The year of 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of Barkerville Historic Town and the Cariboo Gold Rush – a time when thousands flocked to the heart of BC, trekking north through the Mighty Fraser Canyon with the dreams of striking it rich. To celebrate this historic milestone, we thought we’d compile a couple of lists which spotlight BC’s Gold Rush Trail history in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region of British Columbia.
5 Outdoor Adventures Along the Gold Rush Trail
Photo: River rafting down the Fraser – August 2010. Source: Hyak River Rafting.
1. Raft the Mighty Fraser Canyon
The first time I ever went white water rafting was two years ago in the Fraser Canyon between Lytton and Boston Bar. Although I’m not a strong swimmer, my initial anxiety quickly morphed into adrenaline and delight. If you think you already know the Fraser River based on what you’ve seen in the Lower Mainland, it is such a different experience rafting down the Fraser in the heart of Canyon Country. Not only does the Fraser Canyon provide a dramatic geography and a drier climate, but it’s also rich in indigenous culture and colonial history. And of course, the rafting provides the ultimate adventure to appreciate this kind of setting.
Local river rafting operators include Kumsheen, Hyak River Rafting, Chilliwack River Rafting, REO Rafting Resort and Fraser River Raft Expeditions - all offering rafting adventures of all types along the Fraser and its tributaries.
2. Hike the Tikwalus Heritage Trail
Located north of Hope along the Fraser Canyon, the Tikwalus Heritage Trail was traditionally used by the Nlaka’pamux First Nation for over thousands of years. This trail connected villages and fishing sites along the Fraser Canyon as well as providing access to important food and medicine in the high mountains nearby. It was then shared with workers of the Hudson Bay Company in the late 1840s as a fur trading route between Fort Kamloops and Fort Langley. Needless to say, the Tikwalus Heritage Trail is entrenched in BC history.
For photos, directions, maps, and details on the Tikwalus Heritage Trail, be sure to visit the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning’s website as they’ve been playing a large role in its restoration.
3. Panning for Gold
The Fraser Canyon was home to one of the earliest gold rushes in British Columbia, dating back to 1858. If you think the art of gold panning has been lost in this region, think again! Hell’s Gate Airtram offers gold panning on site where you can sift through gravel from nearby Hills Bar, home to the biggest claim ever staked in the Fraser Canyon during the Great Fraser River Gold Rush.
Alternatively, you can seek out professional gold panner Yukon Dan who teaches a variety of gold panning workshops throughout the year at various schools and special events. He even has a list of best gold panning sites on his website if you wanted to head out on your own.
4. Explore Alexandra Bridge
Situated in the Fraser Canyon between Hope and Boston Bar is Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. Though small in size, this park is a must for those on a gold rush history pilgrimage. As written up on the BC Parks website, Alexandra Bridge is “centred around the site of the original Cariboo Wagon Road bridge over the Fraser River. The park was established in 1984. It provides both a rest stop and picnic facilities for travelers. This site has been a natural stop-over and crossing of the Fraser River since the area was first populated. Because of its small size there are limited recreational opportunities within this park. You can access the historic bridge from a trail through the day use area.”
5. Discover Othello Tunnels
Photo: Othello Tunnels. Source: Stephen Rees via Flickr.
One of the coolest sites immediately outside of Hope is Othello Tunnels - a series of abandoned tunnels and bridges originally built in 1914 for the Kettle Valley Railway, but are now a part of Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park and are open to the public to explore. These five tunnels are an impressive feat of engineering as they were built in a straight line through the solid granite at Coquihalla Gorge. The natural setting of the turquoise waters rushing through the canyon adds to the magic, especially with the surging river in the spring. Two items you may want to consider bringing are a flashlight and a picnic lunch. Expect to spend about an hour here as the trail to the tunnels is 3.5 km round trip. For full details, visit the BC Parks website.