The Bedwell (Bear) River sources its headwaters from Big Interior Mountain, among others, on central Vancouver Island and flows southwest through Strathcona Park to its mouth on Bedwell Sound.
The area is underlain mainly by volcanics of the Upper Triassic Karmutsen Formation, (Vancouver Group). In the Bedwell River area these consist of fine-grained andesites and black or dark- green basalts. Lenses of recrystallized limestone also occur locally. Large areas to the immediate west of the head of Bedwell Sound and a few kilometres to the north are underlain by rock of the Early to Middle Jurassic Island Plutonic Suite. These plutonic rocks on vary in composition from gabbro to quartz monzonite but are mainly granodiorite and quartz diorite.
Placer gold is likely related to known lode gold deposits located to the southeast on Ursus Mountain (See Muskateer Mine, MINFILE 092F 060), to the northeast on Big Interior Mountain and to the north west on Mariner Mountain.
It appears that most of the gold was derived from bars or in crevices in the bedrock of the river bed, or from benches along the side of the creek.
Bulletin 21, from 1946, states that placer miners have worked the following rivers and streams of Vancouver Island: China and Loss creeks, and Leech, Gordon, Jordan, Sooke, Sombrio, San Juan, Bedwell, Nanaimo, Gold, and Zeballos rivers.
In 1865, a party of the Vancouver Island Exploration Expedition traveled inland up the Bedwell (Bear) River to prospect for gold. Placer gold was noted from the junction of Ursus Creek to a distance of approximately 12.8 kilometres up the river. Gravels were reported to yield gold worth 4 to 5 cents a pan or approximately 0.07 gram of gold per pan based on a gold price of 18.93 dollars per ounce at the time (Guppy, W. (2000-01-30): The Scent of Gold).
A production estimate of 40,000 dollars’ worth of fine gold is reported for the Bedwell River during the 1860’s through the 1890’s (Barlee, N.L. (1972-07-01): The Guide To Gold Panning In British Columbia). At a 1900’s value of approximately 19 dollars a troy ounce this would have equalled approximately 65.5 kilograms of gold.
During the late 1860’s through the 1890’s, the river was worked by a group of placer miners, reports range from 15 to 100 in total. In the early 1920’s, it is reported that J.H. Woodworth and Associates had placer claims at the head of the Bedwell River. Other placer workings are reported to be located near the mouth of You Creek. The entire river, excluding the lower 6 kilometres to tide water, lies within Strathcona Park.