Prior to the Cariboo Gold Rush, the Williams Lake area was occupied by a small Shuswap village. When the gold rush brought an influx of European fur traders and eager gold miners, this village was transformed into a bustling community. In the ensuing decades, settlers took up ranching and turned Williams Lake into a cattle town. Even today, ranching plays a major role in the local economy, and many of the biggest and oldest working cattle ranches can be found in the region.
Williams Lake is located on Highway 97, approximately 540 km (335 mi) north of Vancouver (seven hours by car). It can be easily reached by Pacific Coastal Airlines, Central Mountain Air or Air Canada, and via Greyhound Bus Lines.
Expect to see rare white pelicans and swans, eagles, and many species of ducks and smaller birds as they rest on Scout Island during their migratory flights. You can also go swimming, skate on the lake during the winter, or go hiking along the many walking trails.
The only rodeo and ranch museum in British Columbia! It features the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame, and displays photographs and biographies of many local cowboys. Western artists also have their work displayed, and there's a western art show every May. www.cowboy-museum.com.
Located in the heart of the City, this 17 ha park is the pride of the community. The park is characterized by gently rolling topography that supports a variety of landscape types including, manicured lawns, feature gardens, open grasslands and natural fir forests.
A spectacular rose garden adorns the main entrance to the park which is used frequently as a backdrop for wedding photographs. Approximately 2.5 km of paved walking trails meander through the park, providing access to a sprawling Central Lawn, Gwen Ringwood outdoor theatre, picnic area and skateboard park.
Cross country ski enthusiasts living in or visiting Williams Lake will find excellent cross country skiing and facilities a short 20 minute drive from town at the Bull Mountain Cross Country Ski Trails. The area offers excellent skiing variety suitable to all skill levels and ages with hills, viewpoints, a variety of forest vegetation and clearings, and a scenic 'wetland' meadow. Bull Mountain boasts 30 km of groomed trails and a 3.5 km of lighted track for night skiing.
From the west end of Williams Lake, the Williams Lake River meanders 12km along the valley floor, eventually flowing into the mighty Fraser River. The River Valley Trail and various loop trails follow the river as it snakes through dry douglas fir forests, open grasslands and stunning geological features.
The diverse vegetation of the valley supports a healthy wildlife population including deer, beaver, the occasional bear and a variety of birds of prey, song birds and water fowl.
The Cariboo is a meca for snowmobiling and a number of popular destinations are within a few hours drive from Williams Lake, including Mt. Timothy and the Yanks Peak area. Williams Lake has a number of snowmobile dealerships and an active snowmobile club.
Williams Lake and area features a world class network of mountain bike trails. Developed and maintained by the Puddle Bike Cycling Club, these trails offer breathtaking scenery and terrain that caters to a range of skill levels.
This annual four-day event is held in early July and features bull-riding, bareback riding, barrel racing, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and more. International competitors from Canada and the United States compete in this world-famous event. www.williamslakestampede.com.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia