One Tank Trip for North British Columbia Camping

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July 13, 2010

Feeling adventurous? Do you want to visit the days of the Gold Rush and the wild frontier? Come to the northern range of BC and you’ll be able to do exactly that, and then some. This northern British Columbia camping area looks much as it did in the days of the earliest settlers; rugged and untamed. Don’t worry about the absence of modern conveniences, though. You’ll still be able to maintain a foothold on the present while immersing yourself in the adventures of the past. In fact, the one tank trips route we’re showing you runs along the northern half of the gold rush route of the 1860s, along the Fraser River. So prepare yourself and set out for your north B.C. experience.

Williams Lake serves as a perfect lead-in for our one tank trip, as it’s a frontier town with an emphasis on cowboys and the rodeo. It’s a town with great pride in its heritage, as evidenced by the rough and rugged events it hosts throughout the year. Chief among them is the Williams Lake Stampede, an annual four-day rodeo held the first week in July, with a multitude of events such as bull riding, roping, bareback riding, barrel racing, and steer wrestling. Thousands of spectators make this their annual destination, and also enjoy chili cook-offs, musical entertainment, and dancing. In this area, the camping and fishing enthusiast will have plenty of places to pick from when it comes to private spots to set up camp. The word around the campfire is that these waters are teeming with all types of fish, so get your catch baskets ready because the fish all but jump into it.

Head north on Highway 97 and witness the wonders of nature along 70 miles of road until you come to your next stop, Quesnel (pronounced kwa-NEL). The town rests at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers and is at the northern terminus of the gold rush trail. It once served as a stopover and resupply point for prospectors en route to the gold fields. You can still shop at the original Hudson Bay Store, then take a walk across the Fraser River Bridge and hike the trails past Riverfront Park and alongside the Fraser River. Various other mementos of days-gone-by include components of some of the riverboats that used to cruise these waters, along with a water wheel that’s been here from the beginning. You can still pan for gold here in Quesnel, and when you’re ready for a break, head over to the Quesnel Museum and Archives, which has several artifacts and fascinating history of the area on display. This region also has some of the best freshwater fishing in British Columbia and draws fishermen from all around who hope to catch sockeye salmon and rainbow trout. Be sure to explore the surrounding hills and forests either by mountain bike or on foot.

Continuing on your one tank trips route through the gold rush territory, drive east on Highway 26 for 50 miles, which brings you into Barkerville. This town was once a thriving haven for prospectors, pioneers, and travelers, serving as a major commerce center and one of the more popular stopover spots. Two centuries later, not much has changed. Thousands of people still flock to Barkerville to soak up the frontier flavor; in fact, the town serves as a large living history museum, being a completely restored gold rush town circa 1860. Workers in town wear period clothing and perform jobs appropriate to the late 19th century, and put on reenactments, such as panning for gold and the ruthless town judge handing down sentencing of some of Canada’s most notorious criminals.

Northern British Columbia camping is easily one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada, but somehow manages to retain its wild, untamed natural state. When you visit this part of the province, you’ll feel as though you’ve moved not only across distance but through time. And there’s absolutely no hurry to return to the present: it’ll still be here when you’re ready.

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