The Evolution of Gold Mining
Placer Mining Methods
Hardrock Mining Methods
Mining Claims Map
Dozens of creeks in the Cariboo were worked and re-worked for gold over the years.Creeks like Antler, Cunningham, Lightning, Lowhee, Nugget Gulch, and Williams became famous to those who fell under the spell of that precious yellow metal.
One of the first strikes in the Cariboo was made in 1860, when prospectors
found gold at Keithley Creek. Nearby Antler Creek had gold
so close to the surface that in some cases you didn't even
have to dig for it. A miner could make at least $40 a day, and
sometimes up to $300 a day. Some prospectors had been
known to get $75 or $100 dollars worth of gold in a single
pan! By early 1861, Antler Creek had been all staked out.
There was no room for any new claims. This created many
arguments over the boundaries of the existing claims.
Miners pushed on to new areas such as Williams Creek, a name that soon became world famous for the large amount of gold found there. Miners began by staking their claims in the winter, and then treking out to register the claim at the nearest mining office, 70 miles away, at Williams Lake.
In the spring, the miners had more work to do before they
could begin taking gold out of the ground. Large trees had to
be chopped down, and then turned into lumber. The lumber
was used to build mining equipment, such as rockers, sluice
boxes, and flumes, as well cabins and shelters. More often
than not, gold mining was a lot of really hard work before you
got to see any gold at all!
But by the summer of 1861 there was a great deal of excitement. One company estimated that they had made a profit of $80,000 by early August. A day's worth of work was not being measured in ounces of gold any more, but in pounds of gold. Sometimes it added up to 30 pounds of gold a day. By the end of the 1861 mining season, $2,600,000 worth of gold had been produced, most of it
from the Cariboo region. The output for the next year, 1862, was slightly more.
The Cariboo Gold Rush, like most gold rushes, was a mixture of both individual successes and failures. News about the rich strikes quickly spread back to Victoria, and San Francisco, prompting many more people to leave for the gold fields of the Cariboo. Many of these "would be" prospectors arrived with no knowledge of mining, and minimal supplies. With no room for new claims on the existing sites that were
producing gold, many of these prospectors turned around and headed home.
Others, such as Billy Barker and John Cameron, stuck with it. They moved into a new area just past the canyon at the lower end of Williams Creek. Working on separate claims, they both sunk deep shafts into the ground looking for concentrations of gold. The ridicule of the other miners soon turned to incredible excitement when Barker struck pay dirt at 55 feet. Later on, Barker pulled $1000 worth of gold out of
one small crevice he found 80 feet down. Cameron and others, also found gold at their sites. In addition, excellent gold discoveries were also made on the Lightning, Lowhee, and Grouse Creeks.
By the end of 1863 over 100 companies had staked a total of 3000 claims, and the value of the gold removed that year was just under $4,000,000. The years 1864 and 1865 saw similar gold production levels. Most of the gold was found during the first five years of the Cariboo gold rush. Many of the claims were still being worked in 1900. It is estimated that William's Creek and two of its tributaries, Conklin and Stout's Gulch, produced $30,000,000 worth of gold between 1861 and 1898.