Tourism Harrison Newsletter

Harrison Lake and the Cariboo Gold Rush

Harrison Lake and the Cariboo Gold Rush




British Columbia had two big gold rushes, one in 1858 on the Fraser River and the other in 1862 in the Cariboo district. In each, tens of thousands of men (and a few women) headed north to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island to obtain a valid "mining license" which permitted them to prospect for gold.

In 1858 Fort Victoria was tiny. No more than 500 immigrants lived on southern Vancouver Island at the time but within two months the population grew to over 20,000. Victoria became a tent city as miners camped while they purchased their mining licenses, and all the supplies - equipment, food, clothing, they would need for their journey to the gold-fields.

The Cariboo Gold Rush is the most famous of the gold rushes in British Columbia although it attracted fewer Americans than the original Fraser rush. One reason may have been the American Civil War, with many who had been around after the Fraser gold rush going home to take sides.

The Douglas Road, aka the Lillooet Trail, Harrison Trail or Lakes Route, was a goldrush era transportation route from the British Columbia Coast to the Interior. Over 30,000 men are reckoned to have travelled the route, although by the end of the 1860s it was virtually abandoned due to the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road. The route consisted of a series of wagon roads connected via lake travel. There were four lakes on the route, From Harrison Lake to the road's commencement at Port Douglas, Little Lillooet Lake, Lillooet Lake, Anderson Lake and Seton Lake, the foot of which is within a few miles of the Fraser River at today's town of Lillooet and from where the last few miles of wagon road completed the official Douglas Road portion of the road to gold.

The traditional story of the Harrison Hot Spring's discovery, talks about one member of a nearly frozen group of miners who were returning down the lake from Port Douglas, falling into the water from being either over anxious to reach the shore or from weakness. In any event he was so happy with the warmth, that his companions soon joined him.

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