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History of Quesnel, BC

Early History

Located in the Cariboo region in British Columbia, Quesnel is a mid-size city with a population of about twenty-three thousand people. Long before the 1862 Cariboo Gold Rush, Quesnel was inhabited by the Dakelh people, who occupied the area that stretched from Dean River in the west to the Bowron Lakes in the east. Quesnel was named in honor of Jules Maurice Quesnelle, a traveler and fur trader, who accompanied Simon Fraser during his exploration of the Fraser Fiver in early 19th century.

Active settlement of Quesnel started in 1860, when the Gold Rush of the Cariboo region was on the go. The area around Quesnel provided the best access to the goldfields, which facilitated the town’s early development. Thanks to its convenient location, Quesnel soon developed as an important stopover and a supply point for the goldfields. Before the First World War, farm settlement developed in Quesnel. In July1921, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway arrived in the city, and seven years later, in 1928, Quesnel was incorporated.

During the WWII, Quesnel played its role as a major supplier of birch that was used to produce plywood for military equipment. After the war ended, forestry continued to expand in Quesnel thanks to improved transportation networks, as well as growing demand from the U.S. By early 1950s, there were 180 sawmills in Quesnel and within a 35-mile radius of the city. The population of Quesnel was growing, with people coming from Eastern Canada, other parts of the United States, Europe, and China. From its founding, Quesnel has been a multicultural community.

Just like a hundred years ago, Quesnel’s key industries and largest employers are forestry, mining, and agriculture. Improved road conditions facilitated the development of tourism in Quesnel, with the city serving as a gateway to the area’s top attractions, Barkerville Historic Town & Park and Bowron Lake Provincial Park.

BC Express at Quesnel
BC Express at Quesnel

Quesnel Nowadays

As of 2020, twenty-three thousand people call Quesnel home. Newcomers are attracted by Quesnel’s affordable housing costs, lox taxation, and, of course, its spectacular nature, with every resident (and tourist!) being able to find in the city something that makes them happy. When traveling around British Columbia, make sure that you stop by Quesnel: you will bring home lots of precious memories!