History of the Goat River
Before European settlement the Goat River was used by aboriginal people as a travel corridor between the upper Fraser River and the Bowron Lakes. In 1862, gold was discovered on Williams Creek, creating the bustling town of Barkerville which became the destination for hundreds of prospectors. Most travelled to the town via the Cariboo Wagon Road. Starting in 1871, a CPR survey crew cut a trail from Barkerville, through the Goat, as a possible route for a railway, but the idea was shortly abandoned.
In an attempt to explore the area north of Barkerville, a mineral survey expedition was mounted in 1886 headed by Robert Buchanan. He and his crew named the Goat River and cut and blazed a trail down its length to the Fraser. They recommended to John Bowron, the gold commissioner, that the trail be upgraded so that miners could get through with there pack animals.
The following year, 40 prospectors mined along the Goat for gold, and the Ministry of Mines wrote that a “tolerably good trail has been made through to the Fraser, some 75 miles below (Barkerville)”. Prospectors worked the river and in the winter of 1908, two prospectors froze to death when supplies failed to arrive, and in an attempt to get to Barkerville, took the wrong fork (McLeod Cr.) instead the the Goat River trail. The trail was also used to deliver bootleg liquor to railway construction camps along the Fraser River.
There was talk in 1913 of building a highway linking Edmonton to Quesnel via Barkerville and down the Goat. In 1914, the Grand Trunk Railway completed its rail line along the upper Fraser to what is now Prince George, and as a result, the Goat River trail fell into disuse, except for the odd prospector. During the 1930ʼs, mica from Mica Mountain near Tete Jaune was transported over the trail, and prospectors reported “quantities” of gold coming out of the Goat.
The trail was somewhat maintained by the BC Forest Service during the 40ʼs and 50ʼs, but mostly in the lower sections. Reports by people using the trail stated that it was “incredibly tough” and a “difficult route.”
In 1998, the Fraser Headwaters Alliance (F.H.A.) began a major effort to clear what remained of the original trail (several kilometres in the lower Goat had already been lost to logging blocks), as a hiking route in an effort to boost eco-tourism in the region. Over the next 3 years, hundreds of person-days of labour went into clearing and marking the trail between Crescent Spur and Bowron Lake Prov. Park Headquarters-a distance of 95 km.
A Forest Service road, built for logging, continued to be pushed up the Goat and in 1997, a steel and concrete bridge was constructed across the Milk River at its confluence with the Goat. This was in preparation logging in the upper Goat, despite opposition from the FHAand several other BC conservation groups.
In 2000, the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC chose the Historic Goat River Trail as a link in the Sentier-National Hiking Trail -a hiking route planned to connect existing trails and wild spaces across Canada. Other trails to be included in the National Trail include the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail (Alexander MacKenzie Route) and the 1861 Gold Rush Pack Trail.
A grand opening ceremony for the Goat River Trail was held at the Crescent Spur trailhead in August of 2000 which was attended by community representatives, First Nations, and conservation organizations, and marked the beginning of the first complete hike of the re-established trail. More on the hike can be read here.
During the 2000ʼs, the economics of building a road through rocky and mountainous terrain, and the prospect of the environmental fights about having to build a road out into the actual Goat River forced M.F.I. (McBride Forest Industries), the company who was logging in the Goat, to abandon the area and seek wood in less expensive places. M.F.I. eventually went bankrupt and closed its McBride mill down.
The Goat River trail continues to attract adventurous and experienced hikers. In 2009, a man successfully herded a flock of sheep down the length of the trail. The Fraser Headwater Alliance has produced a trail map and brochure profiling the Historic Goat RIver Trail. To obtain a free copy, please contact the Alliance at (250) 968-4490 or email us.
Click here for a preview of the trail map (280K)