Lillooet (formerly Cayoosh Flat, is a community on the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada, about up the British Columbia Railway line from Vancouver. Situated at an intersection of deep gorges in the lee of the Coast Mountains, it has a dry climate- of precipitation is recorded annually. Lillooet has a long growing season, and once had prolific market gardens and orchard produce. It often experiences extremely hot summers with shade temperatures more than occasionally topping and it often vies with nearby Lytton for the title of "Canada's Hot Spot" on a daily basis in summer.
History and culture
Lillooet is an important location in native history and culture and remains one of the main population centres of the St'at'imc (Lillooet Nation), and today it is one of the southernmost communities in North America where indigenous people form the majority. Just over 1/2 of the people in Lillooet and area are St'at'imc. Considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations on the continent, the area is reckoned by archaeologists to have been inhabited for several thousand years. The immediate area of the town attracted large seasonal and permanent populations of native peoples because of the confluence of several main streams with the Fraser and also because of a rock-shelf just above the confluence of the Bridge River which is an obstacle to migrating salmon.
This rock shelf, known in gold rush times as the Lower Fountain, was reputedly made by the trickster Coyote, leaping back and forth across the river to create platforms for people to catch and dry fish on. This location, named Sat' or Setl in the native language and known as the Bridge River Rapids or Six Mile in English, is the busiest fishing site on the Fraser above its mouth and there are numerous drying racks scattered around the banks of the river canyon around it.
Other mining history
There have been a series of gold rushes in the surrounding region since the original one, including a large hard-rock one in the upper Bridge River Country which began in the 1880s and 1890s but had its peak from the 1930s to the 1950s, focussed on two main mining towns at Bralorne and adjacent Pioneer Mine and that area's main base town of Gold Bridge. Gold mining and prospecting continues in the area to this day, as do prospects for copper, silver and nephrite jade, though not to the same extent. Until the discovery of even larger deposits of jade near Cassiar, the Lillooet area was the world's largest source of the nephrite form of jade. Unknown tonnes were exported to China before government assayers discovered the nature of the "black rocks" that the Chinese miners found so interesting.
In the 1950s, local farmer and teacher Ron Purvis adapted the skil-saw concept by implementing a diamond rotary blade. This enabled the carving of the many immense jade boulders which line the banks and bed of the Fraser and Bridge Rivers, which were on the one hand immovable and on the other would shatter or striate if blasting was used to break them. Purvis' innovation was revolutionary in the jade mining business and larger versions of his saw are at use in the Cassiar region. There are no major commercial jade mines in the Lillooet area today, although local shops still carry polished jade souvenirs.
The Golden Cache Mine located on Cayoosh Creek just West of Lillooet was believed to hold one of the richest ore bodies of gold until lack of results ended investment, though it started a local prospecting boom with various miners and companies continuing the search for rich veins around the region. Most in town for the "Golden Cache boom" headed for the Klondike or Atlin by 1900.