BC’s Gold Rush History is alive!
Are you ready for a trip through time? Discover BC’s historic Gold Rush past on a fabulous journey along the historic Gold Rush Trail in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region of British Columbia. From Hope and Lillooet in the south, to Barkerville in the north, you will journey through unique geological landscapes, past historic buildings, and travel sections of the original Cariboo Wagon Road used by thousands of pioneers during the 1860s. These hardy souls changed the face of the province, as roads and bridges were built, stores and mills opened and ranches founded, all of which helped in opening up the interior of beautiful British Columbia to the world.
On August 17th, 1862, prospector Billy Barker found a major gold deposit at Williams Creek in the northern Cariboo. News of the strike spread like wildfire and hordes of fortune seekers from across North America and overseas flocked to this remote and pristine wilderness. The wood-planked town of Barkerville sprang up almost overnight near the creek and the rush was on! By 1865, a wagon road connected the southern regions with the goldfields and Barkerville’s population grew to over 10,000 and at the time, was the largest community west of Chicago and north of San Francisco! Today, Barkerville is a Canadian National Heritage Site, the largest found in Western North America, and is truly a “treasure of British Columbia”. Barkerville’s restaurants, accommodations, campgrounds and activities will provide you with a genuinely comfortable stay.
Many years later in the 1930s, in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains, another gold rush followed. The Bralorne-Pioneer Mine near Gold Bridge would become the richest gold claim in Canada. Today, adventurers can visit this and other mines in the region or retrace the route once travelled by mule trains, oxen carts and stagecoaches from Lillooet in the south and north toward Barkerville along sections of both the historic Gold Rush Trail and Cariboo Wagon Road. Along the way, you will visit many modern-day communities with historical connections to the past, as some began as roadhouses where travellers could overnight and stagecoaches water and feed their horse teams.
- Explore Lillooet’s First Nations history and culture on a guided tour of a replica Sheesh’kan, or pit house, visit an active archaeological site, or watch demonstrations of traditional fishing and drying of fish along the Fraser River. On Fridays, during tourist season, hop on the Kaoham Rail Shuttle that winds along the shores of Seton Lake passing many sites of historic significance and plenty of wildlife. Discover historic cairns beginning with the “Mile 0 Cairn” located on Main Street, across from the Historic Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre, formerly the Anglican St. Mary the Virgin Church.
- Journey’s through the famed Fraser Canyon are not complete without experiencing the Hell’s Gate Airtram near Boston Bar, BC. Explorer Simon Fraser described this narrow passage in his journal as an “awesome gorge”. Ride the tram down into the gorge surrounded by towering rock walls plunging toward each other forcing raging waters of the Fraser River to flow through a narrows only 110 feet wide.
- Stop at Historic Hat Creek Ranch near Cache Creek, where you can ride a stagecoach and pioneer buildings include a 1908 log barn which was built to house a herd of 200 Clydesdales.
- Visit Clinton’s red-brick building that once housed a schoolhouse and then a courthouse. While in the area, a must see is Chasm Provincial Park, created by glacial melt cutting into lava flows, this 8-Km long, 600-metre wide, 300-metre deep box canyon features rock layers in mind-boggling shades of orange, pink, yellow and purple.
- See one of the last surviving stagecoaches from the gold rush era at 100 Mile Houseoutside the Red Coach Inn. Originally named Bridge Creek House, it was established in the mid 1860s as a major rest stop and supply station for gold seekers heading north. It was renamed 100 Mile House as its location is 100 miles from the town of Lillooet, which was then “Mile 0” of the Gold Rush Trail.
- Visit Quesnel Forks, a hauntingly beautiful ghost town open to the public and accessible by dirt road only 9 kms from the town of Likely. Wander through original log cabins and a heritage graveyard; the only evidence of the thousands of past residents who lived here in the late 1800s.
- Williams Lake, a city of over 12,000 people and the largest in the region, has rural charm intrinsic to its ranching and cowboy culture, but is also is a natural jumping-off point for a myriad of outdoor activities. Bike magazine recently dubbed Williams Lake as the “Shangri La of mountain biking” for good reason. With over 200 tracks around town, for beginner to experienced riders, you’ll find yourself in biking heaven.
- Plan to visit the famous Williams Lake Stampede, Canada’s oldest professional rodeo which provides four days of great fun and activities for the entire family on the July 1st Canada Day Holiday Weekend. And while you’re there, visit the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, home of the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame.
- Enjoy a breathtaking Jet Boat journey where roads can’t take you; through Fraser River rapids and bizarre hoodoo rock formations, past beautiful flora and fauna, pictographs and petroglyphs dating back 10,000 years, all while learning about the aboriginal history of the area.
- Quesnel exudes a diverse cultural history with a deep commitment to preservation. Quesnel hosts a variety of festivals and events connected to the past, such as the family-friendly Billy Barker Days during mid-July. You’ll also find many biking, hiking and other outdoor adventures available in this beautiful Gold Pan City in the north Cariboo.
The Barkerville and Wells area is an adventure destination like no other; rich in history and full of life. Meet colourful characters full of stories from Barkerville’s past roaming the street amongst fully restored 1860s buildings, watch Judge Begbie (the Hanging Judge) hold Victorian criminals accountable, see authentic gold rush live theatre performances, gather the kids and pan for gold, visit exotic Chinese artefacts in the Lee Chong Store and Museum and enjoy tasty restaurant offerings while sipping a cold sarsaparilla. Wells, originally built as a company town for the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine, is now a funky little mountain town with a vibrant arts scene and incredible outdoor adventure at its doorstep!Fantastic hiking, biking, skiing, and motorized vehicle trails await you, while canoe and kayaking enthusiasts gather here for epic journeys around the world-famous Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit.
- Find peace and tranquility viewing incredible wildlife on your journey throughout the region, including a variety of natural bird sanctuaries. (See “bear aware” website to find more information about bears.)
Family camping vacations blend with incredible fishing adventuresfound in every corner of this wonderful region. Set up camp and bait your hook at one, or a few, of over 120 lakes found within an hours drive along Highway #24, aptly named “The Fishing Highway” stretching from Little Fort to Lone Butte. This is a spectacular eastern entry point to the region at the junction of Highways’ 5 and 24, which boasts magnificent unspoiled scenery, charming guest ranches, great swimming and watersports, and friendly fishing resorts throughout the Interlakes Area.
- Golfing, although not a staple activity like in other golf-specific regions, is wonderful in this area. With three unique championship 18-hole courses, and various 9-hole offerings including one that you dodge sheep in beautiful surroundings, you’ll get your golf fix and do it with incredibly affordable green fees not found in other regions.