British Columbia Gold Rushes

Mount Robson, Canadian Rockies

Gold on my mind lately and learning for the first time about the Omineca Country, also the omineca geology of British Columbia and why the gold rushes happened. The word omineca was used in geology to describe a rift region of land, left behind after dramatic upheaval, followed by millions of years of glaciation and natural climate change.

Omineca River

Between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific ocean lay a landscape that like the palm of your hand, can tell an amazing story, to an expert reader of such things. Terrains are the giant lines that form valleys and rivers, this is where the Omineca country is worn bare by the ions of time. This is where the immense heat was once generated when the earth’s crust, when it was sheared from beneath by eruptions of magma. This is where gold is born.

British Columbia

The Omineca Gold Rush was a gold rush in British Columbia, Canada in the Omineca region of the Northern Interior of the province. Gold was first discovered there in 1861, but the rush didn’t begin until late in 1869 with the discovery at Vital Creek.

There were several routes to the goldfields: two were from Fort St. James, one of which was a water route through the Stuart and Tachie Rivers to Trembleur Lake to Takla Lake and the other was overland, called the Baldy Mountain route.

A third route came in overland from Hazelton on the Skeena River and a fourth route used the Fraser River and crossed over the Giscome Portage to Summit Lake, through McLeod Lake, and up the Finlay River to the Omineca River.

British Columbia gold rushes were important episodes in the history and settlement of European, Canadian and Chinese peoples in western Canada.

The presence of gold in what is now British Columbia is spoken of in many old legends that, in part, led to its discovery. The Strait of Anian, claimed to have been sailed by Juan de Fuca for whom today’s Strait of Juan de Fuca is named, was described as passing through a land (Anian) “rich in gold, silver, pearls and fur”. Bergi (meaning “mountains”), another legendary land near Anian, was also said to be rich in gold as well.

Speculative maps of northwestern North America published before the area was mapped placed the legendary golden cities of Quivira and Cibola in the far inland northwest. No Spanish exploration parties in search of El Dorado, “the golden one” a reference to the legendary king of a lost golden city, are known to have ever reached British Columbia, although archaeological remains point to a brief Spanish presence in the Okanagan and Similkameen regions of the province’s Southern Interior.

The Muchalaht, the Nuu-chah-nulth group in the area of the community of Gold River, on Vancouver Island, which is a community at the end of a fjord that drains the west coast of Vancouver Island, tell a story of Spanish arriving then burning the valley searching for gold. Prospectors searching the valley have found old crude dug adits on the pass of the White River Valley and the Gold River Valley.

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