Tag Archives: Cariboo Region BC

Hydraulic Monitors at the Bullion Mine (Cariboo, early 1940s)

The above video clip shows hydraulic gold mining at the Bullion Mine, near Likely in BC’s northern Cariboo. The Bullion Mine operated from 1892 to 1942. Huge hydraulic monitors – apparently the largest installed in North America – used high-pressure water to blast away the surface soil, gravel and stones to expose the gold. These operations created the so-called “Bullion Pit,” a man-made canyon up to 300 metres wide, 125 metres deep and almost 3 kilometres long.  The work of sluicing the gravel and separating the gold is also shown in close-up.

Shot around 1941 by Vancouver filmmaker Alfred E. Booth, this unique colour footage provides graphic evidence of the mining operation’s scope and the sheer power of the hydraulic monitors. Watching it, I recalled Robert W. Service’s poem, “The Ballad of Touch-the-Button Nell” (ca. 1909), with its memorable and vivid description of hydraulic mining in the Yukon:

The long lean flume streaked down the hill, five hundred feet of fall;
The waters in the dam above chafed at their prison wall;
They surged and swept, they churned and leapt, with savage glee and strife;
With spray and spume the dizzy flume thrilled like a thing of life.

“We must be free,” the waters cried, and scurried down the slope;
“No power can hold us back,” they roared, and hurried in their hope.
Into a mighty pipe they plunged, like maddened steers they ran,
And crashed out through a shard of steel — to serve the will of Man.

And there hydraulicking his ground beside a bedrock ditch,
With eye aflame and savage aim was Riley Dooleyvitch.
In long hip-boots and overalls, and dingy denim shirt,
Behind a giant monitor he pounded at the dirt.

A steely shaft of water shot, and smote the face of clay;
It burrowed in the frozen muck, and scooped the dirt away;
It gored the gravel from its bed, it bellowed like a bull;
It hurled the heavy rock aloft like heaps of fleecy wool.

Strength of a hundred men was there, resistless might and skill,
And only Riley Dooleyvitch to swing it at his will.
He played it up, he played it down, nigh deafened by its roar,
‘Til suddenly he raised his eyes, and there stood Lew Lamore.

Those of you who know the poem will remember that, just three stanzas later, the enraged hero Riley Dooleyvitch “accidentally” turns the hydraulic monitor upon the leering villain and pimp Lew Lamore.  I’ll draw a veil over the details of what the monitor does to Lamore.  However, the photo below shows clearly how the monitors left the Bullion Mine site after its closure in 1942.

The “Glory Hole” at the abandoned Bullion Mine, 1946. (BC Archives photo I-27192)

Hydraulic gold mining at the Bullion Mine, ca. 1941. (Digital frame grab from BC Archives V1995:01/006.01 item #1)

It’s the Cariboo, Dude! (1950s)

The dude ranch featured in this travelogue clip is the Flying U Guest Ranch at Green Lake, B.C., 21 kilometres northeast of 70 Mile House.  The Flying U is one of the oldest and best known guest ranches in British Columbia.  The central ranch house was built in 1862.  Purchased by the Boyd family in 1883, the property was turned into a guest ranch by Jack Boyd in the early 1920s.  At the time this footage was shot, in the 1950s, the ranch was being operated by Mr. and Mrs. Bert Gammie.

Writing in the Kerrisdale Courier (2 August 1956), Chuck Bayley highlighted the Flying U with “a recommendation for young cowboys and dudes who dream of riding saddle over rolling cattle country.”

The source film is Legend of the West, directed by Richard L. Colby, and released in 1956 by the British Columbia Government Travel Bureau.  Incidentally, all of these BC government travelogue clips were included in the DVD Evergreen Playland: A Road Trip through British Columbia (RBCM, 2008).

For a full archival description of Legend of the West, click here.


“Bucking barrel at a Cariboo dude ranch.” (BC Archives I-29868 [detail])


1935 promotional brochure for the Flying U Guest Ranch. (BC Archives NWp 796.56 F648)

Car culture and heritage buildings at a Cariboo Road stopping-house north of Clinton, ca. 1955.

Car culture and heritage buildings at an old Cariboo Road stopping-house north of Clinton, ca. 1955. (A video frame grab from “Legend of the West’, BC Archives AAAA1211.)

Williams Lake, Cattle Country, and Quesnel on the PGE (mid-1940s)

This clip is another excerpt from Rails to Romance, a promotional film/travelogue produced for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1945-47 by the BC Government Travel Bureau.

This section of the film depicts the Cariboo region, from the Williams Lake area to Quesnel.  It highlights cattle ranching in the region, and underscores the importance of the PGE in the economic development of central British Columbia.

A Gold Rush era Cornish water wheel, on display in Quesnel, 1946. (BC Archives I-27125)

From Lillooet to Clinton on the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (mid-1940s)

This clip is another excerpt from Rails to Romance, a promotional film/travelogue produced for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1945-47 by the BC Government Travel Bureau.

This section of the film depicts the Lillooet and southern Cariboo regions.  The town of Lillooet is highlighted, along with gold-mining activity in the area.  An auxiliary gas car (a gasoline-fueled railway engine) is shown on the line to nearby Shalalth.  Profiling the PGE’s route from Lillooet to Clinton, the narration extols the rugged beauty of the passing scenery.  The excerpt concludes with a visit to a typical Cariboo dude ranch, where “gay holidayers enjoy a morning canter”.


Gasoline-powered PGE engine at Shalalth, BC, 1946. (BC Archives I-20554)