BC Geographical Names

Name Details:

Name: Monkman Pass
Feature TypeClick here for a list of
Feature Types.
Pass (2) - Low opening in a mountain range or hills, offering a route from one side to the other
StatusClick here for an explanation of Status.: Official
Relative Location: On the Continental Divide, SW of Tumbler Ridge (District Municipality), Peace River Land District
Latitude-LongitudeClick here for an explanation of Position Type.: 54°33'00''N, 121°15'00''W at the approximate centre of this feature.
DatumClick here for an explanation of Datum.: NAD27
NTS MapClick here for an explanation of NTS Map.: 93I/11
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Origin Notes and History:

Adopted 6 October 1925.
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office
This pass, 162 feet lower than the Yellowhead Pass, had been used as a route for Indian travel for some 300 years. "Mr. LeBreton Ross, the Department of Railways representative on the [Geographic Board of Canada] has this morning shown me a blueprint acompanying a report of Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railway engineers on railway connection with Peace river. A possible route is by this pass which crosses the divide at the head of Murray river, south of the height of land at the head of Parsnip river. The enginers report states that the pass which is only 3,550 feet elevation was discovered by Alexander Monkman, a pioneer trader and trapper of the Peace River country, while on a trapping and hunting trip in the fall and winter of 1922 with pack dogs and on snowshoes. He ran into trappers who had come into the country with canoes by the Fraser river and was surprised to find he had crossed the continental divide without knowing it." (11 August 1925 letter from Ron Douglas, Secretary, Geographic Board of Canada, to G.G. Aitken, Chief Geographer of BC, file M.2.54) [See Mount Gauthier, for evidence that the pass had been discovered before Monckman's arrival.]
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office
In the early 1900's almost all the grain and cattle from Peace River district in Alberta and BC was exported to the west coast by way of Edmonton - a circuitous 1441 miles by rail to Vancouver, which by direct route would be only 733 miles. By 1920 grain prices were low and freight rates high, and many settlers were forced to abandon their holdings. Grand Prairie resident Alexander Monkman turned to winter trapping. During the winter of 1921-22, he pushed west to Herrick River, located a spike from the 1904 Grand Trunk Survey, and realized he had located the easiest, lowest and most direct pass to the Peace River region. Monkman reported his findings to the CPR and CNR and in 1923 guided reconnaissance engineer Murray Hill through the pass. Thus the finding and naming of Monkman Pass..... When Sir Henry Thornton visited the area in 1924, he said a railroad would be built westward when the region produced tonnage equal to 10 million bushels of wheat. Within 2 years that tonnage had been surpassed but no railway was built. Sir Henry, meanwhile, was back in Montreal. The Federal Government re-examined all possible routes in 1930, but again no railway was built. "When we came into this country we didn't wait for someone to build us a paved highway. We cut and dug and slashed our way in, the railroads and highways followed. We've been going at this thing backward. Where would the CPR be today if its promoters had listened to the same advice we are getting? They laid their rails across a thousand miles of prairie when there wasn't a bushel of grain in sight. This is the age of motor transportation. If we can't get a railway, let's cut ourselves a road through the Monkman Pass...." These were the concluding words of a meeting held in 1936, in the Arthur Smith farm home near Lake Saskatoon. They formed the Monkman Pass Highway Association, with the following objectives: to demonstrate the feasibility of a direct route by constructing 132 miles of auto road between Rio Grande, Alberta, and the Cariboo Highway and CNR line at Hansard BC; to open up 100,000 acres of mining, oil, timber and agricultural lands in the Peace River region; and to bring prosperity to the region by opening new markets. Construction began in May 1937, funded almost entirely by residents of the Peace River district, and continued for two years until World War II diverted attention and energy to more pressing concerns. During that time a route was cut and cleared from Rio Grande to Stony Lake, and from Stony Lake to Kinuseo Falls, thence through the Monkman Pass to Hansard. The road was little more than a gravel trail, long since overgrown, but the project drew government attention to the feasibility of a route to the resource-rich Peace River country. (excerpts and quotes from Monkman Pass Highway, by E.C. Stacey [no further citation], typescript received June 1982, file M.2.61 )
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office