Land Without Limits

Saddle Up: Rodeo Adventures in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

C+ Rodeos

Rodeo culture in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is a vibrant and integral part of the region’s heritage, reflecting a deep connection to its ranching roots. From Lillooet in the south to Quesnel in the north, visitors will be delighted by a variety of rodeos, ranging from small-town events to hugely popular ones that define and shape cowboy culture.

Cariboo’s rodeo scene offers a blend of competition, community, and celebration, with each event having its own unique flavour. These rodeos are tied to the rugged landscapes of the region, providing one-of-a-kind experiences for participants and visitors alike. Bella Coola Rodeo offers a more regional and remote experience, while the Williams Lake Stampede, one of the oldest and most famous rodeos in Canada, draws top competitors from across North America and attracts thousands of spectators each year.

“Most people don’t associate rodeos with a big industry, but there are over 700 professional rodeos in the United States alone,” says Roy Call, owner of C+ Rodeos, a key member of the British Columbia and Canadian rodeo communities, from providing livestock to marketing services. “We love to see the communities during this time. Rodeo day is always the best day of the year,” Roy adds.

If you’re deciding whether this is for you, consider that you’ll be experiencing exciting rodeo competitions, a rich and unique cultural heritage, a family-friendly environment, all set against one of the most stunning natural sceneries you’ll ever see. So, yes, saddle up because this is for you—and for everyone!

Unfolding the Past: A Historical Journey of the Rodeo

BC Rodeo history

Quesnel & District Museum Archives

With the Gold Rush Era of the 1860s bringing an influx of settlers to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, including ranchers and cowboys, a distinct ranch culture began to develop. This period saw the establishment of large cattle ranches, which became the backbone of the local economy and culture. It wasn’t long before informal rodeo competitions emerged, allowing these ranchers to showcase their skills in riding, roping, and cattle handling.

However, it was only with the arrival of the American “Wild West Show” in Canada during the early 1900s that spectators began paying to watch cowboy stunts. With this, the first major official rodeo event in Canada took place on September 2, 1912, in Calgary, known as “The Last and Best Great West Frontier Days Celebration.” The 6-day pageant and rodeo event attracted more than 40,000 spectators a day!

“Rodeos were created to show skills you use every day at a ranch. These are the skills and the discipline we use every day,” Roy explains. Today, rodeos continue this tradition by showcasing a blend of historical practices and contemporary entertainment.

What to Expect: A Guide to the Rodeo Experience

Williams Lake Rodeo

Williams Lake Rodeo | Julia Haseloff

Rodeos are undoubtedly incredibly fun events, but it’s important to know a few things beforehand so you can plan accordingly and choose what fits your taste. There are two main types of rodeos: non-profit amateur ones (BCRA) and the premier league (CPRA), which is based in Calgary and runs 60 events from Montreal to Vancouver, including the Williams Lake Stampede.

The larger and more popular rodeos attract thousands of tourists each year, and the grassroots events offer a more local experience – all of them with their own unique features that are worth your time. Several types of skills are showcased in these rodeos, here are some of the most popular:

  • Bareback: This event involves a rider holding onto a bucking horse with only a leather “rigging” placed around the horse’s girth. The rider must maintain balance and control while enduring the intense power and unpredictable movements of the horse.
  • Tie Down Roping: In this timed event, a cowboy on horseback chases a calf, ropes it around the neck, dismounts, and ties three of the calf’s legs together as quickly as possible. This skill demonstrates speed, accuracy, and teamwork between the horse and rider.
  • Saddle Bronc: Riders attempt to stay on a bucking horse for eight seconds using a specialized saddle. They hold onto a thick rein attached to the horse’s halter and must synchronize their movements with the horse to maintain balance and form.
  • Steer Wrestling: Also known as bulldogging, this event involves a rider chasing a steer on horseback, leaping from the horse, and wrestling the steer to the ground by grabbing its horns and pulling it off balance. It requires strength, timing, and technique.
  • Bull Riding: One of the most thrilling and dangerous rodeo events, bull riding requires a rider to stay mounted on a bucking bull for eight seconds with only one hand holding onto a rope tied around the bull. The rider must maintain balance and control while enduring the powerful and unpredictable movements of the bull.

Rest assured, the livestock bred specifically for this industry are well taken care of. “These animals are our friends, our family. They take care of us and we take care of them. This is their job and they know it. Besides, each one of them is worth $25-30k or more. We’ve been breeding these horses for 100 years, we do not want them to get hurt,” completes Roy.

