Gold was first discovered on Cunningham Creek in 1861 by William Cunningham.
The Cariboo District is well known for placer and lode gold mining activity that has been carried on somewhat intermittently since 1860. Placer mining peaked well before the turn of the century and has since been sporadic and of minor importance, although in recent years, with marked increases in the price of gold, it has increased considerably. Total placer gold production is estimated to be 2.5 – 3 million ounces.
The Cunningham Creek area is well known for its gold production and historically supported as many as 300 miners at one time. Most of the gold was mined along the valley bottom in a buried paleochannel located about 100 metres from the modern stream. Auriferous gravels, 0.3 to 2 metres thick, in a small bedrock depression approximately 10 metres long, had a reported production of 18,500 grams of gold. The depression extends from the west side of the valley down to Cunningham Creek and may have been a small gulch-like tributary channel oriented perpendicular to the main channel.
A small bedrock high on the west side of the valley separates Cunningham Creek from a possible buried channel to the west. Excavations in the area have exposed wood from several old shafts, one of which is reported to be about 12 metres deep. Although the area has been extensively mined, there remains some potential for the discovery of remnant paleochannel deposits as early miners had difficulty in tracing and working the buried channel deposits. Small bedrock depressions such as the one described above are potentially difficult to locate but may have exceptionally high gold concentrations. The depth of burial of the paleochannel increases both upstream and downstream, but the degree of preservation of the old gravels from glacial and glaciofluvial erosion is not known. High gold concentrations occurring in placer deposits in the immediate vicinity may be related to the Pleasant Valley thrust fault. A local source is suggested by the large size and high angularity of nuggets and the presence of fragile gold. The decrease in the grain size of gold downstream from this site also suggests that the bedrock source(s) may be local.
It was not until the 1920’s that lode gold was discovered at the head of Pearce Creek.
A number of lode gold mines were developed in the district. Most were very small producers but two, the Cariboo Gold Quartz and the Island Mountain, each produced in excess of one million tonnes of ore grading 0.40 and 0.46 ounces per ton gold respectively during the years 1933 to 1967. More recently, a small underground mine was put into production on Mosquito Creek near the old Island Mountain mine. The district has experienced a resurgence of exploration activity during the past few years with the search being concentrated on gold, tungsten and base metals.
The Cariboo-Hudson property is located 25 kilometres southeast of the towns of Wells and Barkerville. The property is easily accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicle. A well maintained forestry road (3100) branches off the Wells-Barkerville highway at the Bowron Lake turnoff; at kilometre 17 a secondary road leads up Cunningham Creek past several placer operations to the old Hudson mine workings.
The Cariboo-Hudson workings are again receiving attention due to the fact that the geological setting is similar to that of the Cariboo Gold Quartz mine.
Production recorded from 1874 to 1945 on Cunningham Creek totalled 399,853 grams of gold. Today, Cunningham Creek still offers intriguing placer opportunities.