Quesnel River

The Quesnel River /kwɪˈnɛl/ is a major tributary of the Fraser River in the Cariboo District of central British Columbia.[3] It begins at the outflow of Quesnel Lake, at the town of Likely and flows for about 100 kilometres (60 mi) northwest to its confluence with the Fraser at the city of Quesnel.

Quesnel River
Mule train at the Quesnel River 1868
ProvinceBritish Columbia
DistrictCariboo Land District
Physical characteristics
SourceQuesnel Lake
  locationLikely, British Columbia
  coordinates52°36′55″N 121°34′23″W[1]
  elevation724 m (2,375 ft)[2]
MouthFraser River
52°58′14″N 122°29′52″W[3]
468 m (1,535 ft)[2]
Length100 km (62 mi)
Basin size11,500 km2 (4,400 sq mi)[4]
  locationnear Quesnel[5]
  average238 m3/s (8,400 cu ft/s)[5]
  minimum27.8 m3/s (980 cu ft/s)
  maximum1,140 m3/s (40,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
  rightMitchell River (Quesnel River)


Just downstream from the outlet of Quesnel Lake, at the confluence of the Cariboo River, is the historically important ghost town of Quesnel Forks, a.k.a. "the Forks", which was a junction point of the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers. Various trails and wagon roads leading to the Cariboo goldfields lay across the low-hill range north of Quesnel Forks in the basin of the Cottonwood River. Both the Lillooet to Fort Alexandria wagon road and the later Cariboo Wagon Road came by Quesnel Forks but preferred to follow the valley of the Quesnel River to Quesnel and then east from there to the gold towns of Barkerville and Wells.

The river took its name from Jules-Maurice Quesnel, who explored this region with Simon Fraser in 1808.

Natural history

The Quesnel River supports a number of fish species, the most significant of which are Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Largescale sucker (Catostomus macrocheilus), Longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus), Redside shiner (Richardsonius balteatus), Northern pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis), Peamouth chub (Mylocheilus caurinus), and Lake chub (Couesius plumbeus).[6]

The salmon run of sockeye salmon experienced a major recovery in the late 20th century, sometimes surpassing the Adams River as the greatest sockeye producer in the Fraser basin.[6] However, the river, wildlife, and nearby water sources is threatened by 10 million cubic meters of contaminated mine waste that escaped in August 2014.[7]

See also


  1. Outlet of Quesnel Lake.
  2. Elevation derived from ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model, using GeoLocator, and BCGNIS coordinates.
  3. "Quesnel River". BC Geographical Names.
  4. Benke, Arthur C.; Cushing, Colbert E. (2009). Field Guide to Rivers of North America. Academic Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-12-378577-0. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  5. "Archived Hydrometric Data Search". Water Survey of Canada. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2013. Search for Station 08KH006 Quesnel River near Quesnel
  6. Benke, Arthur C.; Cushing, Colbert E. (2009). Field Guide to Rivers of North America. Academic Press. pp. 312–313. ISBN 978-0-12-378577-0. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  7. "Is B.C. Mine Waste Peeling the Skin off Salmon?". 8 August 2014.
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