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Williams Lake is a town of about 11,000 people in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. With many lakes and ranches in the surrounding areas, it offers many possibilities to visitors. It is also the gateway to the Central Coast of British Columbia.


The primary industries in Williams Lake are forestry, logging, sawmilling, mining and ranching.


Williams Lake is named in honour of Secwepemc (Shuswap) First Nation chief William, whose counsel prevented the Shuswap from joining the Tsilhqot'in in their uprising against the settler population in 1864.

Aboriginal activity in Williams Lake (called T'exelc by local First Nations communities) began as much as 4000 years ago. Europeans came into the region in 1860 during the Cariboo Gold Rush when Gold Commissioner Philip Henry Nind and William Pinchbeck, a constable with the British Columbia Provincial Police, arrived from Victoria to organize a local government and maintain law and order.

At the time, two pack trails led to the goldfields, one from the Douglas Road and the other through the Fraser Canyon. They met at Williams Lake, which made it a good choice for settlers and merchants. By 1861, Commissioner Nind had built a government house and had requested the funds to build a jail. With the centre of local government being at Williams Lake, the miners and businessmen all had to travel there to conduct their business and soon the town had a post office, a courthouse, a roadhouse and the jail that Nind had requested. Meanwhile, William Pinchbeck had not been idle and had built his own roadhouse, saloon and store. Eventually he would own most of the valley.

In 1863, the construction of Cariboo Road was rerouted the original trail so that it bypassed Williams Lake and went through 150 Mile House instead. The by-pass doomed the city: Williams Lake was forgotten and wouldn't be reborn until 1919 with the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, now part of the Canadian National Railway.

In July 2017, the province of British Columbia declared a state of emergency with more than 200 fires burning, mostly in the central region of the province. Residents from Williams Lake and other communities in central British Columbia such as Ashcroft and 100 Mile House were given evacuation orders.

Williams Lake is the hometown of Rick Hansen, a Canadian paraplegic athlete and activist for people with spinal cord injuries, who became well known during his fundraising Man in Motion world tour.


Williams Lake has a humid continental climate with warm summers. Spring is the driest time of year, and summer and winter are the wettest seasons respectively. Williams Lake receives about 2,000 hours of bright sunshine per year, which is more than most of the province. It is also in the rain shadow of the coastal mountains.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Highway 97 passes through Williams Lake from Quesnel to Cache Creek. Williams Lake is at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 20.

By bus[edit]

By plane[edit]

The Williams Lake Airport is 7.8 km (4.8 mi) northeast of the city. The airport is served by Pacific Coastal Airlines, and Central Mountain Air with daily flights to Vancouver.

Get around[edit]

Local public transportation consists of the BC Transit and HandyDART bus service.


  • The Station House Gallery and Gift Shop, 1 Mackenzie Ave N, +1 250-392-6113, . M-Sa 10AM-5PM. A restored BC Rail Station provides studio and gallery space. Each month, the gallery exhibits a variety of contemporary works in many mediums by local, regional, and touring artists. The society also operates a gift shop that features the work of local artisans and crafts people. Free.
  • The Museum of the Cariboo-Chilcotin, 113 Fourth Ave N, +1 250-392-7404. 14 May-Sep 1: daily 9AM-6PM; 1 Sep-15 Nov: M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-3PM; 16 Nov-13 May: M-F 9AM-5PM. Its collection of nearly 30,000 artifacts offers a glimpse into the Central Cariboo's history and is home to the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame. It has the largest saddle collection in western Canada, and artifacts relating to the Williams Lake rodeo and the local First Nations.
  • Williams Lake Studio Theatre Society


  • The Williams Lake Stampede takes place on the Canada Day (July 1) weekend and attracts top professional cowboys from across Canada and the United States. Events include bull riding, barrel racing, bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping and chuckwagon races. The Williams Lake Stampede plays host to many top cowboys and international rodeo competitors from Canada and the United States, most of which continue on the circuit to the Calgary Stampede, the following weekend. The Stampede festivities also include a parade of floats from local organizations, such as 4-H groups, First Nations bands, community service groups, the stampede royalty and local merchants. There is also a carnival with rides and games located near the stampede grounds.
  • Scout Island, 1305A Borland Rd, +1 250-398-8532. A 9.7-ha (23.9-acre) park and nature area. It has of a beach, picnic area, boat launch and several trails through mainly natural environment. Scout Island is actually two islands that are connected to the west end of Williams Lake by a causeway. The Nature House provides a view of the marsh next to the island. It is run by the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and provides information, displays and programs dealing with the local environment. 2.5 km of trails following the marsh edge and lake. Some trails and the Nature House are wheelchair accessible. Dogs must be on leash.
  • Williams Lake River Valley Trail, Soda Creek Road. Lots to see and a good open trail with lots of small bridges that enable the creek crossing as it meanders back and forth down the valley. Access from the parking area at the foot of Comer St. and Mackenzie Ave. for 12 km each way, or from the Frizzy Road parking lot for only 5 km to Fraser River.




Williams Lake being a small town doesn't have a great nightlife but on the weekend the drinking establishments do pick up. Best plan is to start at Oliver Street Bar and Grill and then move on to the Overlander pub for dancing after 9PM. Looking for a more laid back environment? Oliver Street has more of a sports bar atmosphere. While those looking for a casual evening out could try The Point located above Chances Casino or The Laughing Loon which was featured on HGTV's Timber Kings.

  • 1 Oliver Street Bar and Grill, 23 Oliver St, +1 250 392-5911. An excellent place to eat and drink. The food is really good with a varied menu and the service is excellent.
  • 2 The Overlander Pub, 1118 Lakeview Cres, +1 250 392-3321. A hub of activity on the weekend with great food and nightly specials don't miss Wednesday wing night either.


  • Coast Fraser Inn, 285 Donald Rd, +1 250-398-7055. Free Wi-Fi, hot tub, fitness centre. Pet-friendly rooms. From $125.
  • Lakeside Motel, 1505 Cariboo Hwy S. Microwave, kettle, a coffee maker, and a refrigerator in rooms. A garden offers BBQ facilities and lake views. Free Wi-Fi, a cable TV and a seating area are provided. Pet-friendly rooms offered. From $83.
  • Sandman Hotel & Suites Williams Lake, 409-664 Oliver St, +1 250-392-6557, . High-speed Internet access, an indoor pool, fitness centre and pet-friendly suites. From $125.


Go next[edit]

Routes through Williams Lake
Prince GeorgeQuesnel  N BC-97.svg S  100 Mile HouseKamloops

This city travel guide to Williams Lake is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.