FestivalSeekers and Miss604 want to challenge you this summer to #ExploreCariboo. The Cariboo region is home to an array of funky, creative communities like Wells, Quesnel, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Horsefly. Explore more, see the links below and #ExploreBC.
Rebecca Bollwitt (aka Miss604)
Chances are if you pop into a cafe, boutique, or gift shop in the Cariboo, you’ll see Pharis and Jason Romero’s latest album on display. The darlings of Horsefly, B.C. - and Juno-award winners for traditional roots album of the year in 2016, have recently released Sweet Old Religion - and just in time to headline the annual Arts on the Fly Festival in Horsefly.
Me? I picked up a copy at Horsefly Hardware in the heart of town and their sweet folk harmonies became the soundtrack of my Gold Rush Trail tour for the day.
Lovely Likely, BC where Quesnel Lake flows out into the Quesnel River
The discovery was made 16 kms above the mouth of the Horsefly River in 1859, pre-dating the Barkerville Gold Rush. Horsefly is located along B.C.’s Cariboo Wagon Road and Gold Rush Trail, that starts in New Westminster and loops up to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region reaching 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, looping off to Horsefly, Likely, (that’s really the town name) Wells and Barkerville, up to Prince George and back down through Quesnel.
Here are three points of interest, with some great photo opps and history lessons, that you’ll want to plot out on the map:
Horsefly to Bullion Pit Mine
(Driving time: 1 spin of Sweet Old Religion, and hit replay on the title track a couple times to optimize your in-car sing-along duets)
The hydraulic guns atop the hill at the Bullion Pit Mine site
The road is long, the road is wide
Come on love, come on light
Slow down, make time
You can take the main road or the commonly (and aptly named) Back Road to the Bullion Pit Mine Lookout, turning in off the highway at the giant yellow bulldozer. The main attraction is two giant hydraulic guns that looked out over the remnants of what was once the largest hydraulic placer mine in the world.
In the distance, you can see the huge pit that was formed by hydraulic (aka water cannon) mining between 1892 and 1942. Take a walk around the site and you’ll still see the remains of the penstock and ditches that brought water up to the guns. Everywhere you look in the forest there are old structures being reclaimed by nature that served an industrial purpose a hundred years ago.
Bullion Pit Mine to Likely:
(Driving time: 3 tracks from Pharis and Jason’s second album Long Gone Out West Blues)
Back in the car, soundtrack blaring while you cruise down Likely Road. Located on the shores of the peaceful and placid Quesnel Lake which flows out into the Quesnel River, Likely is one of the few other surviving towns from the Cariboo Gold Rush days.
There’s a hotel with cafe and pub, post office, and further south is camping at Cedar Point Provincial Park and the Cedar City Museum. This is a good spot for a pit stop before heading up the gravel road to Quesnel Forks.
Likely to Quesnel Forks:
(Driving time: 3 tracks from the Romeros’ first duet album A Passing Glimpse)
Robson Street and old ghost town buildings at the Quesnel Forks heritage site
For a ghost town, this place is very well kept.
Founded in 1860, and commonly known as “The Forks”, what’s left of this town (about a dozen wooden structures and cabins) sits along the convergence of the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers, 11 kms northwest of Likely.
You can park at the Visitor Centre, read information signs, and start your stroll. Walk past the cemetery, which while eerie, it can really tell you about the people who lived in this place including the strong Chinese population that boomed all over the region during the Gold Rush. The last resident left The Forks in 1954.
Old road signs give you an idea of the layout of the city, and placards in front of houses, hotels, and stores - or what’s left of them - tell the rest of the story.
The town is fenced in (just walk through some saloon-style gates to enter) to preserve the buildings but outside the fence is a campground with riverside camping and an accessible trail.
Abandoned machinery at a mine site, log houses melting into the landscape and getting swept away by the rushing river, there’s so much history in this region that seems to be dissolving in front of our eyes. However, thanks to volunteers and many organizations for their restoration and educational efforts, we can still enjoy these places, through their history and accessibility today.
Quesnel Forks back to Horsefly:
(Driving time: The Juno-award winning Wanderer I’ll Stay, on repeat)
Deer spotting along the accessible trail at the Horsefly River Spawning Channel
There's a river below the house you were born
It flows in the summer and in the winter both
When you feel that the weight of the world has come
I will take you to listen to its watery song
Make your way back to Horsefly, just in time for dinner at the Soul Food truck along the Horsefly River or to catch the 50+ musical acts performing on four stages for Arts on the Fly. Dip your road-tripping toes in the river, sit back, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Cariboo.
I rolled into Horsefly, B.C. on a sunny Sunday afternoon, passing the General Store and parking at the Community Hall, after about 50 minutes on the road from Williams Lake. Across the street, crowds were gathering at the firehall for a pancake breakfast. The sweet aroma of maple syrup wafted across town. I met up with Brandon Hoffman, artistic director of the Arts on the Fly festival who would be my guide for the day. #ExploreCariboo