is a ghost town in British Columbia, Canada
, named after Lieutenant Leech of the Royal Navy
, who discovered gold on the Leech River in 1864. The site now is only a clearing in the forest, with little remaining except for some rotting foundations, and is accessible by bike or foot on the Galloping Goose Trail
, which follows a portion of the former CN
rail line between Victoria
and the town of Youbou, on the North shore of Cowichan Lake
The statement that "The site now is only a clearing in the forest," is a misnomer inasmuch as the clearing at the 55.5km point (N48 29.408' W123 42.849') on the Galloping Goose Trail, is in fact not the site of the township of Leechtown. By viewing the map posted in this same location, one can see the original townsite of Leechtown ca.1864 was on the northwestern side of the Leech River. There is a stone cairn beside Cragg Main Logging Road. This is a replica cairn erected by concerned businessmen after the original cairn was destroyed by vandals. The original cairn's bronze dedication plate has been stolen but it read:
“Memorial erected by the B.C. Historical Association on site of gold commissioner’s house to commemorate discovery of gold on Sooke River by Lieut. P. Leech, July, 1864, and to mark the site of Leechtown, which sprang up following discovery. Unveiled by the HON. R.BRUCE LIEUT.-GOVERNOR OF B.C. SEPT. 15. 1928"
Leechtownsite Cairn on Cragg Main Logging Road, GPS Coordinates: N48°29.741' W123°42.705'
was found on the Leech River
, part of the Sooke River
system, in the 1860s prior to the larger gold rushes of the Cariboo
but was a major draw to prospectors after the California gold rushes
The value of the gold rush was estimated at ~$200,000 worth at $30 an ounce (today well over $4,000,000), and it is said that there may have been as many as 3000 people working the river in Leechtown at the height of the rush. Nuggets up to an ounce have been recorded, while others up to 8 oz. (250 g) have been reported.
Leechtown is notable for its geologic placement, which is what gives rise to the historical gold finds. The Leech River runs along the Leech River Fault, a major regional fault that marks a distinct geological boundary between the Pacific Rim Terrane
and the Crescent Terrane. The "Leech River Complex" or "Leech River Formation" is a well known assemblage of highly deformed schists
underlain by gneiss
. The gold is thought to be derived from quartz stringers
concentrated in the schists, emplaced by hydrothermal
events related to the regional tectonic activity.
The area around Leechtown is still actively under placer
lease, almost a century and a half after its discovery and still produces quantities of fine gold and flakes up to 0.25". The area is soon to be part of the Greater Victoria
water supply which will protect it from development but also end its history as part of the British Columbia gold rush