British Columbia

Game of Thrones contest brings surge of visitors to small B.C. town in quest for Iron Throne

If you want your picture taken on the Iron Throne, you have until Sunday night to adventure north to Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Fans of the HBO show looking for the ultimate photo op have until Sunday night to venture to Tumbler Ridge

Kevin Sharman and his wife Birgit found one of six Iron Thrones hidden around the world near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. (Birgit Sharman)

Fantasy fans are descending on Tumbler Ridge, B.C., after one of six Iron Thrones from the TV series Game of Thrones was hidden near the small coal-mining community as part of a worldwide contest.

Now residents hope the attention will spotlight their efforts to transform the region into a tourist destination built around dinosaur fossils and outdoor experiences.

"It's non-stop busy," said Jenna McQueen who came in to work at the Tumbler Ridge visitor centre on her day off after the throne was discovered by a pair of local hikers.

The centre is adding extra staff and expanding its hours in anticipation of a busy weekend.

So far, McQueen said they've had people drop in from as far away as Victoria and Edmonton, and online some fans are contemplating coming from even further afield.

Birgit Sharman is ceremonially crowned after she and her husband were the first to find just one of six Iron Thrones hidden around the world as part of a global contest. (Kevin Sharman)

If you're thinking about making the trek, here's what you need to know:

Why is there an Iron Throne in Tumbler Ridge?

To promote the final season of Game of Thrones, the HBO network unveiled a worldwide scavenger hunt in which it shipped six Iron Thrones to secret locations around the globe, promoted with cryptic videos and hints.

HBO hasn't revealed why it chose Tumbler Ridge, but local tour operator Roxanne Gulick, of Wild River Adventure Tours, says her company was contracted in January to help find a spot to hide the throne.

The Gulicks did some location scouting and settled on Babcock Creek, south of Tumbler Ridge.

"It's beautiful, it really fits in to Game of Thrones," she said of the area surrounded by snow and frozen water.

How do you hide an Iron Throne?

Gulick said the throne arrived on March 18, hidden in a crate.

Still, she and her husband Randy had to fib when they were asked why they were snowmobiling a crate through the woods.

"Fortunately, Randy is a pretty quick thinker: 'Oh, we're just doing an outdoor winter survival exercise,'" she said.

Hundreds of people have been out to see an Iron Throne HBO hid in the woods near Tumbler Ridge, but a small group of people have known about the 'Game of Thrones' promotion since January and worked hard to keep it secret. 10:40

How can you find the throne?

The original location was a three-kilometre hike through snow, but warming weather put the throne at risk of water damage from a melting creek.

"We ended up having to helicopter the throne [out]," Gulick said.

The new location is accessible by car, about 20 kilometres south of the community along Highway 52.

The visitor centre has created a poster helping guide people to the exact location.

Tumbler Ridge itself is a 400-kilometre drive northeast of Prince George, and the nearest regional airport is in Fort St. John, 170 kilometres away.

How long will the throne be in B.C.?

Gulick said the operation will be dismantled Sunday night.

Until then, her husband and other people hired by HBO are standing watch to be sure the throne stays safe and visitors have a good experience.

"I think there will be a pretty steady parade of folks out there," she said, adding that more than 700 had arrived by Wednesday night.

What else does Tumbler Ridge have to offer?

Home to about 2,000 people, Tumbler Ridge is situated in a UNESCO Global Geopark due to its unique geological heritage.

As a prize for discovering the Iron Throne near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., Kevin and Birgit Sharman received their own crown. They took it to the local paleontology museum to help promote the other attractions in the community. (Kevin Sharman)

It also hosts B.C.'s largest fossil collection, though the community has been struggling to find ongoing funding to keep it together.

At the visitor center, McQueen said her staff is ready to start converting one-time visitors to regulars.

"It's a good use of our brochures," she said.

For further proof Tumbler Ridge is a worthwhile destination, the couple who found the throne say it's not even the most exciting discovery they've made while hiking the area.

"I don't think it really stacks up to finding a hundred million-year-old dinosaur track, for example," said Kevin Sharman.

"Still pretty exciting, though."

A couple from the small community of Tumbler Ridge, B.C. found one of the six thrones hidden around the world in a contest that promotes the HBO show's final season. Kevin and Birgit Sharman share their story. 8:57

About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

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