Defining Siwash | Our History & Culture at Siwash Lake

Siwash, pronounced 'Sigh wash', is a word derived from the Chinook Jargon, a bridge language created on the Pacific Northwest frontier during the Gold Rush years in the late 1800's, early 1900's for trading between Indigenous, French and English people. Siwash is thought to come from the French word sauvage, which directly translated means wild, natural and untamed — une région sauvage is a wilderness.

In studying the etymology of Old French sauvage, it is descendant for Latin silvāticus, from silva ('forest'). As such, the verb siwash means to go into the wild forest. These days, it is still used to describe camping without a tent where one takes only the most basic of survival gear along and uses natural shelter — heading into the woods for exploration, hunting, and gathering — traveling swiftly and lightly as an Indigenous person would have done years ago.

Family members - Pioneer settlers near Siwash in the late 1800's   Amid the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains lays a spectacular region full of natural beauty, history, culture and endless adventures. Discovered during the Gold Rush a century and a half ago, British Columbia's Cariboo is a place to roam free. Many small frontier settlements, which sprung up along the trail to the goldfields, were built by cowboys and adventurers from around the world. Thus began the Cariboo's iconic ranch and rodeo heritage.

For the uniqueness of our Siwash setting, we are fortunate to be located in a rugged and remote area, but we are also very grateful to the guardians of the land: the Indigenous people of the area—the Secwepemc First Nation—self-governing, prosperous communities guided by their unified values, language and culture. The  Secwepemc are the northernmost Interior Salish group of the Plateau area. Siwash Lake is within the asserted territories of several local Secwepemc communities: these are High Bar, Bonaparte, Skeetchestn, Canoe Creek, and Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band.

For at least five thousand years, the lands around Siwash have been traditional grounds for these nomadic people, who would travel through in summers for hunting, fishing, and gathering plants for food, medicinal, spiritual and ceremonial uses.

A journey to the Cariboo and Siwash Lake follows routes carved from raw wilderness by all those who went before. These days, the town of 70 Mile House is gateway to Siwash.
'70 Mile' was originally a stage coach stop and road house located directly on the historic Cariboo Gold Rush Trail, which is the main track up to the gold fields. The town of Lillooet, on British Columbia's mighty Fraser River, is 'mile 0' and 70 Mile House is literally 70 miles along the old trail from Lillooet.

Just north of Lillooet is the largest Indigenous fishery on the Fraser River. Every summer, hundreds of Secwepemc people gather to dip-net salmon from the turbulent waters. The fish are filleted and hung on covered racks to dry in the warm winds. Indigenous people throughout British Columbia travel to Lillooet to barter for this delicacy. Siwash's Helicopter Safari to the Fraser Canyon explores the rich history of the gold rush years in BC and celebrates First Nations presence in the region, past and present.

Many of those introduced to the area during the Gold Rush stayed on to try their hand at ranching. Siwash Lake was originally named and homesteaded by a Scottish settler, in the early 1900's. All he constructed at the time was a small trapper's cabin.

From then until 1992, when the home ranch was carved out of the wilderness by modern day pioneers, the land remained untouched for wildlife and cattle to roam.

At first, as a young single woman, the owner camped on the property with her horse, so she could get to know her land and the surrounding wilderness before starting to build. Her vision was to create an authentic, Canadian frontier ranch that would be in complete harmony with the wilderness surrounding it, and to share the wonders of it all with like-minded people from all around the globe.

A few years later, she met the love of her life at a local rodeo; together they raised two children and created a world-class resort at Siwash Lake.


A Salute to our Heritage

As fourth generation ranchers, adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts, the founders at Siwash Lake were inspired and guided by their ancestors—family members who were Indigenous people and European emigrantscowboys, farmers, and mountaineers.

Everything about the place at Siwash Lake bears homage to these hardy folk and their deep connection to the land. The Legacy of Siwash celebrates the wonders of Nature alongside their ever-bearing perseverance and passion for living in the wild.