While scouting the route for the trail, Dewdney made two significant detours from what was to become the official route.
Across the Monashees north of Christina Lake east to the Arrow Lakes and then South, on the Columbia River to Fort Shepherd
Following the advice from HBC factor Angus McDonald, Dewdney headed toward two distant peaks that he later found out were located in the Selkirk Mountains. This route meant that Dewdney headed north from what is now known as Grand Forks, up the North Fork of the Kettle River and then east passing the north end of Christina Lake and continued in that direction until he arrived at the Arrow Lakes. The following excerpt is from his letter dated May 27th 1865 from Fort Shepherd.
"Sir, I have the honor to inform you that I arrived at the Lower Arrow Lake on the morning of the 25th after a rough trip from the Inchwointon or North branch of Kettle River to the Columbia.
I enclose a sketch of the route traveled by myself and party.
After leaving Boundary Creek I traveled in the direction indicated on plan by the red dotted line.
The route is excellent for a trail or road from boundary Creek to the Inchwointon, but at this season of the year the whole valley of this river, about a mile in width, is flooded - it is thickly timbered with small pine and cottonwood rendering it impossible to work or raft through it.
I was compelled therefore to travel down the Inchwointon to the crossing about 100 yards above Kettle River on Mr. McKay's trail. There I obtained a canoe from the Indians and crossed my party.
On the following day I proceeded up the Inchwointon and camped on its bank to the South of a bluff in appearance similar to the red earth of the Vermillion Forks and which I found to be the dame on examination. Not being able to get round this point to the proposed line of road I ascended the hills and from the heights could see plainly the pass which I believe is the one mentioned by Mr. McDonald and which look very favourable. I also observed another pass in appearance lower than the former in the direction indicated on the plan I have for my guidance, and answering the description Mr. Jenkins gave of Mr. McDonald's interpretation of the Indian's account. I could also plainly see the high snow mountain which I believe to be Mr. McDonald's mountain and this pass bearing to its back.
I determined to examine this and found a good pass for crossing until I came to the point marked B on plan. Here I found myself surrounded by a regular amphitheater of mountains, and on ascending to the lowest pass found myself at an elevation of 6800 feet with 5 feet of snow. From this point I could see the valley of the Columbia, at a distance (I conjectured) of about three days travel. I traveled for about a day through snow on descending and could see the valley through which I believe the other pass comes out.
The elevation of this I believe to be about the same, but the ascent and descent more gradual.
I am told by the Indians that there is about the same amount of snow on both summits.
Dewdney's memories of the territory that he covered in 1865 remained vivid and were recounted to various reporters over the years.
From the Rossland Miner May 23, 1896
"The Hon. Edgar Dewdney, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, arrived in Rossland Tuesday and has since been around to see many of the big mines in the camp... A representative of "The Miner" had a long talk with him in his room in the Allen Hotel, when he related may interesting facts in connection with the building of the trail which has borne his name for so many years....
That is just 31 years ago and yet when I drove up the wagon road to Rossland, I recognized numerous landmarks at once. Coming down from Revelstoke on the boat, I identified the spot on Lower Arrow Lake where with an Indian guide and a white hunter, I came through from Boundary on a reconnaissance. From that point on down the river, it was all familiar to me. I made a great many trips in canoes that summer from Kootenay Lake to Fort Colville. Coming down the Kootenay, we used to portage three times and the only portage on the Columbia River was at Little Dalles. Going up the Kootenay we had to portage 14 times and it was a very tedious trip."
North from Fort Shepherd up the Columbia River to the confluence with the Kootenay River, east along the Kootenay River to Kootenay Lake and then south to Creston
The second alternate route that was surveyed involved heading upstream on the Columbia River, to the confluence with the Kootenay River and continuing up the Kootenay River to Kootenay Lake. This route proved to be quite an adventure as there were tremendous rapids that had to be portaged around at the present site of the Bonnington Power Station and mishaps with the canoe that were quickly repaired by Dewdney's guide Peter, an Interior Salish Indian from Fort Colville. The route up the Kootenay River to Kootenay Lake proved to be less than desirable due to the terrain and the size of the Lake. Dewdney attempted to avoid large water crossings as they were not favoured by traveling prospectors already weighed down with their own gear and animals and their impatience to arrive at their destination before all of the gold was discovered.
