Thinking about taking a stay-cation this summer? Why not go on a historical adventure this year and visit some of the Cariboo Chilcotin’s local heritage sites. These driving routes are just a sampling of the many adventures featured in the Cariboo Chilcotin Historic Driving Tour Guide and Map. Plan your tour with a mobile-friendly driving tour guide available at cariboord.ca/heritage. This interactive guide and map includes images, descriptions and Google Maps directions for each heritage site. As you travel, follow along with the print brochure to learn more about the sites you visit. Download the brochure at cariboord.ca/heritage or find copies at local tourism centres or the Cariboo Regional District’s offices in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Quesnel. Thanks to the volunteers of the CRD’s Heritage Steering Committee who have compiled the Historic Driving Tour and are working hard to preserve the heritage of our region so that its history can live on.
Heritage Tour: Highway 97 North
This tour begins in Clinton, originally known as 47 Mile House, with a visit at the museum built-in 1892. Continue north to 100 Mile House and experience local history with a tour of the murals throughout the town. As you make your way to Williams Lake, stop at the 108 Mile Heritage Site, the Felker Homestead (in Lac La Hache, 28 km north of 100 Mile House) and 150 Mile House to see the historic Little Red Schoolhouse. You can also take a detour along Mission Road through the original Onward Mission Ranch and the village of Sugarcane, home of the Williams Lake Indian Band. On this road, take a moment to reflect at St. Joseph’s cemetery and the memorial for St. Joseph’s Mission residential school. In Williams Lake, stop at the Tourism Discovery Centre, which is also home to the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. Continuing northward, you will pass through Soda Creek and can visit Xat’sull Heritage Village, an award-winning traditional First Nations village with tours and cultural workshops. As you near Quesnel, you’ll pass through Alexandria and Kersley and you can stop at the Quesnel Antique Machinery Park. Quesnel is the last stop in this tour – drop by the Quesnel Museum and Visitor Centre to learn about all the historic places in the city.
|Photo by Williams Lake Tribune|
Heritage Tour: Likely Road
The Likely Road tour takes you from 150 Mile out to Quesnelle Forks, where it connects with the Keithley Creek Road tour. Heading east of 150 Mile House on the Likely Road, your first stop will be at the Big Lake Heritage Site to see the remnants of the Big Lake Ranch, including a saddle shop, blacksmith shop and Mrs. Lee’s chicken house. Continue on to Morehead Lake, a man-made lake created to provide water to the local Bullion Pit mine, which will be your next stop as you view it from the Bullion Pit rest stop. The community of Likely is next on the tour. Visit the Likely Visitor Information Centre for details about all the historic sites in the area. You’ll end your tour at Quesnelle Forks, a ghost town heritage site harking from the gold rush days. From here you can come back from where you came or continue on the Keithley Creek Road tour, which links up to Barkerville, Wells and the Highway 26 heritage tour.
Heritage Tour: Horsefly Road
For an alternate route east of 150 Mile House, take the Horsefly Road to the community of Horsefly. Peter Dunlevy discovered gold here in 1859 and some say it’s where the gold rush began. Visit the Horsefly Museum and Visitor Information Centre to learn more about the historical treasures in the area. You can follow the Beaver Valley Road to form a circle tour with Likely and Big Lake.
|Photo by Leanne Schiemann (Amateur Photographer of the Year contest 2018)|
Heritage Tour: Keithley Creek Road
Note: The Keithley Creek tour is a more remote tour along a gravel forest service road (8400 Road from Likely or the 3100 Road from Wells-Barkerville). Check-in Likely or Barkerville for road availability and conditions, make sure to have enough gas and follow the driving directions in the interactive map at cariboord.ca/heritage. If you’ve just completed the Likely Road tour, your first stop will be Keithley Creek, which is about 14 kilometers east of Likely on Keithley Creek Road. This ghost town was once a bustling mining community. In another 100 kilometers, you’ll visit Antler Creek where gold was discovered in 1860. Cunningham Creek is just a bit farther and is another former gold rush site. Whiskey Flats is the last stop before you reach Barkerville on the Highway 26 tour. Here the remains of a gold dredging operation are still visible.
Heritage Tour: Barkerville Highway (Hwy 26)
This tour starts in Quesnel or can be connected with Keithley Creek and Likely Road tours for a multi-day trip. The Cottonwood House is the first stop, 29 kilometers east of Quesnel. This heritage site offers tours and is housed in one of the last remaining roadhouses from the B.C. gold rush. As you continue your drive, stop at the Mexican Hill/Lover’s Leap rest stop. This point was one of the steepest grades on the Cariboo Wagon Road used during the gold rush. Blessings Grave is your next stop; this is the final resting place of Charles Blessing who was murdered in 1863 for his gold. Stanley is now a ghost town, but you can visit the cemetery and view the Stanley Hotel, which is still standing but is on private property. Then take some time to explore Wells, which was established in 1930 as a gold-mining town. Visit the Wells Museum or pick up a walking tour brochure from the Visitor Information Centre. Your final stop is Barkerville Historic Town and Park, a national historic site lovingly preserved as a living museum and staffed year-round.
|Photo by Mary Johnson (Amateur Photographer of the Year contest 2018)|
Heritage Tour: Dog Creek Road
Starting from Williams Lake, you can take a day trip circle tour, mostly on gravel roads, along Dog Creek Road and connecting back to Highway 20 near Riske Creek to return to Williams Lake. You will first pass through Springhouse and then Alkali Lake Ranch and the Esk’etemc First Nations community. Meandering along the Fraser River, you’ll pass the former Dog Creek airport, built during World War II by the Royal Canadian Air Force but abandoned when the Williams Lake airport was opened in 1961. Once you cross the Gang Ranch Bridge, you can stop at the kiosk marking the gateway to Churn Creek Protected Area and view the petroglyph which was taken to Vancouver in 1926 and recently repatriated by local First Nations. As you continue back on Dog Creek Road, you will drive through the Gang Ranch, an operational ranch founded in 1863 and Farwell Canyon, which is a favourite local hiking spot.
|Photo by Chris Bertenshaw (Amateur Photographer of the Year contest 2018)|
Heritage Tour: Highway 20
Heading east from Williams Lake, there are plenty of historic sites along Highway 20 as you head to Bella Coola. The first stop is Lee’s Corner in Hanceville, where several historic buildings were located but unfortunately were destroyed by wildfire in 2017. Alexis Creek is next, named after Chief Alexis of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, who was chief during the time of the Chilcotin War of 1864. Stop at the Visitor Information Centre and nearby Bull Canyon Provincial Park and walk the interpretive trails. Puntzi Lake is about 185 kilometers west of Williams Lake. The Puntzi Lake Airport and radar station were established in WWII as part of the Pinetree Line and the airstrip is still operational. In Tatla Lake, visit the Graham Inn, built in the late 1920s by Robert Graham as a mansion for his wife, and tour the historic cemetery. Past Anahim Lake, you will arrive at the famous “Freedom Hill” which leads down to Bella Coola. Once in Bella Coola, visit the Museum and Visitor Information Centre to learn about the First Nations history of this area and to learn more about Freedom Hill.
Thank you to Emily Epp and the Cariboo Regional District for providing the Cariboo Chilcotin Heritage Driving Tours.