Chinese Miners
Chinese Miners
People came from all over the world. Some travelled from Scotland, England, Germany and even from China. Most came north from San Francisco after the California gold rush ended. They came by ship because there were no roads linking the Fraser River or Cariboo as yet. They came to make their fortune in the fantastic new land of the Cariboo!

Becoming a miner in the Cariboo was not an easy task. Just getting there was a challenge. First you had to get to Fort Victoria. Many miners came from San Francisco on over-crowded, unsafe ships that had been brought back from the scrap-yard in order to cash in on the huge number of people rushing northward for this next big gold rush. These crowded ships were the first taste of the hardships that the would-be miners would face in their journeys ahead.

The Sternwheeler Lillooet Detail of B-09206
The Sternwheeler Lillooet
Detail of B-09206
Once a miner made it to Victoria, and purchased a license and supplies, he might have taken a paddlewheeler across the Strait to New Westminster. Most likely though, to keep costs down he paddled a canoe with four or five other hardy, adventurous people. From New Westminster paddle-wheelers moved up the Fraser River to Fort Yale, which was as far as the steamers could travel.

Read what one traveller to a roadhouse (an old-fashioned hotel) in Fort Yale had to say about the accommodations available for the travellers along the route.

Detail of PDP00026 by William G.R. Hind
Detail of PDP00026
by William G.R. Hind
After that, travel was on foot along rough trails. With 70 or more pounds on your back (32 kg), it was hard work. You didn't travel far in one day.

Some of the trails were old fur brigade trails used by the Hudson's Bay Company to transport furs down to their Pacific coast out-posts. One was the abandoned Hudson's Bay Company trail which led up from Fort Yale to Fort Kamloops, and the other was a trail that ran from Fort Hope to Fort Kamloops. In 1859, James Douglas authorized the construction of a road (actually a 4 foot wide mule trail) called the Douglas Trail from the coast to the interior.

It was not until rich strikes were made on the upper Fraser River and in the Cariboo that better routes to the gold-fields became a priority. In May 1862, the Royal Engineers commenced construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road. Starting at Yale, the road eventually lead through the Fraser Canyon, on to Lytton, and then along the Thompson and Fraser rivers to Quesnel. It was built wide enough to accommodate wagons, and greatly accelerated the movement of men and materials into the goldfields.

Not everyone travelling to the Cariboo came from overseas or the United States. A group of 150 men, one pregnant woman, and three young children, came across the country in ox-drawn Red River Carts (wagons). These "Overlanders" left Fort Garry (now Winnipeg) in June of 1862. The journey took them through Fort Garry, across the prairies, over the Rocky Mountains to Lillooet, then down the Fraser River to Victoria. Most of the survivors from that group of Overlanders never reached the goldfields! They were so tired and discouraged after their difficult journey that all they wanted was a taste of civilization in Victoria. And anyway, by this time they had discarded or traded away most of their mining tools.

One of these Overlanders was William G. R. Hind, who painted many of the best known paintings chronicling the life and times of the Cariboo miners.