The discovery of coarse placer gold at the confluence of the Nicoamen and Thompson Rivers in 1857 sparked the Fraser River Gold Rush that a year later drew an estimated 20,000 prospectors.
However, there has always been controversy regarding the first discoveries of gold in British Columbia. Some records indicate that gold was first procured from First Nations at Fort Kamloops as early as 1852. Governor James Douglas, in his diary, credits an indigenous person with discovering gold on the banks of the Nicoamen River in 1856, while stooping down to get a drink of water, discovered a 3 ounce nugget. Regardless, in February 1858, the steamer Otter sailed into San Francisco with 800 ounces of gold from the Fraser River.
The lower Thompson River District is one of British Columbia’s more fascinating placer gold and platinum producing regions, primarily from Spence’s Bridge and Gold Pan Park, downstream to Lytton. Production commenced in 1857, however, in 1858, the gold rush shifted first to the Fraser, then onward to the Cariboo Gold Fields. Most miners left the region for the more lucrative ground, leaving good gold prospects behind. During this early period, little to no attention had been placed on hard-rock prospects. With the canyon hosting an array of exposed bedrock along the river’s banks, the area offers ideal potential for the recovery of both placer and hard-rock metals. Pinch samples of unprocessed ore placed under microscope, showed an abundance of micro nodules of platinum.
The Thompson River provides great opportunities for the week-end prospector.