Treasure hunts to connect kids with the wild places at Wells Gray Park

Thompson Rivers University and the Wells Gray World Heritage Committee (WGWHC) are hosting two treasure hunts

If searching for hidden treasure appeals to you – or your kids – you might want to include Wells Gray Provincial Park in your summer travel plans.

Thompson Rivers University and the Wells Gray World Heritage Committee (WGWHC) are hosting two treasure hunts in the park. Each hunt offers a cash prize of $1000. And there’s even a new book out to help treasure hunters find their way: Treasure Wells Gray, by Trevor Goward with Jason Hollinger.

Both treasure hunts are loosely based on a legendary figure named Harkayee who, according to old timers, used to roam the mountains hereabouts, occasionally letting out blood curdling shrieks. Read the Harkayee legend at this link:

“Each of our treasure hunts is geared to a different audience,” said TRU dean of science Tom Dickinson. “One is designed specifically for family groups – parents who’d like to connect their children with wild places – while the other is for hard-core treasure hunters: geocachers and the like”.

Participants in both hunts will need to hike 10 of Wells Gray’s front-country trails and learn a little natural history along the way. Each trail yields a single-digit number. Put these numbers together in the right order and you’ve got coordinates for a specific place in the park – X marks the spot.

“What happens next depends on which treasure hunt you’re involved in,” said WGWHC spokesperson Trevor Goward. “Family groups have it easy, and need only send in their solutions and wait for wildlife artist Robert Bateman to draw the winning entry in early October – this as part of the opening ceremonies for TRU’s Wells Gray Wilderness Field Station”.

“Adventure hunters will need to perform four additional tasks, some of them guaranteed to tax their wit and stamina to the full. In the end, whoever finds the hidden clay replica of Harkayee’s skull is the winner”. Clues can be found here:

The winners of both hunts will receive a cheque for $1,000.

“Wells Gray is of course a vast wilderness park,” noted Wells Gray World Heritage Year coordinator Shelley Sim, “so we’ve confined our treasure hunts to a small, rather accessible area east of the Clearwater River, and north from Spahats Creek to Clearwater Lake. Though hidden, Harkayee’s skull is also in plain view; so no need to dig, turn over logs or otherwise disturb the park”.

Actually this isn’t the first time a treasure hunt has taken place in Wells Gray Park. In 1993, Kamloops resident Mike Ritcey launched his Thunder Bear Treasure Hunt, which continued for six years and attracted hundreds of treasure hunters from around the world. The prize: a solid gold human skull set with ruby eyes, and weighing seven pounds. The golden skull was won by Sandy and Wayne Sunderman of Clearwater, who later sold it to a gold dealer in Montreal for $37,000.

TRU fine arts student Mindy Lunzman for sculpted a clay replica of the bronze skull for the present Harkayee treasure hunt.

Clearwater mayor John Harwood commended the organizers for their efforts: “Wells Gray World Heritage Year in general and the Harkayee Treasure Hunt in particular provide an exciting focus on Wells Gray during this centenary year of Helmcken Falls.”

Tim Pennell, Area A director for the TRND, also praises the initiative:  “This is a good news story for the valley,” he said, “We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to Wells Gray Park and encouraging their spirit of adventure.”

Though treasure hunt clues are posted on-line, treasure hunters will definitely improve their chances when they purchase a copy of Treasure Wells Gray, now available at the Wells Gray Info Centre for $10.

Besides providing additional clues, the book gives maps and detailed descriptions for the ten treasure trails the treasure hunters will need to hike.

Here’s a link to the e-version of the book:

Read more about the Harkayee Treasure Hunt at this link: