Hidden Paradise

Local amateur historian Andy Motherwell chronicles the life and loss of Hidden Paradise, a one-time busy recreational area.

Added buildings at Hidden Paradise sided with slab lumber.

Most recent arrivals in Quesnel are not familiar with a riverside acreage which has had an interesting history.

It’s a large bench of land on three levels in a gentle section of the Fraser River above Quesnel where stern wheelers worked their way upstream to Prince George and beyond.

Who first settled there I have not found out, but neighbouring land parcels are District Lots 82, 83 and 84, very early numbers for the Cariboo.

The land reached it’s greatest fame when a Quesnel couple, the Jim Donnellys acquired it in 1950, putting in a picnic site, horse stables, a horse racetrack, a main house on a small rise, rose gardens, cabins and more.

Many Quesnel people took part in the games, races, picnics and used the cabins. Children especially were treated to a memorable weekend among the flower gardens and games. In winter, skiing and snowmobiling were also popular there.

Old Age Pensioners Tribute to the Past gives a good description of Hidden Paradise, as it was named.

The Donnellys sold out in 1969 and left Quesnel – few people have left a legacy as they did.

The 1,500 acres (607 ha) is returning to nature now in some areas, with trees where hay once grew.

Several attempts were made to restore the land to its former glory including one group, led by George Owens in Dec. 1968, who wanted the newly formed CRD to take it over as a park.

John Ernst bought the site, logged and cleared a lot of the land and ran a cattle ranch there. He put in a better access road and built large hay barns.

Many of the Donnelly buildings are still standing.

A Lower Mainland company now owns the property, although minimal ranching is carried on.

Sadly, as times change, the community gathering spot has declined as the photos show, even though the horse barn Dutch doors still swing at the numbered stalls.

The access road originally built by the Donnellys, is lined now with large cottonwood trees, which seems like a path to an 1800s gentleman’s estate.

An old preemption map shows a trail connection between the Quesnel Golf Course and Hidden Paradise, following the Fraser River – no longer used as a better path has been found.

During the hippie era, many rough shelters were erected and now 50 years later, lie in ruins. It was home to many youth and much evidence of their passing is here. Each pile of wood, appliances and junk tells where each cabin was, although some of the Donnelly’s cabins are still sided by rough slabs.

Currently, it is private land. Permission may be granted

by a caretaker at Gunner


It saddens me to think of the past and wonder at the future for this Hidden Paradise.

Andy Motherwell is an amateur historian and regular Observer columnist.

Just Posted

British Columbia Rodeo Association releases tentative 2019 schedule

The BCRA season opens with the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo April 26-28, comes to Quesnel July 19-21

Quesnel Women’s Resource Centre wins $500 for Deeds Well Done

There were 28 nominations to the campaign in Quesnel

Quesnel Thunder Peewees win silver at home

The host hockey team beat squads from Northwest District, Kamloops, Smithers and Prince George

Quesnel’s 27th annual Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run attracting mushers from as far as Montana

Participantss will be sworn in as official Canada Post mail carriers Jan. 25 in Quesnel

Protecting your operation from wildfire the focus of upcoming workshop in Quesnel

The BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative hosts a risk reduction workshop Jan. 31

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

Most Read