When in High School my friends and I would drive the backroads from Quesnel, BC heading to Wells, Barkerville to the north west of town or down the Hydraulic Road behind Dragon Lake just south of town. I’d heard about Quesnel Forks but never been there so decided to explore the Likely and Horsefly area this summer.
Getting to Quesnel Forks meant driving from Likely along a winding gravel road, down a steep set of switchbacks about 11 kilometers west of town to the abandoned townsite of Quesnel Forks.
Last Car in Quesnel Forks
Another resource town long abandoned, Quesnel Forks was first settled in 1860 and served as a supply center for would-be miners heading north to the gold country at Antler, Lightning and Williams Creek closer to Barkerville. This was the best route until a rough road was cut along the Quesnel and Cottonwood Rivers. At that time this community served about 100 permanent residents and 2,000 or more transient prospectors heading into and out of the surrounding gold fields.
Photo of a Photo at the Visitor Center shows the original settlement of Quesnel Forks with the Toll Bridge
No Bridge Exists Today
From what I’ve read, Quesnel Forks had two bridges to cross the Quesnel River during it’s history – a North Fork and a South Fork bridge. The photo of the sign above, that I took at the visitor center is an ad for Adler and Barry’s Toll Bridge. Looking for information led me to another interesting trail about the Barry and Adler association which you can check out here: Barry and Adler
Landslide across from the ghost town
The footings for the bridges built along the Quesnel River were always threatened by slides and high water but the bridge lasted until 1948 before it was destroyed by a massive spring run-off.
Restored buildings on the bank of the Quesnel River
The riverfront of the abandoned town used to be a few streets into the current riverbed. When a big slide collapsed on the opposite hillside the resulting wave took out much of the bank.
Restored buildings on the bank of the Quesnel River
Remains of the General Store
In Case of Fire use Water Bucket and Run Along Roof!
The Necessary Porch
Interior Details of Abandoned Building
Leo “Shorty” Lahaie’s Cabin
Who was Leo “Shorty’ Lahaie? Check the link for some interesting chat about Shorty –
Apparently this tenacious miner was the last to leave town some time in the mid-1950’s.
Two Ghosts Chatting
Birch Tree in Abandoned Building
Gold Rush Miner
There’s a cemetery at Quesnel Forks (do you know the difference between a Cemetery and a Graveyard?) where some quiet time visiting the markers makes for an interesting history lesson.
Of Chinese Descent
In the cemetery there are a number of markers to remember the Chinese miners and merchants who made Quesnel Forks their home by the middle of the 1870’s. Many came from the provinces in South China and more came up to make their fortune in the gold fields after leaving the CPR on completion of the line through Ascroft.
So much history every time I check for details!
For example: Smallpox killed some; Mining accidents killed others; and what about the marker that simply says “In Memory of Jewish Merchants…Murdered…” What’s that all about?
Storekeeper Dies of Smallpox
Murdered Jewish Merchants
On leaving, the last visible resident made an appearance – just to remind us that although humans may have abandoned this site there continues to be a healthy population just behind the scenes.
There are so many things to explore in British Columbia, and many sites are not that far off the main highways. For example there is an old bridge hidden in the Fraser Canyon just north of the new Alexandra Bridge. This structure is barely visible from the new bridge itself so I imagine that most travelers don’t even know it exists. Probably just as well since being ignored in this day and age means not being covered in graffiti and garbage.
Looking at the Old Alexandra Bridge from the Current One
The “old” Alexandra Bridge is on the original Cariboo Trail and was built on the site of the first bridge built in 1861. The first bridge was built by Joseph Trutch who named it after the Princess of Wales and was a toll bridge. The charge was $7.40 a ton and in 1861 that was a substantial amount of money.
Trail on Old Highway
The relic of the second bridge is now part of a Provincial Park rest stop with the old 1920’s highway part of the trail down to the bridge.
I read that the original bridge was dismantled in 1912 – but the replacement wasn’t built until 1926. I had to wonder why. Apparently the Cariboo Road had been abandoned with the construction of the CPR in the 1880’s but when personal vehicles became more popular after the First World War the province starting to invest in new roads, including re-opening one through the Fraser Canyon.
I found this to be a great stop on the 8 hour drive between Vancouver and Quesnel at the end of July. Not sure if I’d like to make the walk from the parking lot to the bridge on a typically hot August day with temperatures soaring into the 40’s. And the park is not open in the winter – too dangerous to have traffic trying to get on and off the highway at this point on icy roads.
Looking from the North Access
Detail of the Bridge Deck – Rivets and Steel
I was fascinated by the bridge deck itself but trying to find more about the history of this design was a bit of a challenge. They are called riveted heavy duty steel bridge decks and were one of the first grating types developed in the early 1900’s. There are still quite a few riveted decks that stayed in service for decades, including: Riveted Bridge Gratings
The Veterans Memorial Bridge in Bay City Michigan which carries the four lane MI highway 25 over the Saginaw River originally constructed in 1957. the bridge included a new 5” Deep Heavy Duty Riveted Bridge Deck.
