This living attraction, an authentic 19th-century gold rush town, commonly known as one of Canada’s signature historical destinations, had a special surprise for us while we were on SnowSeekers’ latest #SkiNorthBC expedition.
Following a very busy summer, the town of Barkerville converts into a winter nirvana, which, for starters, features more than 100 kilometres of Nordic, snowmobile and snowshoe trails.
Sure, anyone can show up and you may strike the motherlode, but if you are coming here in the winter, one thing's for sure, you’re guaranteed to strike white gold -- aka powdery snow.
“Because of Barkerville, B.C. is a part of Canada and not the US,” explains Douglas.
It wasn’t until gold was struck here that Eastern Canada had any interest in the West Coast; it was so far and remote. For the United States, owning B.C. would have meant it owned the entire North American Pacific coastline. The mid-1800s that was an appealing situation, keeping in mind that roads didn’t exist; rivers and oceans were your highways.
While we explored Barkerville on snowshoes, Douglas explained how in 1862, Billy Barker (who the town was named after) found the largest creek-side gold deposit the world had ever seen right where we were standing.
"Immediately, people started flooding into the area. Within that same year, this area was the wealthiest gold-plated creek in the world per linear foot. What resulted was a boom town, the likes Canada had never seen.”
All that gold caught the attention of Eastern Canada, the Hudson Bay Trading Company, and the British Government, and the rest is history.
A lot of Scandinavians also came to Canada during the Depression era and many found gold. (Many still come today hoping to get rich because there is renewed active gold digging going on in the area)
Those gold-digging talents meant more residents for the town who were hired and recruited into the area. They had to be hearty and keep themselves amused so most skied.
Wells, five minutes up the road (read my story about Wells here), from the late 1860s through the Depression era, became home to thousands of people. Over the years, recreational trails for Nordic skiing were put into place, something the Wells Nordic and Trail Society maintain with regular grooming.
You can easily make a weekend or more out of a visit here, exploring the Barkerville Highway with stops in Quesnel, a downhill adventure at Troll Mountain Resort, discovering Wells, and of course, finding adventures around Barkerville.
Unlike some of the bigger Nordic ski destinations across B.C., Barkerville/Wells trails are, for the most part, big loops, with little danger of getting disoriented or lost. Onsite snowshoe rentals at Barkerville allow you to mix it up. You can spend some of the day out on the skinny skis while the rest, like we did, can be spent exploring history walking through it and/or up on the mountainside for a bird’s eye view.
Add in snow tubing, a new addition to Barkerville this winter, and it’s a place that is calling for you to come and add to your own adventure story of hitting the (white) gold.