The Bridge River Country remained virtually unexplored by non-natives until near the end of the 19th century. It’s mountainous terrain and steep canyon walls kept out many of the prospectors from the Fraser River gold rush, as many believed the “motherlode” of the Fraser River gold was in the valley of the Bridge River headwaters.
Earlier prospecting parties of Chinese around the Bridge River basin were driven out by another miner prospector, Chief Hunter Jack, who himself had a secret placer mine somewhere in the region which many believed to be in upper portions of Tyaughton Creek. Hunter Jack’s jealously protected his legendary placer mine from other prospectors, although during the 1870s Chief Hunter Jack started to allow chosen prospectors into the valley, and ran a ferry across the Bridge River that virtually all entering the region had to cross. Among these prospectors were those who would eventually discover the hard rock lodes on Cadwallader Creek. In the 1890s many prospectors searched for the underground source of that gold in the mountains around Cadwallader Creek. Then in 1897, three men hiked from Lillooet to Cadwallader Creek area looking for gold. They made three claims—the Lorne, Marquis, and the Golden King. These would form the core of the complex of claims which became the Bralorne-Pioneer Mine complex.
Two individuals, Arthur Noel and Lazack Lajoie, undertook prospecting activities in the time of Hunter Jack’s dominion over the valley. Hunter Jack died at Seton Lake under mysterious circumstances in 1919.
Arthur Noel bought the claims and installed a stamp mill but unfortunately the mine became tied up in litigation and stood idle for a dozen or so years. Then in 1914, Pioneer Gold Mines was set up with newer equipment and modern rock mill. The site worked through the 1920s and the profitable King vein was exploited. In 1929, with the start of the Depression, the mines really took off and men and investment ramped up production. The district was one of the few bright lights in the BC economy during the Depression. In a seven-year period in the 1930s, the mines of the Bridge River produced $370,000,000 in gold, which at todays prices translates into over 22 Billion Dollars in gold!
In 1931 a man named Austin Taylor acquired the Bralorne property and financed construction of a 100 ton mill. The Bralorne Mine then operated from March 1932 until 1971, when it was shut down due to engineering difficulties concerning the mine’s increasing depth. The mine was at a depth of over a mile below sea level, from an entry at 3400′ above. During that time 3 million ounces of gold were refined from its adits. Over one hundred miles of underground tunnels were dug in the forty or so years of operation.
Advances in technology and changes in world gold markets have led to the mine’s recent re-opening. During it’s heyday, Bralorne-Pioneer was the largest town in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District with around 10,000 residents.