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Parent Area: Columbia Mountains
Area: 14873 sq km.
Location: The Cariboo region lies in the "Y" between the Fraser River, and its tributary, the North Thompson. The Fraser forms a crook which first comes across the top of the region before heading south to
to Quesnel and Lytton.
Terrain: The highest and most rugged of the Cariboo Mountains are in the Premier Range, just west of Valemount. This area contains the main concentration of high glaciated peaks, and offers a popular high level ski traverse. Further south, Wells Gray Park, which is part of the Cariboo Mountains, offers pleasant 4 or 5 day alpine meadow tours. In winter, the Valemount and Blue River areas are well known for helicopter skiing. The area as defined also includes the broad spread of the Cariboo Plateau and the southerly area comprising the Bonaparte Plateau (S of Bridge Lake) and various smaller named plateau towards Kamloops Lake. Also included are the Marble Range, Clear Range and Scarped Range, which are in the angle of the Fraser and Thompson and roughly bounded on the east by the Bonaparte River.
History: The range became important in the early surveys for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, but surveyors were never able to pierce the heart of these mountains. The central plateau opens eastwards and encloses the glacial sources of Canoe River. Large glaciers drain northwards, and the conjoined stream of Tete Creek and McLennan River enters the Fraser at the old furtrading site of Tete Jaune Cache. A stretch of the Fraser between Tete Jaune Cache towards McBride is known as the Grand Canyon of the Fraser, as in this region there is a lot of rough water and rocky gorges, although not the benchland and montane gorges of the more spectacular true "grand canyon" of the Fraser south from Williams Lake to Yale.
There was a rudimentary trail on the western side of Tete Creek, leading to the glacier below the main peaks, several of which bear the names of Canadian premiers. The low valleys and heavy undergrowth made all approaches difficult. In the southeast part of the range are the Azure, Clearwater, Hobson and Murtle lakes enclosed within Wells Gray Provincial Park. The western foothills were the scene of the Cariboo gold rush of 1860. Within six years about $20 million worth of gold was mined here.
Later, the rich veins petered out and farming, stock-raising and hunting became the livelihood of the settlers. The Cariboo Road, built between 1862 and 1865 by the Royal Engineers at a cost of $250 000, extending from Yale at the head of the navigable part of the Fraser River via Ashcroft to Barkerville, a distance of about 800 km. The region was explored by Mahood in 1871 during surveys for the Canadian Pacific Railroad; Holway and Gilmour were the first mountaineers, in 1916.
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