Besides all popular skills shows, visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of entertainment options such as diverse food choices, beer gardens, and other presentations like motocross shows, live music, and indigenous performances. There are endless options for the whole family!

For those interested in witnessing young talent emerging and learning about the responsibilities of caring for farm animals while competing, Little Britches Rodeo Association organizes rodeos for young competitors from 8 to 14 years old. High school students can compete in BC High School Rodeo Association for a chance of winning scholarships for their hard work.

The Largest Rodeo Events in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

Williams Lake Rodeo

Williams Lake Rodeo | Laureen Carruthers

Go big or go home? No problem! You’ll easily find some big and exciting rodeo events in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, spanning from the south to the north, and from more remote locations to touristy towns:

Williams Lake Stampede: Established in 1920, stands as one of the most popular and iconic rodeos in all of Canada. This huge event showcases traditional competitions including bull riding, barrel racing, team roping, and steer wrestling. Drawing thousands of visitors, it’s an event surely not to be missed!

Quesnel Rodeo: Part of the annual Billy Barker Days Festival, which celebrates the region’s gold rush heritage, this event features standard rodeos and special local attractions. Integrating local history and culture, it offers a unique and enriching experience.

Bella Coola Rodeo: Located in the stunning Bella Coola Valley, the rodeo features traditional events such as bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, pole bending, and team roping. The breathtaking surrounding landscape serves as the perfect backdrop, adding to the event’s charm.

Be sure to visit Rodeo Canada for the latest information on all the rodeos in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and across the country, including dates and events.

Grassroot Rodeos of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

C+ Rodeos

C+ Rodeos

If you’re interested in experiencing smaller-scale, community-oriented events that celebrate local talent and traditions, you can attend the grassroots rodeos in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast. These events play an essential role in preserving cowboy culture and fostering a sense of community spirit.

Click here to view the members of the BCRA, where you’ll discover smaller and unique events like the Anahim Lake Stampede and Interlakes Rodeo. These events draw amateurs and juniors and feature activities such as bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tiedown roping, and steer wrestling.

“Small events like Redstone in Alkali Lake are great and so unique! At Redstone, they have a race with a 45-degree hill and a 90-degree corner, for example. They’re a lot of fun and a great way to have a more local experience!” explains Roy.

Visiting the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast for its rodeos offers a thrilling mix of sport, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned rodeo enthusiast or a curious traveller seeking new experiences, you’ll have an unforgettable opportunity to dive into a vibrant and rich tradition.

“My brother and I have been in this industry for 40 years, and we’ve experienced a lot in this business, from starting out as young guys on a ranch to running rodeos. We’ve made so many friends, and we love to see the communities. This is what it’s all about!” Roy concludes.

Where to Stay During Your Rodeo Trip

Bella Coola Accommodations

Tallheo Cannery | Geoff Moore

When planning your exciting trip to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast to immerse yourself in the thrilling rodeos and rich cowboy culture of the region, you’ll find no shortage of unique and cozy places to stay. Take a look at the list below for some of the most popular lodging options:

Williams Lake

Looking for a place to stay in Williams Lake during their famous stampede? Look no further than Drummond Lodge Motel, Lakeside Motel, and Sandman Inn are the right picks for those wanting a full experience.


Positioned along the Gold Rush Trail, the charming little town of Quesnel offers incredible opportunities for adventurers wanting to camp in their RVs and enjoy nature during rodeo season. Robert’s Roost Resort and Quesnel Downtown RV Park and Campground are your best bets!

Anahim Lake

While Anahim Lake’s most famous attraction is the annual stampede, the region deserves a longer visit to fully appreciate its natural beauty. Lodging such as Anahim Lake Resort, Eagle’s Nest Resort, and Red Cariboo Resort won’t disappoint travellers seeking quaint places to spend their nights.


If you’re planning to go to Redstone for their annual rodeo in August, Historic Chilcotin Lodge is the perfect place to stay, enjoy the event, and mingle with the local community members.

Located within the Land of Hidden Waters, Interlakes is ideal for a soothing break for some fishing in between rodeo events. Stay at a cozy log home at Beaver Guest Ranch and be surrounded by mesmerizing nature.

Bella Coola

The unforgettable land of Bella Coola boasts endless possibilities for activities all year round, and its lodging options are equally amazing: Bella Coola Grizzly Tours & Adventure Resort, Tallheo Cannery, and North Shore Guest House are just three of them.

For a comprehensive list of accommodations in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, check the list below or click here. Ready to head to the adventure of a lifetime?