This interior district in B.C. is known for its gold, and the picturesque mining town of Wells is still home to a full-scale hard-rock operation.
WELLS, B.C—There’s still gold in them hills — and some of it happens to be on the table, right here, right now, at breakfast. A few ounces, both dust and nuggets, drawn from one of the richest mining claims ever staked in North America. Worth a few thousand dollars, and just sitting on the table here at the Wells Hotel, between our omelettes and coffees and huevos rancheros.
“All through the region here, people still work every creek, and you can’t step out of your car without setting foot on someone’s claim,” says Robin Sharpe, the mayor of this picturesque mountain town, which is still home to a full-scale hard-rock operation.
As snow falls lightly outside, I weigh up the heavy, valuable stuff currently selling for about $1,600 an ounce — in my hand. Noting a certain glitter in my eye, Sharpe feels it’s about time to issue a warning. “Gold fever, you know, it’s an addiction,” he says, with a knowing smile. “People really go nuts.”
I may not have gold fever — at least not yet. But it’s true that I’m here in the heart of the Cariboo Mountains in search of some kind of fortune. Maybe not a lucky strike, but a rich seam of stories, the legacy of one of the world’s greatest gold rushes, one which formed the Canada that we know today.
Here in Wells, a village of some 200 friendly and hardy souls, the mining didn’t begin until the 1930s, and both Sharpe and Dave Jorgenson, a local businessman and sometime gold miner, school me in the distinctions between here and Barkerville, just up the road, where it all began.
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