockies to the Rocky Mountain Trench, home of the mighty Columbia and its tributary, the Kootenay River. He and his family arrived at Lake Windermere on July 18, 1807 where they established Kootenae House and spent the winter trading with the locals. As far as anyone knows today, it was the first trading post built by Europeans on the Columbia River.

The following spring, Thompson and his entourage travelled south to the Kootenay River where they set out on a journey to explore the river and hopefully find the Flathead Indians (Interior Salish) to invite them to trade. Following the river into Montana, Thompson was required to portage around Kootenai Falls and he writes "The River had steep banks of rocks and only 30 yards in width, this space was full of violent eddies which threatened us with destruction." He followed cairns, built by the Kootenais to ensure the good graces of the spirits which inhabited the land. The party continued on into Idaho, then up through Canada and back to Kootenae House. In the summer of 1811, Thompson would once more descend the Kootenay River but this time to meet up with the Columbia and follow it to the Pacific Ocean.

To celebrate the character and accomplishments of David Thompson, the North American David Thompson Bicentennials Partnership was organized by a growing international group of not-for-profit interests.

To find out more about David Thompson's life go to David Thompson's Legacy or Achievements and Legacies of David Thompson Bicentennial (list of hundreds of commemorative projects).