The Cariboo Wagon Road

Road at Yale
Cariboo Road
at Yale
What a road!

It stretched all the way from Fort Yale up to Barkerville, built entirely by hand, pick and shovel, during the years of 1862 to 1864.

They built bridges and blasted out footings for the road to go through the side of hills, alongside the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and beyond. Many enterprising contractors saw profit in both the building of the road, as well as its future use. In fact, construction was financed by large cash subsidies to the builders, who were, upon completion, permitted to charge a toll from travellers for the next five years.

However, not all of these commercial ventures went smoothly. The initial payments from the government were often slow, forcing some contractors to put up their own money, and many men in the road crews were eventually lured away to the goldfields by tales of rich gold strikes being made by others.

The Last of the Camels from the Cariboo Road
The Last of the Camels
from the Cariboo Road
During the construction of the road, supplies needed to be transported into the road camps for the crews. A group of men, hoping to make $60,000 profit in their first season, purchased 23 camels from the United Stated Army for $300 each to be used as pack animals. Camels could carry twice the load and travel twice the distance that a mule could in one day. Unfortunately, camels turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. Many went lame since their hooves did not do well on the rocky terrain, and their strong smell frequently caused stampedes among the regular pack animals along the trail. The camels were all eventually turned loose and the investors in the venture learned an expensive lesson.

But it was truly the Cariboo Wagon Road that allowed the interior of what is now British Columbia to be populated, and allowed many people to bring services to these remote areas and to the miners that were working there.