Barkerville – Centre of British Columbia’s Cariboo Gold Rush

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Author: Bob Kenyon

Barkerville, BC

Take a trip back to the 1860’s Cariboo Gold Rush in British Columbia, Canada. Barkerville was the main town of the central BC quest for gold  and is preserved as a historic town. It is located on the north slope of the Cariboo Plateau near the Cariboo Mountains 80 kilometers (50 mi.) east of Quesnel along BC Highway 26, which follows the route of the original access to Barkerville, the Cariboo Wagon Road.

In 1862, Billy Barker struck gold on Williams Creek starting a rush of fortune seekers from all over the world. Some claimed that Barkerville would become the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. The National Historic Site, with its more than 100 historic wooden buildings and structures within Barkerville, is western Canada’s largest heritage site. Being that large also means visitors should plan on at least two days to enjoy this interactive, restored Cariboo gold rush town!

Barkerville, BC

At Barkerville you can start your visit with 45 min. tour the of the town with one the colourful characters from Barkerville’s past. The tour is included in the cost of your admission and if you plan to stay for another day, save your admission receipt, second day admission is only $2.00.

Other things you can do at Barkerville are (but not limited to):

Judge Begbie Barkerville, BC

  • Watch the notorious Judge Begbie strike fear into the hearts of history’s criminals (above)
  • Witness authentic gold rush Theatre Royal
  • See a real Cornish Waterwheel in action
  • Pan for gold with your family and friends
  • Visit Barkerville’s well preserved Chinatown
  • Go back to school in the 1800’s
  • Eat in period bakeries, saloons and Chinese restaurants

Barkerville, BC

If you’re planning a trip to Barkerville, today the trip is relatively easy using the highways of British Columbia. In the 1860’s it was much different, as accounted in “Cariboo…A True and Correct Narrative” by William Mark, about his trip from England to the Cariboo Gold fields. This lengthy document is part of The Historic Collections of Barkerville. 

There are also some hiking trails, in the Barkerville area and one backpack trail (The 1861 Gold Rush Pack Trail – 40+ kms one way). Information about these trails are provided by the Friends of Barkerville Cariboo Goldfields Historical Society. Those seeking more outdoor activities, should look at including nearby Bowron Lakes Provincial Park and going south, Cariboo Mountains and Wells Gray Provincial Parks. 

You can stay at Barkerville in a guest house or the St. George Hotel Bed & Breakfast, which is a restored saloon and brothel and there are campgrounds. For all accommodations, reservations should be made for the peak summer season. There are more accommodations in the nearby town of Wells, which also offers historical tourist attractions.

During the annual August 1st weekend the Island Mountain Arts Society, located in nearby Wells, hosts parts of their annual ArtsWells Festival at Barkerville. With the dynamic talent of over 100 artists and performers, ArtsWells has developed the reputation of BC’s largest and best new indie arts festival.   

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