The Cariboo is an intermontane region of British Columbia along a plateau stretching from the Fraser Canyon to the Cariboo Mountains. The name is a reference to the caribou that were once abundant in the region. The Cariboo was the first region of the Interior north of the lower Fraser and its canyon to be settled by non-indigenous people, and played an important part in the early history of the colony and province. The boundaries of the Cariboo proper in its historical sense are debatable, but its original meaning was the region north of the forks of the Quesnel River and the low mountainous basins between the mouth of that river on the Fraser at the city of Quesnel and the northward end of the Cariboo Mountains - an area that is mostly in the Quesnel Highland and focused on several now-famous gold-bearing creeks near the head of the Willow River, the richest of them all, Williams Creek, the location of Barkerville, which was the capital of the Cariboo Gold Rush and also of government officialdom for decades afterwards (it is now a museum town). This area, the Cariboo goldfields, is underpopulated today but was once the most settled and most powerful of the regions of the province's Interior. As settlement spread southwards of this area, flanking the route of the Cariboo Road and spreading out through the rolling plateaus and benchlands of the Cariboo Plateau and lands adjoining it along the Fraser and Thompson, the meaning changed to include a wider area than the goldfields.
The grasslands of the Cariboo are home of the regionally endangered American badger (Taxidea taxus jeffersonii).
As early as 1861, Governor Douglas used the name Cariboo to describe the area in dispatches to Britain.:38
- Akrigg, G.P.V.; Akrigg, Helen B. (1986), British Columbia Place Names (3rd, 1997 ed.), Vancouver: UBC Press, ISBN 0-7748-0636-2