Cariboo Road
The Cariboo Road is roughly 550 km long and runs from Yale to Barkerville in south central British Columbia—our map may not reflect the exact path of the road, but it is reasonably accurate based on the information available today.1
Douglas wanted an affordable route to transport both men and supplies to the gold deposits in the Cariboo Mountains.2 The Royal Engineers were tasked with the construction of roads and bridges in the colonies.3 After a six month voyage, the first ship of Royal Engineers arrived in BC on April 25, 1858.4 The ship was carrying 450 men, most of them carpenters and surveyors.5 In this despatch, Douglas writes that 100 of these men and 30 civilian labourers were sent to build the road. Once surveying was complete, construction began in Yale in 1862.6
The road passed through many Indigenous territories and was later divided into sections that were contracted out to various individuals.7 The road was financed largely by cash subsidies given to these builders, who could collect tolls, for a five-year term, after the completion of their section.8 When the Royal Engineers left BC in 1863, the remaining road work was completed by these contractors.9
In this despatch, Douglas writes that although one section of the road runs along the face of frightful precipices, it is nevertheless perfectly safe for horse and mule travel. Completed in 1865, the road cost the British government $3 million,10 $33 million today.11 As Douglas had hoped, the road decreased the cost of transporting goods throughout BC, from $1.25 per pound to between 11 and 18 cents per pound.12 Unfortunately, by the time the road was completed, the gold rush had diminished and few miners remained in the area.13
The Cariboo Road was considered an engineering feat that demonstrated the Royal Engineers' skills, especially along the route from Yale to Spences Bridge, where the road was cut into the mountainside.14
Today, the Cariboo Highway section of BC's Highway 97 follows the approximate route of the Cariboo Road from Yale to Quesnel.15
  • 1. D. G. G. Kerr, A Historical Atlas of Canada (Don Mills: Thomas Nelson & Sons Limited, 1966), 43.
  • 2. Irene Stangoe, Cariboo-Chilcotin: Pioneer People and Places (Surrey: Heritage House Publishing Company Limited, 2009), 102.
  • 3. Helen Teut, Cariboo Road ‘Appian Way' of British Columbia, in The Royal Engineers: A Record of Their Part in the Building of British Columbia Commemorating the Visit of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (The Royal Engineers' Comrades Association, 1938), 9.
  • 4. M. H. T. Alexander, They Came in Ships of Destiny to Make a Province, in The Royal Engineers, 13.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Teut, Cariboo Road 'Appian Way', 9.
  • 7. D. F. VanDine, Drynoch Landslide, British Columbia:A History, Canadian Geotechnical Journal 20 (1983): 87.
  • 8. The Cariboo Wagon Road, Royal BC Museum: British Columbia Archives.
  • 9. Cariboo Road 'Appian Way', 9.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Robert C. Sahr, Inflation Conversion Factors for Years 1665 to Estimated 2017, Oregon State University.
  • 12. Teut, Cariboo Road 'Appian Way', 9.
  • 13. Stangoe, Cariboo-Chilcotin, 102.
  • 14. Teut,Cariboo Road 'Appian Way', 9.
  • 15. Official Numbered Routes in British Columbia, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
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Douglas, James

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British Columbia