There is a lot to look at on the road to Barkerville. Not just abandoned, derelict homesteads, farms and gold rush businesses, but the natural landscape as well.
In Northern Ireland there is an unusual outcropping of hexagonal volcanic stone. There, the area is named the ‘Giants Causeway‘. We were unable to visit on our last tour, and I was quite disappointed.
Little did I know, Canada has her own version of the Giants Causeway, right here in BC. Located on what looks to be ranch land, there is no sign, no pomp, no line-up and no tourists (except us!).
This phenomenon is called ‘columnar jointing’ and occurs in various regions across the planet. The ‘Devils Tower‘ in Wyoming and “Sheepeaters Cliff’ in Yellowstone National Park are additional examples.
“The columns form due to stress as the lava cools. The lava contracts as it cools, forming cracks. Once the crack develops it continues to grow.”
There are a number of legends based around these unexpected formations, depending on where they are located.
The unusual landscape has inspired more than just fairy tales – the German composer Felix Mendelssohn is said to have based his famous 1830 “Hebrides Overture” on the sound of the waves running through Fingals Cave in Scotland (believed to be the final destination of the Giants Causeway).
If you keep your eyes open and look into the ‘bush’, you will see a plethora of abandoned businesses and a variety of disused structures. Some of the units are obvious – an old saloon, a derelict church, an abandoned farmstead.
Others are far less obvious – like the structure pictured above. The consensus is that it is a native tobacco smokehouse, likely still in use – but that is consensus as opposed to fact!
Cottonwood is now an unincorporated settlement in the Cariboo district of BC. Initially a single family ranch, Cottonwood is located just off of ‘Lightening Creek’ – one of the most famous gold-bearing creeks of the Cariboo gold rush.
Cottonwood House was the last major roadhouse on the route to Barkerville. The site briefly held provincial park status, but that was revoked in 1999.
It is noted that there was some sort of scandal involving Cottonwood house, but all of the files and paperwork were incinerated (a common occurrence, a century ago – remember this post and its reference to missing paperwork?).
As much research as I do, I have been unable to find out much about what the scandal actually was, though I know it included land appropriation and BC’s ‘first citizen’, Matthew Baillie Begbie, who is now interred at Ross Bay Cemetery.
The last town before Barkerville is Wells. Though isolated, Wells is full of colourful buildings, restaurants, hotels and touristy things to do.
We found the people to be very friendly, and the town itself is worth a visit – something we planned to do after our tour of Barkerville. There is only one road in or out, so we will be passing Wells again.
With only three kilometres to go, we were excited, and expecting something fabulous from BC’s most famous ghost town.
We didn’t actually think (when we started out) that we would be driving the whole distance to and from Barkerville (a total of more than 18 hours) in one weekend, but that is exactly what we were going to do.
Because it was unexpected and last minute, this was one of the few tours I didn’t research out, prior to departure. As such, we had no idea what to expect from the historical site…
But we knew it was going to be good!
Additional photos in the slideshow.
- Matthew Baillie Begbie (wikipedia)
- Cottonwood BC (wikipedia)
- Giants Causeway (wikipedia)
- Columnar Jointing (volcano.oregonstate.eu.com)
- Downtown, Inner Harbour and Beacon Hill Park (VAN ISL Prt 2) (habitualrunaway.wordpress.com)