Exploring Mackenzie, BC
Exploring Mackenzie, BC should probably start at the local tourism office but don’t neglect the local library or the Mackenzie and District Museum as sources of information to aide in your discoveries. In 1793 the famous explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie camped near where the town of Mackenzie now sits but there was more activity in the area between that time and the 1960’s when the town of Mackenzie was created than most people realize.
European Settlers came with the Northwest Company trading furs with the local trappers and First Nations people and the Hudson`s Bay Company also had many successful trading posts in the area. The end of the gold rush days in the Cariboo brought in miners moving north in search of gold. These early people and the local trading posts needed supplies so river freighting companies and pack trains were formed to haul the necessities into this wilderness area and the settlements along the rivers during the 1900`s. There were no roads until the construction of the Hart Highway in the 1950`s then making transportation of supplies much easier.
Many of those early settlements were destroyed in the 1960`s when the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was being constructed and the Williston Lake Reservoir flooded over them. During this time the planned community of Mackenzie was being created.
An almost instant town was carved out of the wilderness and although it is relatively small and quite new it is still very rich in history. This unique town serviced the needs of the people brought in to clear the land and work at the new pulp mill and sawmills. These new industries at first were built to develop the forest resources prior to the flooding and became the mainstay of the community. Housing, a hospital, a school, and merchant shops were all needed right away and building started in 1965 with the first families settling here in June of 1966. It didn`t take long to go from an area of complete wilderness to housing subdivisions and shopping districts. To the people who lived there it seemed like it happened over night.
The maps and photos displayed at the museum are remarkable and cover early explorations and surveyor expeditions and the photos of the early settlements include some of the Hudson`s Bay Trading Posts. There`s even a replica of a trapper’s cabin without any of the comforts of home we all take for granted now.
Yes this is a recreational paradise with unlimited opportunities for families to experience no matter what time of the year. However, the history of the area and how it came to be developed is just as important and starts with the First Nations people and the explorations of Alexander Mackenzie. Actually it may have started with the ichthyosaurus fossil, a sea reptile 100 million years old, found along Williston Lake.
A journey to Mackenzie must include the Museum and the local library where the staff at both locations are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. You only need to ask for assistance and may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. It is only a matter of time before a local writer takes this fascinating information and publishes the history of Mackenzie for everyone`s enjoyment.