From 'Building the Dewdney Trail' as told to R.E. Gosnell by Edgar Dewdney, Vancouver Province, November 14 and 21, 1908
"My assistants who had prospected the country between Kettle River and the Columbia gave me sufficient information, coupled with what I had received from Mr. Hardisty, to satisfy me that I could depend on a fair route for a trail on this first section. The country I had traveled was impassible, particularly as a long ferry would have been necessary at the Arrow Lake. I then determined to explore the Koutenais River from its mouth to the lake, with the object of seeing whether I could get a fair crossing of the lake and utilize the pass between Crawford Bay and the St. Mary River, and instructed my men to remain at Fort Shepherd until I returned. I engaged the services of a couple of good Indians and started in a small birch bark canoe. I have traveled a great deal in all kinds of boats and canoes in British Columbia but for comfort give me a birch bark one. It is always dry and if an accident happens to it can be easily repaired, Indians always carrying spare bark and gum. On this trip, while poling up the Kootenais at the mouth of the Slocan River, I saw a couple of ducks and called the attention of the Indian in the bow to them, he having a gun. It was a percussion gun, and in drawing it out of the nose of the canoe, the trigger caught and it went off, blowing out the whole nose of the canoe. In an instant the Indian had stepped out of the canoe and on to the shingles of the riffle, and holding what was left of the nose of the canoe out of the water, took it ashore with no more inconvenience than taking in a few gallons of water. A new nose was put on the bow of the canoe and we proceeded in less than an hour. The Kootenais River, as all know who have seen it, is a very rapid stream from its mouth up to the lake, distance of some twenty-five miles, and we had to make fourteen portages in that distance, one around what is known as the Bonnington Falls of a mile. I had one Indian with me called Peter from Fort Colville. He was a very strong man and packed my blankets, a sack of flour under each arm, his own traps, paddle and poles, and the canoe on top of it all. He stopped once on the portage, and that was to tell me to go back and look at the falls, the roar of which I could hear, although the trail was some distance from them. I thought they were the finest I had ever seen, but little did I think then that I would see them harnessed and giving power to almost all the country I then setting out to explore.
After reaching the lake, I crossed to what is known as Crawford Bay and went some distance up the valley toward St. May River. I had, however, come to the same conclusion as I had in regard to the crossing of the Arrow Lake, that the ferry was too long, knowing how objectionable long ferries are to packers. But while at the lake, I thought I would take up the east side of its head, returning by the west side and down to the Kootenais and Fort Shepherd. On the east side the Indians pointed out to me what they called the Chicamen Mountain, or "Metal" mountain. They told me they made bullets out of the lead that oozed out of the fissures of the rock. This subsequently was located, and I believe is the great Blue Bell claim. On coming down the west side of the lake at the point where Ainsworth now stands, I came upon a white man firing at a mark with several little naked Indian boys. I had no idea that there was a white man in that part of the country. I got into conversation with him and went ashore. He was a very intelligent man and he asked me to go a little way back and look at some mineral which he thought was chloride of silver. He also took me to some springs. This point had become of some importance, and a good deal of valuable silver lead ore had been shipped from it. In the course of conversation, this individual told me his name was Dick Fry and that he had been one of the early discoverers of gold in British Columbia. He had married an Indian woman of the Pend d'Oreille tribe. He further told me that he was among a part of men who discovered and worked a mine near the mouth of the river; they were attacked by Indians, but he , having married into the family, was not interfered with and had lived in the country ever since. He subsequently was one of the discoverers of the Hall Mines, or at any rate he had an interest in the first locations. He died in 1898 at Rathdrum Idaho.
After bidding adieu to Dick Fry, I made tracks for Fort Shepherd, ran most of the rapids, only portaging three, and arrived at Fort Shepherd with my mind made up....
In these early reconnaissance trips, Dewdney passed by many interesting sites. The most notable was probably Bonnington Falls, which required a significant portage and was impressive in its size and power. Today, the area has a significant grouping of power generating stations, supplying a large region with electricity and forever changing the landscape. Dewdney also passed by some areas that are now significant settlements such as Castlegar and Nelson. He also passed without knowing their significance the large mineral deposits that soon would be the catalyst for the major developments of the Blue Bell Mine in Riondel, mines in Ainsworth and the Silver King Mine in Nelson. Dewdney's maps of the area also provide a glimpse of the terrain before it was changed by this development.