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Camping in the Old Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks BC

Old Ghost towns always intrigued me. Quesnel Forks is one of the earliest boom towns in the Cariboo, British Columbia with many restored buildings, information kiosks and free riverside campsites.

Likely BC is the starting point for visiting Quesnel Forks. A 13 km drive along a winding gravel road with a couple of steep switchbacks will take you to the abandoned townsite.

Ghost Town History

Long before the gold seekers arrived, the valley had been a favourite summer camp for the ancestors of First Nations. This changed rapidly in the mid 19th century when miners arrived at the Quesnel River and discovered gold.

A smallpox epidemic broke out in 1862. The native population with no natural immunity was decimated. Smallpox and other diseases brought to Native communities by white explorers had devastating effects on the native population all through early history.

“Forks City”, or “Forks at the Quesnelle” as it was called at the time was founded in 1860 at the junction of the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers and served as a supply center for miners heading north on the gold trail to Barkerville. When the Waggon Road was built in 1865 and completely bypassed Fork City, the population declined as the miners moved further north.

In the late 1860 white miners had abandoned this section of the gold trail and Chinese miners and traders moved into the Quesnel Forks. With a population of at least 500 gold miners, the town became alive again with a general store, hotels, a butcher shop, markets and other businesses.

As the gold was running out, most of the population left. Only a few Chinese were determined to stay on. In 1954 the last Chinese/Canadian resident, Wong Kury Kim passed away from exposure while returning from Likely. As the story goes, his body was found by the town’s only other resident, Leo “Shorty” Lahaie.

Quesnel Forks Ghost Town British Columbia
Historic buildings at Quesnel Forks, BC

Walk through the cemetery

I arrived at Quesnel Forks early afternoon, mesmerized by this old settlement of the early 1860s. Walking through the old cemetery reading the gravestones I tried to visualize the life of the gold miners. How did they all die? Some were killed by the elements, others died of mining accidents, some from smallpox and others were murdered by their rivals.

Old cabin at Ghost town of Quesnel Forks, BC
Abandoned cabin at Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks

Where is my axe?

I just started to put up camp and oh no!! How is it possible that I left my axe behind. A backcountry road trip in Canada without an axe is bad news. Thinking about it, I remember exactly what happened. During my trip to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon two years ago I took my small axe along and it was pretty much useless.

Free fire wood at recreational campsites
Free firewood at Recreational Campsites; you need an axe

Why I need an axe

Most of the Territorial Campgrounds in the north of Canada and many Recreational Campsites supply heaps of free firewood cut into big logs. Not so at Provincial Campgrounds down in the Okanagan Valley where you have to pay for every piece you burn.

To make use of the free supply of wood, you have to be able to split the logs. From my experience, this just doesn’t seem to work with the small axe I used to make kindling with back at the ranch.

At the time when I camped in Canada’s Territories, I made up my mind to bring the big axe along on my next northern road trip.

Unfortunately, my big axe didn’t come along and it is still in my storage trailer down in Vernon. So, now here I’m spending a night in the old ghost town of Quesnel Fork with lots of firewood piled up, and no axe.

No Excuses

It looks like I’ll be the only camper for the night. What the heck, I didn’t bring any newspaper either… Shame on me!

I didn’t use my own wilderness road trip planner which I so carefully created for everyone else who is planning a road trip, and wants to be prepared.

Maybe I’m excused, after spending the winter in Europe as a minimalist backpacker. It has been eight months since I sold my guest ranch and my belongings are packed in a utility trailer at my friends in Vernon BC. Of course, all this is no excuse for leaving on a road trip without an axe.

How to start a campfire in the backcountry
How to light a fire if you come unprepared

Dreaming of a Campfire

I’m still determined to build a fire tonight and cook some beans. I could use my gas stove, but a real campfire is so much more appealing in tonight’s wilderness surroundings. The roaring sounds of the Quesnel and the Cariboo Rivers, a campfire and pot of beans, what else would I want here in the deep backwoods of the Cariboo. In addition to that, the campfire will keep the mosquitoes away.

A piece of netting material attached to one of the car windows keeps the little bloodsuckers out and lets a fresh breeze into my car.

Bean Stew at Quesnel Forks Ghost Town

I cooked up a hearty stew with a can of black beans, fresh sweet potatoes and carrots, spiced up with vegetable stock and chilly powder. Not bad at all for the first campfire meal I cooked this season.

A hearty campfire bean stew for dinner
A hearty campfire bean stew for dinner

I found a stick of fire starter left in the basement of my Toyota RAV4, tor up a brown paper lunch bag, added some twigs and small pieces of wood I gathered around the area. Most wood was still soaking wet from the rain pour last night.

In the end, the campfire burnt but it was not the best one I ever lit. Did it ever smoke, they must have seen the grey cloud rising up at Quesnel Forks Ghosttown all the way in Likely, 13 km away.

Alone in the ghost town of Quesnel Forks

I sat in my comfortable Helinox camping chair at the rocky beach of Quesnel Forks at the confluence of the Quesnel and Cariboo rivers and ate my bean stew. It evoked a feeling of peace and serenity.

I had it all for myself, the sheltered River Valley, shaded by ancient black cottonwoods, the rocky beach, and Quesnel Forks, the ghost town.

