"I can never love the Cariboo enough for all she gave to me. Mounted on a cowpony I roamed the land, not knowing where I went -- to be alive, going, that was enough." - Emily Carr
The history and culture of the Southern Caribou of British Columbia have been profoundly shaped by its unique geography. Interlocking valleys and plateaus, situated between bold and snow topped mountain ranges, made the region difficult to access and historically isolated from the industrial growth and intense settlement patterns of the southern mainland of British Columbia.
The traditional territory of indigenous tribes, the region is a storied cultural landscape with place names, oral histories and art forms that reflect a robust relationship to the natural landscape and wildlife.
In the early nineteenth century, The Hudson Bay's Company's exclusive licence to trade with aboriginal peoples in the interior of British Columbia, discouraged permanent settlement of the region. Fur trappers and traders used traditional trade routes and water ways to navigate what was then a perilous wilderness. In 1858, The Hudson Bay's Company's licence expired, opening the B.C frontier to settlement. Soon after, in 1862, gold was discovered, causing a Gold Rush that would dramatically alter the face and character of the Southern Caribou forever.
Either seeking to make their fortune, or to begin a new life, over 10,000 people traversed the Caribou Wagon Road in the 1860's, travelling north from Lillooet to Barkerville. Roads were built using dynamite to blast through the sides of mountains, towns such as Clinton and 100 Mile House served as economic and social hubs, and cattle ranches were established to feed the growing population. Many of these ranches were owned by European immigrants who marveled at the vast wilderness of mountain plateaus and forest, perfect for raising beef.
Harry Marriott, was one such pioneer. Born in England, he immigrated to British Columbia in 1912, where he started working for the Mighty Gang Ranch, North West of what would later become Big Bar Guest Ranch. Over the years Marriot acquired smaller ranches and land parcels eventually consolidating them into the O.K Ranching Company in 1933, with access over 200,000 acres of cattle country and wilderness. In his personal narrative "Cariboo Cowboy", Marriot describes ranch life, sharing stories about dramatic cattle drives and round ups.
To gain financial backing to purchase the land, Marriott partnered with his friend and Vancouver banker, George S Harrison. As part of the deal with Marriott, Harrison sectioned off 100 acres of his parcel for his personal use. This was the beginning of Big Bar Guest Ranch.
Today, Guests who visit Big Bar will find much has been left unchanged since the Harrison family used Big Bar Ranch as their family retreat. The original family home, "The Harrison House", built in 1936 with logs and stone hewn and selected from the property continues to provide a cozy retreat for guests on holiday relaxing in the great room in front of the fire place, or playing a cowboy song on the guitar in the music room. Keeping with historical tradition, Big Bar guests have access to the original acreage of the OK cattle company, and can venture out across unspoiled pasture lands and forests on horseback.