Lillooet is one of the oldest towns on the Interior of British Columbia. Formerly called Cayoosh Flat, it is located along the Fraser River about 240 kilometers up the British Columbia Railway line from Vancouver. Lillooet’s development was greatly intertwined with the events of British Columbia’s early establishment.
In fact, in the earliest days of the Cariboo Gold Rush
, it was set as the starting point when the Royal Engineers were designing the Wagon Road. It also grew to become one of the main settlements during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush
, and was described as “the largest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco”.
The development of this road as well as a few minor gold rushes in the area are one of the reasons Lillooet remains an important and flourishing community today. One such gold rush is known as the Cayoosh Creek Gold Rush. Cayoosh Creek is one of the major tributaries of the Fraser River, and takes its name from the local term for “cayuse” or Indian wild mountain pony. The Cayoosh begins high up in the mountains above Pemberton and runs along Duffey Lake Road down to Lillooet, where it finally joins the Fraser River.
It was on the lower reaches of this creek, located around 6 miles from Lillooet, that noteworthy placer gold finds had been made. An interesting thing to note about the Cayoosh Gold Rush is that the mining activity here had been undertaken almost entirely by Chinese miners. The news of the initial finds had spread through word-of-mouth and Chinese miners who were in Fraser and Cariboo left those crowds and turned in the direction of the Cayoosh area.Most of the mining activity took place between the Fraser River to the Cayoosh Falls, which is a now-inundated waterfall submerged by hydroelectric development.
By the end of 1884, the creek was fully staked, and all 300 claimholders were Chinese. Remnants of the old mills and furnaces can still be seen at the site. Piles of washed rocks indicate where hundreds of these Chinese miners once worked the placer gravels along the creek. The claims authority in the area at the time was Irish immigrant Caspar Phair, who noted that around $7 million of gold had been mined in the span of 3 years.
Towards the 1890s, many of the claims were exhausted and mining interest moved elsewhere. However, the Cayoosh Gold Rush is still credited for the establishment of other mines such as the Golden Cache, Bridge River Mines and another at McGillivray Falls.Next: 5 Ways to Find Gold Nuggets