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The Thompson River is the largest tributary of the Fraser River, flowing through the south-central portion of British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker. The Thompson River has two main branches called the South Thompson and the North Thompson. The river was named by Fraser River explorer, Simon Fraser, in honour of his friend, Columbia Basin explorer David Thompson.


South Thompson River

The South Thompson originates at the outlet of Little Shuswap Lakemarker at the town of Chasemarker and flows approximately southwest through a wide valley to Kamloopsmarker where it joins the North Thompson. Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway and the mainline of the Canadian Pacific Railway parallel the river. Little Shuswap Lake is fed by the Little Rivermarker, which drains Shuswap Lakemarker, which is fed by several rivers & creeks.

North Thompson River

The North Thompson originates at the toe of the Thompson Glacier in the Cariboo Mountainsmarker west of the community of Valemountmarker and flows generally south towards Kamloops and the confluence with the South Thompson. For most of its length, the river is paralleled by Highway 5, and the Canadian National Railway (both of which cross the river a couple times). The North Thompson passes by several small communties, the most notable being Blue Rivermarker, Clearwatermarker & Barrieremarker.

The North Thompson picks up the Clearwater River at the town of Clearwater. The Clearwater, the North Thompson's largest tributary, drains much of Wells Gray Provincial Parkmarker.

A notable feature along the North Thompson is Little Hells Gate, a mini-replica of the much larger rapid on the Fraser downstream from the mouth of the Thompson. About 17.4 km upstream from the small town of Avola, the river is forced through a narrow chute only about 30 feet wide creating a rapid that resembles the Fraser's famous rapid. Many river rafting companies take advantage of the thrilling and breath-taking rapids that occur just south of Gold Pan. Including a wide array of boat styles (from a powered J-Boat to an extremely basic raft) and multi-day trip packages including food and overnight fun.


At Kamloops, the combined Thompson River river flows 15 km from the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers before reaching Kamloops Lakemarker, which is roughly 30 km in length, ending at the town of Savonamarker. From there it flows in a meandering course westwards through a broad valley area. At Ashcroftmarker, the Thompson Canyon begins and the river turns southwestward to its confluence with the Fraser. The river is paralleled by the Trans-Canada Highway, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railway.

From Ashcroft to Lytton, the river is completely confined within Thompson Canyon, making for spectacular scenery. The Thompson River joins the Fraser River in Lytton. There is a striking stretch of dark black cliffside just downstream from Ashcroft and visible from the Logan Lake-Ashcroft highway is officially-named the Black Canyon. Just below the town of Spences Bridgemarker was the site of a major rail disaster in the early 20th Century. Communities along this section are Bighorn, Shaw Springs, and Goldpan.

Major Tributaries

North Thompson River

South Thompson River


See also


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