Golden Miles of History

Highways and Byways of Lillooet

"Solidly and substantially constructed by our infant colony in less than three years, (the Cariboo) road was the pride of British Columbia, and a source of wonder and admiration to its visitors."

- Judge F.W. Howay, British Columbia From Earliest Times to Present, 1914

In the Lillooet area, ancient St'at'imc First Nation trails formed a sophisticated trading network later used by fur traders.

During the Gold Rush of 1858, Governor James Douglas concluded that the vast territory of New Caledonia would remain under the British flag only if a transportation system provided better access to the goldfields than American routes. He appealed to England for assistance and a corps of Royal Engineers arrived in response.

By May of 1858, the Royal Engineers had completed a wagon road from Harrison Lake as far as Pemberton then contracted out the rest of it to its terminus at Lillooet. The section of the Harrison/Lillooet road through "the Short Portage" between Anderson & Seton Lakes was the site of B.C.'s first railway with tramcars pulled by mules. Until steamboats were built for the lakes, miners and supplies were transported in First Nations canoes.

In 1862, as gold miners pushed north, Parsonville, directly across the Fraser from the town of Lillooet, became Mile Zero of the Cariboo Road with the Royal Engineers again in charge of its construction.

Lillooet is also the gateway to the legendary Skumakum or Land of Plenty as it was known to its St'át'imc First Nations people. In the summer, they would fish and wind dry salmon along the Fraser River. In the fall, they would hunt in Skumakum.

In 1827, a Hudson's Bay sketch map of the Lillooet area showed a First Nations bridge accessing Skumakum and from then on, the waterway it crossed became known as the Bridge River.

By 1896, miners had discovered the upper Bridge River and within a year, there were over two hundred claims on it with extensive hydraulic mining carried on at Horseshoe Bend. During this time, St'át'imc Chief Hunter Jack ruled the Bridge River country and drove foreign miners from Marshall and Tyaughton Creeks. Chief Jack was famous for distributing gold nuggets to his guests at his potlatches. After he died there were attempts to find his mine but, to this day, no one has.

Unlike the placer gold of the Fraser River, most of the Bridge River gold was in quartz veins deep in the underground. From 1928 to 1971, the community of Bralorne was one of Canada's most productive gold mining towns.

Before the Mission Mountain Road was built in the 1930s, access to the area was by foot on the Bridge River Canyon trail and then by train from Lillooet. Access is easier now with Highway 40 connecting Lillooet's Main Street to the Hurley Forest Service Road at Gold Bridge and then back to the Pemberton Valley.

Access to the Anderson Lake Highline starts at Terzaghi Dam off of Highway 40 going up and over Mission Mountain to the community of Seton Portage and follows Anderson Lake to D'Arcy but be warned, despite being one of the oldest gazetted roads in British Columbia, it's been described as more of an adventure than a road.

Set in the breathtaking scenery of the Lillooet area, all of these roads remain a source of wonder and admiration for those who are fortunate to travel them.

Want to learn more of the epic history of British Columbia? Pick up a map of Lillooet's Golden Miles of History Tour at the Lillooet Museum & Visitor Centre or at participating merchants.

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