Overview – Russians and the Tlingit in Alaska – 1774: Pérez to Haida Gwaii – Olympic Range – 1775: Quadra and the Quinault – 1777: Cook at Nootka Sound – Yuquot and the Mowachaht Annual Round – 1780s: Clayoquot Sound – 1791: Spain Maps Straits of Juan de Fuca – 1791: Spanish on Salish Sea – 1792: George Vancouver enters Straits of Juan de Fuca – Summer 1792: Spain and England Map Coast – July 1792: Vancouver on Johnstone’s Strait – 1792: Americans then the British on Columbia River – 1792-93: Vancouver near Bella Bella – 1690s to 1750s: Fur traders reach Prairies – 1778: Peter Pond on Athabasca River – 1788: Fort Chipewyan Established – 1792-93: Alexander Mackenzie on Peace River – Traversing the Rocky Mountains Break – 1793: Mackenzie on Fraser River – July 1793: Mackenzie Reaches Pacific Ocean
In the 1770s, European explorers and traders were advancing on the northwest coast from all directions. To the north, Russian fur traders had crossed the Bering Straits and were advancing southward towards what is now the Alaska panhandle. Hearing rumours of Russian forays, the Spanish finally began to explore northward from Mexico by land and ship. The great English sailor, Captain James Cook arrived on the coast to search for the famed Northwest Passage, a mythical sea channel across the Americans. Within a few years, American sailors from Boston would also be calling. Meanwhile, from the east, courier de bois from Montreal had crossed the Great Lakes and were tracking their canoes up the Saskatchewan River into the interior. Hudson Bay Company traders were forced to compete, and left their fort by the bay and also began to explore the interior.
Within 2 short decades, by the early 1790s the coast had been mapped. In 1793 Alexander Mackenzie crossed the continent by river and foot. The myth of an easily navigated Northwest Passage for shipping was debunked.