the Boyds' Northern Adventure

Trip Map

Dawson Creek to Barkerville

Scroll down to read our Journal from Dawson Creek to Barkerville.

For Dawson Creek to Chetwynd photos, click here.

For Chetwynd to Barkerville photos, click here.

For Barkerville photos, click here.








Monday, August 16 -– Dawson Creek to Chetwynd We took a detour today. Our original plan was to drive to Prince George, but at the Visitor Centre in Dawson Creek, we decided instead to go to Tumbler Ridge.

Before we left we visited Mile Zero in Dawson Creek, the start of the Alaska Highway. The more I look at old photographs, listen to tapes, and watch videos of the construction of the Alaska Highway, the more impressed I am with the feat. Eight months to build a 1500 mile long road where there had previously been nothing but trapping routes. Amazing.

Why did we take a detour to Tumbler Ridge? Built in the 1980s, the community was built in conjunction with the development of coal in the region. We drove by the Quintette Mine, the largest computerized open pit coal mine in the world until it was shut down in 2000. Today, Tumbler Ridge is the centre of attention for dinosaur fossils. The discovery of dinosaur bones led to BC’s first dinosaur dig in 2003, and further discoveries of bones, footprints, and other fossils.

But the reason we came was to see Kinuseo Falls. Accessible by a 60-km drive south of Tumbler Ridge on the worst gravel road so far, the drive was worth it. At 60 metres high, Kinuseo Falls are taller than Niagara Falls, though not as wide. There is a viewing platform at the crest of the falls, another one higher up, as well as an unofficial trail down to the base of the falls. The falls are impressive, a thunderous cascade of water, and the boys took the opportunity to throw small logs into the river above the falls to see if they could be spotted after plunging over the edge.

Above the falls, the fault which accompanied the uplift of the Rocky Mountains ages ago, can be seen as folding and an S curve on the canyon wall. As well, Kinuseo Falls present an impassable obstacle to migrating fish, so the fish habitat above and below the falls is different.

After driving back on the gravel road, we stopped at Flatbed Falls, a popular swimming hole. The river drops about 15 feet, and the formation of the falls is conducive to jumping into a pool below. The water was surprisingly warm, and it was a lot of fun, a great way to end the day.

Well, not exactly end the day, as we had to drive 90km to Chetwynd, to preclude a too-long drive tomorrow. On our drives the last few days, we’re seeing a lot more wildlife, particularly if we’re driving at dusk. We’ve seen elk, black bear, moose (still no bull moose, though), beaver, deer, and coyote.

For Dawson Creek to Chetwynd photos, click here.

Tuesday, August 17 -– Chetwynd to Barkerville Today was our Big Drive – 525 kilometres from Chetwynd to Barkerville. The air conditioning in the car has been acting up - sometimes on, sometimes off. Today, it chose not to go on at all. This was a bit of a drag, as the temperature hit 31 degrees C, and the car was hot.

We started our day with a short tour of Chetwynd. In 1992, the city of Chetwynd wanted to commemorate its participation in the Alaska Highway project. They commissioned a chainsaw carving of three bears to form part of the “Welcome to Chetwynd” sign. The idea caught on, so much so that Chetwynd is now known as the “Chainsaw capital of the world,” and is home to nearly four dozen handcrafted chainsaw sculptures. The Visitor Centre gives out a route map to see the sculptures.

You’d think that a chainsaw sculpture would be pretty crude, but it’s surprising how detailed they are. The carvers start with a 24” chain saw bar to get the rough shape, then switch to an 8” bar for the detail work. The result is impressive.

The whole drive today was pretty flat. The route from Chetwynd to Prince George to Quesnel is either in the open or follows wide valley floors, without a lot of climbing up and down hills. It was really neat to pass a number of times underneath the three transmission lines that we now knew were from the WAC Bennett Dam going to Vancouver.

The boys have been champing at the bit the last few days to get to Barkerville. We have such good memories of our trip here three years ago. We’re staying in the same provincial campground just outside the gates. After dinner, it was popcorn and marshmallows around a campfire, with lots of reminiscing of that last trip as well as anticipation of tomorrow’s activities.

For Chetwynd to Barkerville photos, click here.

Wednesday, August 18 -– Barkerville When we left Barkerville three years ago, one of our regrets was that we hadn’t had breakfast at Wake Up Jake’s, an historical restaurant that also figured in the story, Moses, Me and Murder!, that we had read before that trip. So you’ll never guess where we went for breakfast this morning.

We spent the day wandering through Barkerville, the town where Billy Barker discovered gold in 1862, thereby launching the Cariboo Gold Rush. Fortune seekers from around the world, 100,000 over the following ten years, traveled the Cariboo Wagon Road, named the eighth wonder of the world, converging on the goldfields and the boomtown called Barkerville. In its heyday, this was the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco!

Virtually a ghost town when the provincial government began its restoration in 1958, today Barkerville’s heritage buildings, boardwalks, shops, and theatre are faithful restorations or reconstructions, with costumed interpreters conducting tours and staging street dramas. Our favourites, both last trip and this, was the Cornish water wheel demonstration. Two actors, ostensibly a mining claim owner and his chief engineer, do a 40-minute skit that is informative and very, very funny. You learn the difference between hard-rock mining and placer mining, how mine shafts and tunnels are dug, and how a water wheel works. This is couched in a storyline of a worthless claim, the mine owner seeking investors to keep it going. We, the people in the audience, are the potential investors, at least until the end of the presentation when they discover gold on their own claim and drive us off. It was the same two guys doing it as were doing it three years ago; they do a brilliant job of it.

As entertaining is the courtroom drama at the Richfield Courthouse, just upstream from Barkerville and the site of the original village. Reminiscences of early justice in the Colony of British Columbia, with anecdotes about infamous characters are made by a protégé of Judge Matthew Begbie and the court clerk.

After attending court, it is a one mile walk back to Barkerville. Of course, we were thirsty after that and had to hit the saloon. Mugs of root beer on tap were the order of the day. I can remember going into that same saloon when I was about 13 years old, on a summer holiday with my parents.

The Theatre Royal featured a live show in the afternoon. It was a musical, with songs bringing the gold rush to life, and the audience encouraged to join in. It was a lot of fun.

Historical Barkerville had a Chinese section, many of the miners being Chinese. Many of these buildings have been restored. On our last trip, we had dinner at the Chinese restaurant in Barkerville. It was one of the best meals of Chinese food that we’d ever had, so much so that we ate there again the next night. On this trip, we felt it necessary to see if the food was still as good as it was three years ago. To our delight, it was.

For Barkerville photos, click here.