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90km (56 miles) N of 100 Mile House; 539km (334 miles) N of Vancouver

Unabashedly a ranch town, Williams Lake (pop. 12,000) is known across the West for its large, hell's-a-poppin' rodeo, the Williams Lake Stampede, held the first weekend of July. It's also the gateway to the Chilcotin, the coastal mountainous area to the west. As the trade center for a large agricultural area, the little lakeside town bustles with activity.

The downtown area is west of the Hwy. 97 strip, centered on Oliver Street. The Cariboo Friendship Society Native Arts and Crafts Shop, 99 S. Third Ave. (tel. 250/398-6831), sells the work of local Native artists. The building that houses the shop was constructed to resemble a Shuswap pit-house dwelling. The old train depot has been in part converted into Station House Gallery, 1 MacKenzie Ave. N. (tel. 250/392-6113), with local arts and crafts.

The Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, 113 N. Fourth Ave. (tel. 250/392-7404; www.cowboy-museum.com), is the only museum in B.C. to focus on ranching and rodeo, honoring both the cowboys of the past and those of the present. The museum is home to the B.C. Cowboy Hall of Fame and also features an exhibit on ranching women, Native arrowheads, and a replica blacksmith shop. It's open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm from June through August, and 11am to 4pm Tuesday through Saturday the rest of the year. Admission is C$2 adult.

For information, contact the Williams Lake Visitor Centre, 1660 S. Broadway (tel. 250/392-5025; www.williamslakechamber.com).