In 1862, Billy Barker discovered gold on Williams Creek, causing an influx of gold seekers to swarm to the area, which became known as Barkerville. Many say that it was this discovery of gold that ‘opened up' the province of British Columbia and gave way for a future full of hope. During its hay day, Barkerville was the largest city north of Chicago and west of San Francisco. Today Barkerville is western Canada's largest heritage attraction and visitors flock here to learn about the rich history of this region. Barkerville is situated only 8km (5 mi) from the town of Wells.
During the 1920's Fred Wells discovered gold while constructing a hard rock mine deep inside Cow Mountain, just west of Barkerville, in the Cariboo Region of British Columbia. These discoveries lead to a new gold rush in the area which provided new hope and opportunity for the region during the depression of the 1930's. Fred Wells founded the company town of Wells at the head of the Willow River. His mine, the Gold Quartz Mine, is one of the first discoveries of hard rock gold in BC. The community emerged and grew during this period, as people came from across the country in search of a new fortune and life.
Today the town is home to approximately 250 residents and is still known as a friendly mining town. Take a stroll through ‘uptown' and view many original heritage buildings, be sure to spot the only wooden-framed flatiron building standing in BC, this is one of the most photographed buildings in the province!
The small community of Wells is located 660 km (396 mi) north of Vancouver off Highway 97 to Highway 26. From Quesnel on Highway 97, turn east on Highway 26 and travel 74 km (46 mi) to Wells. For a unique travel experience follow the original Gold Rush Trail route on the summer back-road from Likely via 3100 road.
Barkerville is located approximately 88km (55mi) east of Quesnel at the end of Highway 26, only 8km (5 mi) from Wells.
Situated only 8 km (5 mi) from Wells is the historic town of Barkerville. Open during the summer months, from May to September, visitors can enjoy learning about BC's history at western Canada's largest heritage site. Stroll thorough town and feel as if you've gone back in time, with over 130 heritage buildings to view, live theatre, special events and over twenty shops.
A visit to Wells is not complete until you have experienced the town's rich heritage at the Wells Museum. Situated in the Old Island Mine Office, the museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts from the second Cariboo Gold Rush from 1930 - 1967. The museum is located just off Hwy 26 on Pooley Street. Take the first left after Jack 'O Clubs Lake and look for the Museum sign on the roof.
The Wells Community Hall is the largest building in the community, constructed in 1938 by the Gold Quartz Mine. The building is renowned architecturally with unique features such as gothic detailing and interior finishes of fine-edge grain Douglas Fir. The Community Hall features a large gymnasium, bleacher seating, as well as ballet studio! For information about events at the Community Hall please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nearby Jack O' Clubs Lake is an excellent spot to canoe, swim, sail or fish. This scenic lake is walking distance from the town of Wells and is popular amongst locals and visitors alike!
Bowron Lake Provincial Park is situated 32 km (20 mi) east of Wells. This beautiful park provides one the world's best canoeing opportunities with 116 km (72 mi) of lakes and rivers. The park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife such as bald eagles, osprey, moose, mink, beavers and bears. Reservations are required through BC Parks for overnight canoe trips, although limited drop-ins are available.
During the summer months the historic town of Barkerville comes alive and is fun for all the family. Try your luck gold panning at Eldorado Gold, watch a mining demonstration, take a stage coach ride or enjoy some of the numerous street performances or live theatre. Visitors can spend at least two days soaking up the history and enjoying the vast array of entertainment available at Barkerville.
The area surrounding Wells has a network of old mining trails, historic ditchlines and mining and forestry roads that are very popular for outdoor enthusiasts. The Cornish Mountain Non-Motorized Recreation Area is situated next to Wells and has over 25 km (15 mi) of trails. There are many trails that lead to alpine meadows with stunning scenery, while some can be hiked in a day others require three or four. For detailed information about hiking trails please visit the Wells Visitor Centre.
Wells has excellent trails for mountain bikers, the 17 km (10 mi) Cornish Mountain Loop is a popular training loop for bikers, with sustained uphills and exhilarating down hill runs. For those adventure seekers the Sugar Creek Loop and Devil's eyebrow are longer bike loops with fantastic views of the surrounding area.
Snowmobile trails extend in all directions from Wells. Situated on the Trans Canada Snowmobile Trail; riders leave from the Prince George Club House and ride into Wells, accessing fuel, dining and accommodations on their snowmobiles. It is also possible to ride from Quesnel and Likely into Wells. This region is a paradise for avid snowmobiling fans!
Canoeing is a popular activity in Wells. Jack O' Clubs Lake, walking distance from Wells, is an excellent spot for an afternoon of canoeing. Bowron Lake Provincial Park has over 116 km (72 mi) of waterways which are frequented by paddlers during the summer months.
During the winter months, Wells offers a vast range of cross-country skiing, snowboarding and downhill skiing. There are several popular areas for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, including Mt. Agnes and Mt. Murray. The Cariboo Ski Touring Club operates huts in the Mt. Murray area and both areas are easily accessible for day trips from Wells.
Dog sledding is very popular in Wells during the winter months. Each year, dog sledders from across the world flock to Wells to take in the famous Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run. For more information please see events listed below.
This annual 3-day event takes place in January and starts north of Quesnel, continues through Wells and ends up with a mad dash from Wells to Barkerville Historic Town. http://www.dogsledmailrun.ca/.
A 4-day infusion of street music, concerts and workshops is held in Wells at the end of July.
July 1st, Barkerville celebrates Canada's traditional birthday the way they did in 1870. Fun for the whole family including, children's races, tug-o-war, greasy pole climb, and much more.
August, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrates Barkerville's traditional Chinese community and heritage. Celebrations start at dusk with a lantern parade through the streets and wrap up with the Billy Barker Banquet.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia