Clinton has for centuries served as the geographic hub for traveling the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and British Columbia's interior and mountain ranges.
Thousands of years ago, the Shuswap Nation fished and hunted an expansive land territory that spanned from High Bar to Soda Creek, including Clinton. European exploration and development of the area began in the 1800s, when prospectors traversed the Cariboo Trail and Cariboo Wagon Road, later followed by ranchers and forestry workers.
The Shuswap Nation lived on a vast territory, which included the present town of Clinton and ranged from High Bar to Soda Creek. Shuswap hunting grounds covered most of the interior plateau. Today, descendents of the Shuswap Nation still live in the area near Canoe Creek. While many of the trails originally used by the First Nations peoples have fallen into disuse, some are maintained for recreational hiking.
Clinton 1860s to 1870s
In the late 1850s, the Cariboo Trail from Lillooet and the Cariboo Wagon Road from the Fraser Canyon connected at Clinton, directing miners and entrepreneurs north to the gold fields in BC's interior. Once known as "The Junction," the roadhouse located here spawned a boomtown, and was officially named Clinton by Queen Victoria in 1863 (in honour of Lord Henry Pelham Clinton, Colonial Secretary to the British Government).
When gold mining had run its course, cattle ranching took hold in Clinton. Several families, direct descendents of Clinton's first ranchers, still live on the same family homesteads. In 1876, the Harper Brothers, early Clinton ranchers, planned to herd cattle from the Gang Ranch, just northwest of town, through Clinton, to market in Salt Lake City, Utah. Upon arrival in Utah, Thaddeus Harper heard prices were better in San Francisco, which was in the middle of a long drought. The Harper Brothers quickly redirected the cattle, commencing a 3-year cattle run, the longest in Canadian history.
In 1915, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE), later BC Rail, laid tracks from Squamish to Chasm, which significantly boosted Clinton's economy. During the 1930s and 1940s, soap soda was harvested from local "soda" lakes, and shipped by the Chasm Railway to 59 Mile House to make soap. Epsom salts were also harvested from local lakes and shipped to Vancouver.
Forestry became British Columbia's main economic source in the early 1950s. More than 20 bush-mills and sawmills once operated in the Clinton area. Today, only one remains. Clinton is once again evolving and is currently embracing its natural appeal, and offers visitors endless opportunities to wilderness hike, freshwater fish, explore provincial parks, and stay at working guest ranches.
For more information about the culture and history of Clinton, stop by the Visitor Centre.