Gold rush towns boomed all over the American West in the 1800s, but did you know that some prospectors were striking it rich up in Canada during the same time? The Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861 triggered the settlement and success of Barkerville in British Columbia. In its heydey, it was the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. At the time it was thought that Vancouver and Victoria would never amount to much because they were too far away from Barkerville! Today, more than 100 historic structures are still standing on the spots that they were built; many are active businesses. For the price of admission, this period frontier town offers daily activities and special events during the summer— guided town tours, blacksmithing demonstrations, story-telling by costumed interpreters, living history presentations— as well as shopping, dining, gold panning, and much more.
Barkerville is named after Billy Barker from Cambridgeshire, England, who was among the first lucky miners to find gold here in Williams Creek, and whose claim was the richest and the most famous. Billy began his gold-seeking career as a California ‘49er, then headed north with his fellow miners after the California Gold Rush played out. In 1868, a fire spread quickly through Barkerville’s wooden shanties, completely destroying the town. Reconstruction began immediately, and within six weeks, 90 buildings had been rebuilt, boardwalks were improved, and the narrow and winding main street was widened and straightened. In no time, businesses of every description were once again open to meet the needs of miners.
Strolling the dirt streets of Barkerville this summer is a fun way to glimpse what mining life would have been like here in the late 19th century. Relics are everywhere. Many of the historic buildings are filled with displays not only about mining, but also depicting family life, firearms, and early businesses. Barkerville’s exotic Chinatown is the largest collection of pre-railway Chinese buildings in North America and boasts one of the largest Chinese archival collections in Canada. Although more than 150 years have passed since gold was first discovered here, with all the activity and visitors in town, you’d almost think that the Gold Rush was still in full swing at this Provincial Heritage Site of Canada.
IF YOU GO:
Barkerville Historic Town
Barkerville is located 50 miles east of Quesnel, BC at the end of Highway 26.
Admission effective May 14th to September 27th, 2015 (in Canadian funds + 5% GST): Adults $14.50; Seniors (65+) $13.50; Youth (ages 13-18) $9.50; Children (ages 6-12) $4.75; Children under 5 are free. Second day admission is only $2. Family Packages and Heritage Packages also available.
Three campgrounds, with paved access, are located close to Barkerville Historic Town. For more information visit http://www.barkervillecampgrounds.ca
NO PETS are permitted within the town site, except for service dogs. Kennel services available.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com