Posted by: lillooetproject | March 16, 2009


The general area was a very famous gold mining camp dating back to placer discoveries made in the late 1850’s. The New Westminster Mining Division incorporates the former Yale Mining Division and extends up the Fraser River to about 20 km south of Lytton.


The discovery of coarse placer gold on the Nicoamen River above Lytton in 1857 initiated the country’s first gold rush by prospectors from California resulting in the discovery of bar gold at Yale on the lower Fraser River and upstream points in 1858. The bars were mined very rapidly from this source before production records began in 1874. Placer activity occurred on the Lillooet River, but again production was not documented in government files during this period.


These events required the Governor in Victoria to provide an accessible route to the rich placer deposits in the Cariboo goldfields. Traveling through the Fraser Canyon was formidable and treacherous such that miners returning to Victoria in the summer of 1858 chose a different route. It was an old Indian trail that started at the head of Harrison Lake and went northward connected by Anderson and Seaton Lakes to Lillooet, then over Pavilion Mountain to Clinton and further north to goldfields around Quesnel and Barkerville.


Although lengthy and involving numerous portages the route was far more practicable, safer and provided the necessary access to the upper Fraser River in the interior for miners attracted by the Cariboo gold rush.


The Governor decided to upgrade the trail and it became known as the Harrison- Lillooet Trail. On August 8, 1858 a voluntary army left Victoria by ship to prepare a landlocked site at the head of Harrison Lake. Named in honor of the sponsor the Governor, Port Douglas was to serve as the transit jump-off point to the Cariboo goldfields. The trail was completed by the end of September 1858. Steamers were placed on the connecting lakes and a horse drawn railroad operated the portage traverse between Anderson and Seaton Lakes. By February 1859 the population of Port Douglas reached 200 and the town prospered for 5 years with more than 30,000 miners passing through. To meet their needs a series of 11 roadhouses and tiny settlements opened up along the Harrison- Lillooet Trail between Port Douglas and the southern tip of Lillooet Lake. Pemberton was established at the northern end of Lillooet Lake.


The Cariboo discoveries in the late 1860’s meant the death knell for Port Douglas. The building of a wagon road through the Fraser Canyon by the Royal Engineers started in 1862 and was completed in 1864. Wagons were now hauled the entire distance through Cache Creek and Clinton. Port Douglas fell into disuse as it was landlocked by swamp lands that often froze over 4 months of the year, it required portages and the town was situated at the bottom of a steep hill which was the starting point of the trail. Port Douglas became a ghost town by 1868 and was destroyed by fire in 1898.


Port Douglas is now the site of the base camp which includes offices and housing facilities, a maintenance shop, warehouse, hydroelectric power plant, and a pilot plant with a laboratory.


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