Ghost town Quesnel Forks and beach for myself
Solitude in a Ghost Town

How to get to Quesnel Forks

The drive from Williams Lake to Likely takes about one hour. Quesnel Forks is 13 km from Keithley Creek Road in Likely. Turn at the Community Hall on Keithley Creek Road (you will see a sign) and follow Rosette Lake Road which turns into a gravel road. Rosette Lake Road changes to Quesnel River Road, keep on going. Watch out for potholes and road hazards along the way. Drive slowly.

The site is only accessible in the summer after the snow melts.

What to See and Do at Quesnel Forks

Quesnel Fork is managed by the Likely Cemetry Society, which researches and repairs many of the markers and is slowly restoring the historic cabins.

  • Stroll among the restored buildings of the past.
  • Walk through the old cemetery, read the gravestones that survived the years and check out the old graves.
  • Walk the mobility trail which goes along the river and through the heritage village. There are even two wheelchair accessible outhouses on the site.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Camp in the wilderness.
  • Visit Quesnel Forks for the summer festival. Check for dates at the Info Centre in Likely, Phone: (1) 250 790 2459

Camping in a Ghost Town

Quesnel Forks Recreation Site is is a campers paradise. The free campsite is a user-maintained campsite and all sites come with a picknick table, fire pit, free firewood, view of the Rivers and a short trail to a rocky beach.

  • Please respect the forest environment, don’t litter and take the garbage with you when you leave.
  • 7 days stay maximum
  • I was there in May and had the whole town for myself.
Quesnel Forks British Columbia Recreation Site

Maps and Guide books

Tourist Information

Likely Info Centre and Museum

Located at Cedar Point Provincial Park. Opens in June and summer only.

Phone: 1 250 790 2459

Williams Lake Visitor Centre

A friendly place located at the Discovery Centre, 1660 South Broadway Avenue, with gift show and coffee bar and free Internet service.

Phone: 250 392 5025 or 1 877 967 5253, www.williamslakechamber.com

Abandoned cabin at Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks
Abandoned cabin at Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks

Related Articles

Have you camped at any other ghost towns in Canada? Please leave a comment and share your experience.

Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.


  1. Cheryl Bertsch

    Hi, I love going to ghost or abandoned towns, thank you for adding your adventures, I will check the place out,
    Also, at this point in my life, I am making plans to go live off grid, away from abusive people, completely self sustaining and eco safe, could you be able to suggest any ware, presently living in hell in Keremeos. I want complete quiet, safe, and left alone.

    • Yrene Dee

      This is definitely one worth checking out! Let us know about your experience once you check it out!

    • Yrene Dee

      I actually visited back there last summer again. The road is pretty narrow and steep towards the end. I don’t think it’s ideal for big rigs but I suggest you contact the Likely Visitor Centre to get more information. Phone 250-790-2459, Email cedarcitymuseumlikelybc at gmail.com
      Off-Season: leave a message and someone will get back to you at 250-790-0002.
      I hope that helps. It’s a beautiful place, enjoy!

  2. Pam

    I lived there for a couple of months with my partner in the spring of 1969. It was a beautiful place back then, much more remote – no campgrounds or protective coverings over any of the old buildings – just an abandoned ghost town.

    We stayed until a rafting accident took my partners life. I was just 19 so it was pretty tough, but I will always remember Quesnel Forks as a very beautiful place.

    • Yrene Dee

      Dear Pam, thank you for sharing your Quesnel Forks memories. I’m so sorry about the accident and the tragic loss of your parents. Quesnel Forks might have lost the original ghost town feel, but it is still a magical place. Best wishes to you!

  3. Karen Bryce

    Camped there around 1990(?). The best camping, the best ghost town ever!! I was actually disappointed in Barkerville, having been to an authentic ghost town. At that time, there was no work being done with respect to restoration and I liked it that way. There was a park ranger’s facility, but no one present. We were able to stay right on the shore ot the rivers (VW camper vans). The building were fascinating, the cemeterys (I think there were two) amazing, historical and a bit eerie. I’ve always wanted to go back.

  4. Bc local

    hank you so much from Canada to blab off some of our hidden gems. Many places are now being over ran , destroyed and more due tourists!!! Not everything needs to be advertised. Sometimes ppl need to just shut up. Thank you so much for blabbing some of our BC hidden gems that we from BC were enjoying in quiet but now we are to busy picking up garbage and chasing drug addicts away and cleaning up their damage.

    • Yrene Dee

      I doubt that my blog is the reason for the problems you mention. This has been going on for years that campsites were left with garbage. I did my part of picking up garbage from others. As housing and living costs in BC are rising, more people will live on the streets and find these hidden places you are talking about. I camped at Quesnel Forks twice, the last time last summer, and each time I was the only camper there. All the best to you and Happy trails!

  5. Zina

    We went down to Quesnel Forks this summer. It was a lovely peaceful camping spot and it was nice to see the old buildings. I would not take a motorhome or big trailer down there again. The road is pretty daunting, especially the last 3 kms. are steep and narrow. I would not like to meet an oncoming vehicle. We did have a bigger vehicle so we left early in the morning so as to avoid meeting anyone on the road.

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