The Robert Moses Causeway Southbound Bridge at Captree State Park was built in 1951, and in 2007 the original riveted bridge deck was still in service.
The LaSalle St Bridge in Chicago, Illinois with Riveted Bridge Deck installed in 1971 is still in good condition after over 37 years in service.
The Robert Moses Parkway Bridge in Long Island, New York with riveted steel deck installed in 1951 was still in service after 56 years.
I wonder how they would stand up to the sand and salt used on roads in the winter?
Back to the Fraser River and the old Alexandra Bridge. The road goes nowhere from the south exit of the bridge, just a faint trail can be seen fading into the trees. The bridge is used by local fishermen since it is a traditional fishing place giving them a good spot to hook Chum, Pink, Sockeye and Coho salmon on their way upstream to spawn.
Driving between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky highway I’ve passed the signs to the British Columbia Museum of Mining many times and always wondered what it was all about.
In June of 2014 we made a special day trip just to check out the museum and found many interesting mining related artifacts that made me wonder even more. In todays post I’ll just provide some images from the tour route and then follow up with future posts about some of the things we learned about while wandering around the site.
There is a guided underground tour that takes visitors for a short ride down the entrance tunnel of the last remaining mill buildings at Britannia Beach. There have been three mills here in total, #1 operated from 1905 to 1914, #2 operated from 1914 to 1921 and the one left standing operated from 1923 to 1974. You’ll have to visit the museum to find out what happened to the first two.
Before going underground all visitors are required to wear safety hats – not quite as much equipment as the original miners. In this room the miners wet and dirty work clothes are placed in baskets and then hoisted to the rafters where they can dry out.
All aboard for the ride into the heart of the mountain. A copper filled mountain – or used to be anyway. Starting in 1904 and operating through to 1974 these mills combined to produce about 650,000 tons of copper and was once the largest copper mine in the world. Right here in B.C.!
There are many tunnels but visitors only get to see a few at the surface. The longest tunnel is 16 km and drop to somewhere close to 650 meters under the level of Howe Sound. Total tunnels: 210.
When people tell you that it is dark underground – well, it’s really, really dark. I put my hand up in front of my face and waved it around – not a glimmer. The first miners had candles. Apparently a team of them got to share ONE candle! Here’s what it looks like with one candle power underground. Nothing shows up in the background behind the miner – even though there is a mine shaft, rails, mining equipment and a number of other people standing close by.
The end of the tunnel tour brings the visitor out to a trail above the community of Britannia Beach where there is an abandoned ore carrier from a recent era and a view of the plant site.
The gravel trail leads downhill through the sample shed and on to the main doors of Mill #3. This building is over 20 stories high and is built on to the side of the mountain. Not sure how far up the tracks for the sled go – but we were told that people were never allowed to ride it. I think I see one single – thick – but only one cable attached to the sled. Hmm…where would it go if it came loose?
This is where that sled would go – right through this wall and across the lane into the adjacent workshop.
In a future post I plan to wonder about equipment that I photographed along the way.
While on a “busman’s” holiday last week the trip lead north from Osoyoos in the British Columbia Okanagan valley through the northern gateway at Sicamous and Shuswap Lake east to Revelstoke at the western entrance of the Kootenay mountain range.
The most interesting photos I came back with are from the what was the Haynes Ranch situated between Osoyoos and Oliver, BC. The property is off the beaten track and the remaining buildings can only be found if you’re looking for them.
The beginnings of the vast holdings were in 1869 when Haynes and his partner, Lowe recorded the right to purchase what was previously public land. In the end the ranch contained almost 21,000 acres.
Haynes in this case is Mr. John Carmichael Haynes, born in Ireland in 1831 arriving in Victoria, BC in 1858. His history sounds like an interesting story for another time. Highlights include sailing to Victoria via the Panama Canal, serving as a special constable under James Douglas (governor) at Hills Bar, Yale, Rock Creek, and Similkameen where he was to set up a customs station. From there he went to Osoyoos Lake and on to the Kootenays as justice of the peace – and a number of other government positions until he returned to Osoyoos Lake in 1872. The 20,000 plus acres were originally used as a horse ranch but quickly switched to a cattle ranch with a herd close to 4,200 head. John Haynes died in 1888.
When the Judge died the family returned to Ireland so that the children could finish their education. Val returned to the area in 1893. By then the ranch had been bought by Thomas Ellis so Val went to work for him as foreman. He retained that position after a company called Shatford Brothers bought out Ellis in 1905 and even after the Shatfords sold the land to the Government in 1919 for use as a Soldiers’ Settlement.
After checking out what I could find about the Haynes Ranch I still can’t confirm who built and lived in these old buildings. They are probably not part of the original structures from the early 1800’s.