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Lower Mainland
Fraser Canyon



The Gold Rush Trail

clickable map access to the Gold Rush Trail

Gold! Gold! It was 1859 when the cry went up, "Gold has been found in the Cariboo, along the Quesnel River!!!!!!"

From that time on, life in British Columbia was forever changed. While many prospectors arrived by boat up the Fraser River to Yale, others traveled overland by way of the old Yale Road, from New Westminster. From there they fought their way north through unknown land, driven by the lure of gold. With so many people arriving suddenly, food became very scarce. Fortunately the Preemption Act in 1860 made arable land available to settlers and farmers in the new province of British Columbia.

Due to evidence of rich gold finds, Governor Douglas encouraged the building of a wagon road from Yale to the Quesnel River. Although Hope had been the original starting point, taxpayers there had refused to pay the increased levy.

By fall of the next year, when the Royal Engineers surveyed the route, they blasted the sheer rock walls of the Fraser Canyon to make way for a road 18 feet wide. Actual road building commenced in May of 1862 and today a rock cairn commemorating this event, stands in Yale. Sergeant McColl, of the Royal Engineers, was sent to locate a bridge site across the Fraser River near Spuzzum, Alexandra Bridge, the first suspension bridge in British Columbia, was built in 1863.

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All text and images © Quesnel & District Museum and Archives unless otherwise noted. Thanks to the B.C. Archives for permission to show various images. Thanks to the BC Encyclopedia for permission to quote information on the roadhouse communities. Thanks to the Living Landscapes Project, the Royal British Columbia Museum, Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services for their support of site development.

Last modified 27 May, 2003