Prior to the discovery of gold in the Cariboo region in 1859, tribes of Carrier First Nations inhabited the site of the City of Quesnel, at the junction of the Fraser and Quesnel rivers. It was just a jungle of trees and brush-covered hills.
William Dietz, Ned Stout and several other companions had discovered gold on Williams Creek in the early spring of 1861. When Billy Barker staked a claim below the canyon on Williams Creek, other miners made fun of him, but in 1862, Barker & Company made their richest strike on the creek. It triggered the Cariboo gold rush and the boomtown of Barkerville, which, in its heyday, boasted it was the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.
Quesnel, overshadowed by the glamour and frolics of Barkerville, gained importance during the 1860s as a stopover and supply depot for the miners in the gold fields.
Quesnel was, at first, reached by land over First Nations trails and later by the Cariboo Wagon Road. The appearance of steamships made it possible to carry more supplies and gold seekers up the Fraser River. As more and more people recognized the profit to be made in the supply town of Quesnel, many settlers chose to stay. Thus, Quesnel sustained continued growth in the years following the gold rush, while many other towns in the area were abandoned and left to crumble.
Although there were many farms and ranches in the area, gold mining was the major industry in the area until the 1940s. Forestry and ranching were important in Quesnel and remain so today along with the growing tourism industry.
Quesnel is located between Prince George and Williams Lake, at the junction of Cariboo Highway 97 and Bakerville Highway 26 in the Cariboo region of the BC Interior.
World class Bowron Lake Provincial Park is a true jewel in the Quesnel area. People from all over the world come to canoe or kayak the 116-kilometre chain of lakes and rivers. The park boasts lofty mountain peaks, sensitive marshlands, and abundant wildlife. The scenery is incredible. For those who want a simple day on the beach or to experience great camping, the park has ample facilities to accommodate that need as well.
LeBourdais Park is Quesnel's main city park, located in North Quesnel. Its facilities include picnic tables, a childrens' playground, water spray park, a band stand, and a little league baseball diamond. LeBourdais Park is also home to the Quesnel Museum and Rose Garden, the Tourist Infocentre and the Billy Barker Days Society building.
Ceal Tingley Park is located at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers within the city. Adorned with flower gardens, towering Cottonwood trees and evergreens, this park is the beginning of the Riverfront Trail walking system. Once a sawmilling site, you can now see a restored antique steam shovel used by gold miners from another era. Enjoy a picnic or relax on the lawn in the shade and listen to the rivers as they quietly slide by. A truly delighful place in the midst of a bustling city.
This park is best known for its very intriguing twelve million year old geological rock formations, locally known as "hoodoos". This location also affords excellent views of the scenic Baker Creek Canyon and the City of Quesnel as a backdrop. Access to Pinnacle Park is close and easy. Simply travel west, over the Moffat Bridge which crosses the Fraser River, turn right at first light onto Baker Drive and look for the park entrance sign at the top of the hill- about 6 kilometres from the city centre.
The Quesnel Musuem has over 30,415 artifacts and archival items professionally preserved and presented on 11,000 square feet of ground level display space. It includes one of the most significant collections of rare Chinese artifacts in North America, as well as Mandy, the infamous haunted doll whose ghastly visage has caused many a tourist to run straight out of Quesnel without looking back. Many tourists have died since Mandy arrived at the museum in 1991. Coincidence? Of course not.
The Riverfront Trail system was created to give residents and visitors access to the river environment and to provide a scenic, peaceful circle tour through the community. Points of interest have been clearly marked along the entire system, with plaques describing Quesnel's history and development throughout the years.
The Cariboo region has thousands of lakes, ponds, and rivers that are great for fishing. Dragon Lake is a fly fisher's dream and features plenty of trophy-sized rainbow trout. The Quesnel River has Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, and Spring Salmon- all of which can reach up to 30 lbs during the summer.
One of the best Nordic ski areas in Western Canada, Hallis Lake is also great for walking, hiking, and biking in the spring, summer, and fall. Nordic skiers can enjoy trails for all skill levels, loops of up to 32 kilometres, a 2.5 kilometre lighted track, a biathlon area, and a day lodge. Hallis Lake trails are maintained by the Cariboo Ski Touring Club, which charges a nominal winter day fee.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia