By Glenna Turnbull

This article is from the May 2018 Issue of Forever Young

FYng May 2018 Feature

"The bell is ringing, time to line up – you mustn’t be tardy! The teacher will be here any moment to lead us all into the Williams Creek schoolhouse – oh, and don’t forget to take off your hat."

Welcome to Barkerville, where history comes to life, complete with an authentic schoolteacher who expects you to remember your manners!

Walking into Barkerville is like getting to fall straight into an 1870s Western. With more than 125 heritage buildings to explore, you’ll find over 200,000 items featured in their authentic displays, museums, shops, restaurants, and out buildings. You’ll also find special events and even a chance to get educated in the old schoolhouse.

For those who aren’t as keen on being educated inside a schoolhouse, you can learn all about things like the Cornish Waterwheel, how deep shaft placer mining works, or visit the local blacksmith. >>

“We’ve got approximately 45 actors,” says Ed Coleman, CEO of Barkerville Historic Town and Park, “who do about 15 different types of interpretive performances.”

“All of the living interpretation shows are free to enjoy with the price of admission,” notes Ed, “and your admission is good for two days because there’s so much to see and do, we feel people need at least two days to take it all in. Lots of people stay for a whole week.”

In addition to the actors dressed in period costumes that you’ll find on the grounds, there is also a theatre on site called the Theatre Royale. “This summer we’ll have two different shows,” notes Ed. “The first is full of singing and dancing and little skits, called Mrs. McGinley’s Variety Show, and the second one is a 1940s radio show.”

In order to keep things running smoothly in the old town site, they rely heavily on volunteers. “We have a group called Friends of Barkerville that has about 150 people in it. They help us with events and raising funds for specific projects. They also help to promote us as well as volunteering on site,” says Ed. “We also have the community of Wells and Bowron Lake who participate in events and come give us a hand.”

If you’ve never been to Barkerville before, you might be surprised to discover it has one of the oldest heritage Chinatowns in North America. “Half of Barkerville’s population, about 2500 people, were Chinese citizens that came from the Guangdong Province in China,” notes Ed. “We do a Chinese Autumn Moon festival every August and have an ongoing Chinese interpretive program.”

New this year, Ed says, they’ll be introducing an Indigenous program. “We’re starting a five year Indigenous program as the Indigenous population became involved in Barkerville in the early 1900s.”

Also new this summer, they’ll be constructing an interpretive mining tunnel. Ed says, “People will be able to experience what it was like to go down a mining tunnel”

In addition to all the free activities and interpretive shows, there are several extra activities you can do for an additional fee, such as panning for gold or going on a stagecoach ride.

“We have planned events throughout the summer, such as a Cowboy Drover Festival, an annual Indigenous Day celebration and a Canada Day celebration,” says Ed, so it’s best to check the barkerville.ca website to find out all that’s going on.

For those wanting to travel to Barkerville, please note, pets are not allowed on the grounds. There is a self-serve lock-up kennel where you can leave your dogs at a cost ranging from $5 to $15 per day, depending on the size of the cage. Only service dogs are permitted in the town site.

There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from on site, however you’re smart to book in advance as Barkerville does get very busy in summer. “We’ve got 160 campground sites, there are bed and breakfasts in the heritage zone, cabins and cottages,” says Ed. You can click the Places To Stay option on the their website to find out more.

Barkerville is open year round. In addition to the 50,000 to 60,000 people who come through the gates in summer, Ed says they are also quite busy in winter. “We had about 8000 people come tubing in the snow last winter and there’s about another 4000 snowmobilers who come to enjoy the 100 kilometers of groomed trails. We also have people snowshoeing, cross-country skiers, and backcountry skiers who come out to enjoy it too.”

The Visitor’s Reception area is open daily from 8:30AM until 5PM, with hours extending in peak summer months to 7PM, and the site itself is open daily from 8Am to 8PM.

Admission (good for two days) is $14.50 for adults, $13.50 for seniors, $9.50 for youth 13 to 18, $4.75 for children six to 12 and children under five are free.

Barkerville is a registered federal charity and anyone wishing to help keep the ghost town from truly becoming a ghost town is welcome to donate. For more information, you can visit the website at: www.barkerville.ca

Editor’s note:

We visited Barkerville 7 years ago and stayed at The St. George Hotel. It was marvelous and being inside the town walls meant that you could go for a walk after dark in a real “ghost town” which truly added to our experience. The restaurant in Chinatown had the best, yes THE best, Chinese food we ever tasted. Like so many things in Barkerville, every effort is made to make this a great day or two or week while you visit. I think what we enjoyed the most was that this was not a “tourism” place to visit, but a walk back into history. Oh, and the breakfast at the hotel when we came down in the morning included so many wonderful choices, we needed to stroll around for the day just to walk it all off!!! We’re going back this summer and cannot wait. ~ Steven Tuck