It is the largest historic site in British Columbia with over 125 heritage buildings and many shops featuring Victorian-era merchandise. Visitors come to view exhibits, demonstrations, enjoy street entertainment and to talk with costumed participants of the town. There are also guided tours with a visit to Chinatown, the cemetery and the Theater Royal as well as many other special events. In December for two weeks there are also old-fashioned Christmas celebrations. To enjoy a visit to this town from the past, a visitor needs at least two days to see everything; a visit to the cemetery alone will take several hours.
Visitors to Barkerville can follow the route taken by miners in the Cariboo gold rush days so many years ago. In the late 1850's prospectors followed the Fraser River to the creeks of the Cariboo in BC's northern country as gold became more difficult to find in other areas. Billy Barker was one of those prospects who had decided to try his luck and in 1862 stuck gold.
Before long, news of his gold strike spread and many thousands of miners beloved into the area hiring to stake their own claims. With the arrival of fortune hunters a town mushroomed like magic from the wilderness surrounding his site. Saloons, dancehalls, general stores and boarding houses sprang up beside wooden plank sidewalks and a new town was born. Gold fever had hit the Cariboo as it had a few years previously in California.
Between 1862 and 1870 over one hundred thousand people had traveled the Cariboo Wagon Road to reach the gold fields of Barkerville hoping to find gold along the many creeks that meandered through the Cariboo. Built in various stages, it was 1865 before the road was completed. Previous to its completion food and supplies were transported either up the backs of the miners or by pack trains. After completion it became possible for larger freight wagons to be used to transport these goods. Stage coaches were then able to travel the distance between Yale and Barkerville carrying miners and passengers to their destination in the gold rush town. The most well-known of the stage coach lines was the Barnard Express Stagecoach Lines.
The Chinese played a large part in the formation of this gold town with over one thousand helping with the construction and building of the Cariboo Wagon Road. The road later became known by all those who traveled it as the Eighth Wonder of the World. At any given time in Barkerville's history hundreds of Chinese worked as shopkeepers, doctors, herbalists, storekeepers, restaurant owners, cooks, photographers and miners. Barkerville's Chinatown is now the oldest surviving Chinatown in North America.
The historic cemetery in Barkerville came into being when the first person was buried on the side of a hill on July 24, 1863. Peter Gibson was laid to rest at 31 years of age. On a walk through this interesting cemetery a visitor will notice that the average age of those buried is about 32 years. This quaint cemetery is the last resting place of some of the great and possibly not so great residents of Barkerville.
At its height Barkerville was considered to be the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. Even during the quieter time between 1910 and the 1930's the town managed to thrive until the 1940's when the new mining town of Wells came into being. After the birth of Wells, Barkerville became somewhat of a ghost town until 1957 when the BC's provincial government began restoring and reconstructing the buildings into what they are now. At present about one hundred buildings are original to the town with twenty buildings being reproductions.
Barkerville is as interesting for children as it is for the adults. On your visit to beautiful British Columbia, make Barkerville one of the places you see. You'll be glad you did.