Barkerville Gold Rush Town (Barkerville, British Columbia)

Historic Barkerville Gold Rush Town

Barkerville was the main town of the Cariboo Gold Rush in British Columbia, Canada.  Today it is preserved as a historic town and tourist attraction.  On the north slope of the Cariboo Plateau near Cariboo Mountains just 50 miles (80km) east of the town of Quesnel. In 1862, when the town was new, it was tough hard scrabble men digging through layers cold wet earth hoping that their next shovel full of dirt would hold a fortune in gold.

Originally from England, Billy Barker, the town’s namesake, tested his fate and tried his luck in California during the gold rush of the 1840s.  Unable to strike it rich but undeterred, he and eventually made his way to British Columbia where he found his fortune. Barkerville quickly grew as word of the gold spread throughout Canada and it became the second largest city along the west coast of North America (after San Francisco).  It was not just the gold that brought people to the town, but it was the gold that paid for them all to be there, the businesses on the periphery like restaurants, saloons, and churches sprouted up to meet the needs of miners. By the late 1800’s the gold rush had come to an end and the miners, shop workers, and business owners dispersed to other locations in Canada or followed the gold to Alaska.

In 1957, the government of British Columbia decided that the town should be restored and operated as a tourist attraction.  Barkerville appears today much as it did in its heyday and is referred to as Barkerville Historic Town.  While no residents remain in the historic town, each building has been painstakingly restored, researched, and documented. During the reconstruction and restoration of the site all of the remaining residents either moved on or were bought out.  Most of them moved to the nearby town of New Barkerville.

In 2008 the Chee Kung Tong Building was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.  The two-story building was completed in 1877 and was originally used by the Chee Kung Tong organization that opperated as a benevolent association for recent arrivals of Chinease laborers and merchants settling in the region and throughout Canada.  It represents the importance of Chinese laborers and merchants in the small settlement and their contribution to the development of Canada.

Visiting Barkerville

Barkerville is popular from mid-May through late September and daily admission is charged during this time.  In the off-season it is free to wander the town and check out the outsides of the buildings but they are only open for the summer months. Nothing is open and heritage staff are not working during the offseason however.

The town of Wells is about 5 km away from Barkerville and offers a limited number of hotels, guest houses, and seasonal camping. Barkerville is a 10 hour drive from Vancouver and about an hour and a half drive from Quesnel.

Barkerville Facts

  • Barkerville is Canada’s only historic site with overnight accommodations for guests.
  • There are 161 campsites at Barkerville covering an area of more than 457 hectares (1130 acres).
  • Barkerville is British Columbia’s best known ghost town.
  • Between 50,000 and 60,000 people visit the Barkerville Gold Rush Ghost Town each year.
  • The town of Barkerville (1862) is older than the country of Canada (1867).
  • The town was founded in 1862 by Billy Barker.
  • Each Christmas Barkerville holds a Victorian celebration.
  • At its peak the town had more than 8,000 residents.