When Was the Gold Rush?
Nearly everyone is familiar with the California Gold Rush that swept the south-west United States from 1848-1855. There have been hundreds of books and movies devoted to the approximately 300,000 travellers that made their way to Coloma, California hoping to strike it rich. The United States might be the media focus but what about Canada? Canada has experienced not one, but three gold rushes between 1860 and 1899. Each of these led to major changes in population and infrastructure, even leading to the formation of thriving towns that are still standing today and it all started in the Fraser River.
The Fraser River Gold Rush
Beginning in 1858, gold seekers flooded from across the country and abroad to seek riches on the banks of the Fraser River. Gold strikes began in modern Haida Gwaii. In 1850 with news trickling out and drawing in thousands of miners and overpopulating the region. At this point, the removal of gold was deemed a civil and criminal offence and miners were driven out by local populations. From here, they made their way to the lower mainland where news of gold deposits quickly spread through Washington, Oregon and California. Following the end of the California Gold Rush, thousands of out of work miners headed North. Within two years the number had shot up from 10,000 to 50,000. The richest discoveries were found between Hope and Yale in the Fraser Canyon.
The Cariboo Gold Rush
The Cariboo Gold Rush spanned from 1861-1867 but the region stayed a popular spot for panners and wealth seekers well into the 1930’s. Miners from the Fraser River Gold Rush expanded their efforts, finding gold on the Horsefly River and Barkerville. Following government regulations, James Douglas supported new mining territories, even ordering construction of the Cariboo road. This roadway spanned 650 kms from Yale to Barkerville and made it easier to reach the gold fields in the area. The discovery of gold in this region attracted miners from all over Canada, including the Overlanders of 1862 which included miners from Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New York, the United Kingdom and even Australia. The most frequented areas in this region include Williams Creek, Lightning Creek and Lowhee Creek, and became the centre of mining operations. Barkerville had rich deposits which led to the use of more complicated tools and technology and the development of a more permanent mining community.
The Klondike Gold Rush
Last but not least comes the Klondike Gold Rush, the movement that shaped the Yukon Territory as we know it. Following the discovery of gold in 1896, enthusiastic prospectors made their way North. An influx of individuals led to the formation of the permanent settlement of Dawson City and shape the region.
Initially the area was roughly developed by traders in the area as prospectors began to trickle up to the Yukon River Basin and its surrounding areas between 1885-1896. Gold was discovered in 1896 in Rabbit Creek, off of the Klondike River. This would later be called Bonanza Creek. Images of prospectors hiking the dangerous Chilkoot Trail have become famous all over the world and are made even more impressive when you know that each of these prospectors had to collect and transport a year’s worth of supplies along with them. For some travellers, the journey took themselves as far as 4,000 kms, only to be left trapped in the mountains as the winter rolled in. Within a decade many of the prospectors abandoned their posts but gold mining is still an economic standing point in the region.