book cover


by Richard C. Bocking

A Portrait of the Fraser. The compelling story of one of the world's great rivers
--and of the issues that will shape it's future.










The Fraser River is the lifeblood of a vast domain encompassing half of British Columbia's forests and agricultural lands, the majority of the provinces's salmon streams, two-thirds of its human population and 80 percent of its economy. The river has long been a provider of food, transport and inspiration to the people who live near its generous waters.

Mighty River follows the Fraser from its source high in the Rocky Mountains down 1,370 tumultuous kilometres to the Pacific, recounting many of the human and natural histories that intertwine on its banks. Author Richard Bocking describes the delicate ecosystems nourished by the Fraser and offers vivid historical glimpses of First Nations peoples, explorers like Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser, and gold seekers trekking the river's canyon.

But more than simply telling the Fraser's tales, Mighty River sounds an alarm. Looking beyond the river's beauty, Bocking describes how careless development wounded the Fraser in the past and keeps the river vulnerable today. As the Fraser descends, it presents a microcosm of the conflicts and choices that dominate North America's economic and environmental agendas. This river, the author makes clear, is an irreplaceable gift that must not be squandered.

More about Mighty River and map of Fraser River basin


Vancouver Sun (review by Terry Glavin)
"Mighty River could be one of the most important works of non-fiction to be published in British Columbia in the 1990s."
Wade Davis, Author of One River and The Serpent and the Rainbow
"This splendid book not only celebrates the majesty of the Fraser, it provides a blueprint for how we might set the river free."
David Suzuki, Scientist, Broadcaster and Author
"We lead lives increasingly fragmented and disconnected from the real world that supports us. The Fraser River is a symbol of our legacy from the past, a powerful part of Earth's ccirculatory system. In this important and urgently needed book, Bocking reminds us of our embeddedness in and dependence on the natural world."
Mark Angelo, Chair, B.C. Heritage Rivers Board.
"Richard Bocking takes his reader on a wonderful journey down the Fraser. This book is a great reference and and enjoyable read, not only for those who know the Fraser, but for anyone with an interest in rivers and fish."


Richard C. Bocking is an award-winning filmmaker whose documentaries on the environment and the performing arts have aired on Canadian and European network television for the past twenty-five years. He has written and lectured extensively on Canada's water resources, and his 1972 book on water export issues, Canada's Water---For Sale?, was adapted from his film of the same name.

Born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Bocking graduated from the University of Manitoba as an agricultural economist. He has lived and worked Edmonton, Vancouver, Quebec City, Rome, Toronto, and Montreal. He and his wife Winnifred now live in Victoria, British Columbia.

Email Richard Bocking with any questions or comments. Telephone (250) 658-2993, Fax (250) 658-2989.


Mighty River is a hardcover book of 294 pages including 8 maps. It is published in Canada by Douglas & McIntyre of Vancouver and Toronto, and in the United States by University of Washington Press of Seattle. It is available in good bookstores everywhere. Autographed copies of Mighty River may be ordered directly from the author using the Order Form..

Links to Related Sites

Lower Fraser Basin Eco-Research Project.
International Rivers Network.
Eco-Research Chair in Environmental Law and Policy, University of Victoria.
The David Suzuki Foundation.
Fraser River Raft Expeditions.
Environment Canada Freshwater Web Site.


Mighty River: A Portrait of the Fraser is a celebration of one of earth's great landscapes. Like other great rivers of the world, the Fraser River is the natural, cultural and economic life blood of the territory through which it flows. And the Fraser's domain is vast: the river's basin encompasses a quarter of British Columbia and half of its forests and agricultural lands, the majority of the province's salmon streams, and two-thirds of its human population. Tacoutche Tesse - the Mighty One, as the Carrier Nation call the Fraser River - has long been a provider of food, transport and inspiration to the people who live near its generous waters.

In Mighty River, author Richard Bocking follows the river from its source high in the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, recounting many of the human and natural histories that intertwine on the Fraser's banks. During its 1370 kilometre descent, the Fraser flows with extraordinary drama from icy origins through majestic canyons, verdant valleys, hot desert landscapes and exhuberant rainforests until reaching its lush Pacific estuary. Bocking describes the ecosystems nourished by the river, the creatures of water, land and air that depend on the Fraser and its tributaries; the productive forests, fields and grasslands of the basin and the towns and cities that have prospered within it. He provides vivid historical glimpses of First Nations peoples, of explorers Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser, of gold seekers trekking the Fraser's canyon, of early immigrants and more recent residents who have created the modern society and economy of the Fraser Basin.

But more than simply telling the river's tales, Bocking sounds an alarm for the Fraser's future. The Fraser River, he writes, will demonstrate whether British Columbians are willing to pursue economic goals that are environmentally sustainable, socially just and culturally sensitive. Looking beyond the magnificence of the river and its landscape, Bocking describes how careless development wounded the Fraser in the past and how the river is vulnerable to short-sighted exploitation today. He visits people who know and love the Fraser: a riverman who navigates its most treacherous rapids, a rancher concerned about her children's future, a horse logger committed to preserving its forests, First Nations leaders and community activists, a third-generation fisher fighting for salmon and their habitat, biologists and hydrologists, foresters and agrologists who know the river intimately. Their voices are pragmatic, poetic - and sometimes chilling. The Fraser has so far survived deforestation, overfishing, rock slides, dams, rapid urbanization, industrial effluent and sewage - but only because its flow is so great and its human population relatively small. The river's future, writes Bocking, is anything but secure.

As the Fraser descends through British Columbia's heartland, its story has significance reaching far beyond its banks. The river provides a focus for the conflicts and choices that dominate Canada's economic, social and environmental agendas. The issues that will determine its future are similar to those facing every watershed, valley, and community. They will be familiar to residents of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin, or the Saskatchewan River basin, or the St. John, the Hudson, the Mississippi or the Columbia. The Fraser and its people have always been integrated with the world beyond its watershed by powerful bonds of biology and climate, as well as trade and travel. But recent developments in politics, economics, and communications hastening global integration have profound implications for the river's future.

One of the great assets of the Fraser River is the stong connection to their river felt by many of the people who live along its banks; they share a profound sense of place and of belonging. As evidence of ecological and social stress mounts on planet Earth, what happens in the Fraser Basin will either add to the gathering crisis or contribute to its solution. More than in most regions of the world, Bocking demonstrates in Mighty River that choices can still be made in the Fraser Basin that will ensure a sustainable future for this great river, making it a permanent, productive home for its people. The Fraser River and its inhabitants can provide the world an example of what is possible, an image of hope.

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