The Wells-Barkerville area of the Cariboo has produced millions of dollars in gold from both placer and lode types of deposits. On Lightning Creek many millions in gold were produced from deep placer operations in the creek. Upstream on Lightning Creek, the rich surface placer deposit known as “Butchers Bench” produced many millions in gold. The Burns Mountain area located some two kilometres south, contains numerous quartz veins with gold mineralization. The area has been extensively prospected over the year’s and no doubt was the source of the placer gold found in the general area.
Lode gold production started in 1933 from the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine at Wells, B.C. During the period January 10, 1933 through April 15, 1967 when the mine was closed down, some 2,929,256 tons of ore grading an average of 0.4 ounces per ton, produced a total of 1,253,683 ounces of gold. Lode gold is now being produced by the Mosquito Creek Mine primarily from replacement type ore bodies in the Richfield Formation. The mine is located northwest of the two older mines, all within a mile of the town of Wells.
Photo Of Devil’s Canyon
In 1859 placer gold was discovered along the Quesnel River approximately 50 km south of the Wingdam. That discovery sparked the Cariboo gold rush which began in 1860 and lasted for five years. Placer discoveries made during that rush resulted in an estimated 3 million ounces of placer gold being mined in the Cariboo (Boyle, 1979). In addition, from 1933 to 1953 over 840,000 ounces of lode gold was produced from the famous Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine at Wells and the Island Mountain Mine, near Barkewille, B.C. During the heyday of placer mining, the lower portions of Lightning Creek were one of the richest placer creeks in the Cariboo. Because of this the Wingdam (Lightning Creek) prospect has had considerable underground development take place along the bedrock-gravel interface; however, only modest surface stripping and pitting has taken place for lode-type deposits. The only known showing, Free Lance vein, is located 2 km downstream of Wingdam and is reported to have been exposed, at three different points along its 70 m strike length, by shallow pits. The main structure is described as being a 0.6 to 1.5 m wide quartz vein which lies parallel to the bedding and is sparsely mineralized with pyrite and galena and returned only trace amounts of gold and silver.
Old Cariboo Sketch Map Showing Lightning Creek
There were many famous claims on Lightning Creek that yielded impressive amounts of gold. The largest nugget found in the Cariboo weighed 30 ounces and came from the Butcher claim on Lightning Creek.
In the summer of 2008, a retired couple from Ontario drove out to B.C. for a holiday. It was the first time they had both the time and money to do any traveling outside the province. Not only were they looking forward to seeing British Columbia’s scenery they were also especially looking forward to visiting Barkerville.
Like most tourists visiting the world renowned historical site, they tried their hand at gold panning for the first time and immediately became ‘prospecting enthusiasts.’ Enchanted by the history of the Caribou gold rush combined with a little bite from the ‘gold bug’, they were inspired to purchase two plastic gold pans and extend their visit to the area for a few days.
The couple spent a couple of days simply traveling around to the lesser commercialized historical sites trying their hand at panning the creeks and streams as the explored. It was on Lightning Creek, somewhere near the old town-site of Van Winkle, where they decided to pan an old tailing pile left by miners decades before. In three days they recovered 7 ounces of gold. The gold was fine but plentiful with flakes as large as 3 grams.