120km (75 miles) N of Williams Lake; 654km (406 miles) N of Vancouver; 101km (63 miles) S of Prince George
Like most other towns in the Cariboo District, Quesnel (pop. 8,500) was founded during the gold-rush years. Now mostly a logging center, Quesnel serves as gateway to the ghost town of Barkerville and to the canoe paddler's paradise, the Bowron Lakes. It also serves as the overnight stop on Rocky Mountaineer Vacations train tour line, the Frazer Discovery Route.
Quesnel is located on a jut of land at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel rivers. The small downtown is almost completely surrounded by these rivers. Ceal Tingley Park, on the Fraser side, is a pleasant place for a stroll, and it's one of the few spots where you can get right down to the huge and powerful Fraser. Directly across the street is a Hudson's Bay Company trading post built in 1882; it currently houses a restaurant.
The main commercial strip is Reid Street, a block east of Hwy. 97. A walk along Reid Street reveals the kinds of old-fashioned shops and services that have been gobbled up by behemoths like Wal-Mart in the United States.
Over on the Quesnel River side of downtown is Le Bourdais Park, which contains the visitor center and the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives, 405 Barlow Ave. (tel. 250/992-9580), which tells the story of the gold rush and has good exhibits on the Chinese who worked in the camps. It's open daily May to October; the rest of the year, Monday through Friday afternoons only.
A rodeo, river-raft races, and more than 100 other events attract thousands to Quesnel during the second week of July for Bill Barker Days (tel. 250/992-8716). For general information, contact the Quesnel Visitor Info Centre, in Le Bourdais Park, 703 Carson Ave. (tel. 866/783-7635 or 250/992-3522; www.northcariboo.com), open March through October.