Clearwater, established on December 3, 2007, is one of the newest municipalities in British Columbia.
However, it is an area with a deep and rich history of First Nations inhabitance, European exploration and settlement, prospecting, trapping, and farming.
Simpcw First Nation
For 10,000 years, the Clearwater region has been a home to the semi-nomadic Simpcw First Nation of the Secwepemc (or Shuswap) Nation. The Simpcw Peoples moved throughout the north Thompson Okanagan region hunting and fishing in accordance with caribou and salmon migrations.
Simpcw winter settlements were dependent on the keekwilli, or round pit-house with an earth-covered roof. Traces of these are found throughout the area, particularly at the North Thompson River Provincial Park. In addition to aboriginal pictographs found along the shores of Mahood Lake, there are more than 50 archaeological sites in the area.
Nearby Barriere too finds its origin in the culture and history of the Simpcw First Nation. Today, Simpcw peoples live just north of Barriere on the Simpcw First Nations Bandlands at Chu Chua and at Louis Creek.
Barriere likely received its name from the First Nations practice of placing rocks in the water to create fishing barriers. However, local legend has it that the name originates from an incident when a fur trapper’s horse died near what is now the town site. When the trapper’s companion what would become of the horse, the trapper answered, “Bury ‘er.”
The first European surveyors, trappers, and prospectors arrived in the 1800s, traveling up the North Thompson River from outposts at Kamloops. These explorers named a certain tributary location, where pristinely clear water entered the sediment-laden North Thompson River, Fourche de l'Eau Claire. This tributary was eventually known as Clearwater River.
In the mid-and-late 1800s, the Cariboo Gold Rush brought more settlers – prospectors, trappers, and homesteaders – to Clearwater, and by the early 1900s a permanent residence was established. Several farms established during this time are still thriving today.
Clearwater's close proximity to Wells Gray Provincial Park makes the community a popular location for outdoor adventure, such as wildlife viewing, bird watching, hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fishing.