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Jim Redfern, Mike Evans and Ling, their Chinese cook, have driven a herd of steers from Montana, up the Cariboo Trail, to an area of British Columbia which previously was the site of a major gold rush. Jim hopes to establish a ranch in the Chilcotin area, but Mike is more interested in the possibility that gold may still exist there. When they come to a toll bridge operated by some of Frank Walsh's men, Jim decides the toll is pure robbery and stampedes the cattle across it. Later, an old prospector, Grizzly, and his burro Hannibal join Jim and Mike on their journey. One night while they are all asleep, Walsh's men stampede the cattle through the camp. Mike's left arm is trampled and Jim has to amputate it. As their horses ran off with the cattle, they are forced to proceed on foot, with Hannibal pulling Mike on a litter. A stagecoach passes and they are able to put Mike inside and take him to a doctor in Carson Creek, a town run by Walsh. At the Gold Palace saloon, Jim meets owner Francie Harrison, who is being courted by Walsh but wants nothing to do with him. Walsh then tells Jim that he wants him to reimburse him for the damage he caused to the toll bridge, but Jim refuses to pay. After Ling gives Jim his life's savings of $300 to finance a gold prospecting venture, he, Jim, Mike and Grizzly become equal partners. However, Mike is very angry at Jim, blaming him for his misfortunes. When Jim sees Bill Miller, one of Walsh's men, selling beef with Jim's and Mike's brand still on it, he accuses Miller of stealing his herd and, in a fair fight, shoots him. Later, in the mountains, Grizzly shows Jim and Ling how to pan for gold, but days pass with no success and they move into Indian country. Meanwhile, Francie visits the still recuperating Mike and asks him to work for her, but Walsh also wants to hire him. In the mountains, Jim discovers a valley which he is sure could be a cattleman's paradise, but he, Grizzly and Ling are captured by Blackfoot Indians. They manage to escape with Hannibal's help, and outrun the Indians, but become separated. While drinking from a stream, Jim finds gold. Unaware of Jim's movements, Ling returns to Carson Creek and asks Francie for a job as a cook. Jim brings gold samples to an assayer, who tells him that they are worth $900, but that he has to collect the cash from Walsh. Jim then goes to the saloon, where Francie welcomes him with an embrace. When Walsh's man, Murphy, brings the cash, Jim discovers that Walsh has deducted $310, the cost of rebuilding his toll bridge. Murphy then stirs up the townspeople with news of Jim's strike, and they declare that he should share his find. With Ling's help, Jim escapes on horseback to the mountains, where he encounters Grizzly and his brother-in-law's widow, Martha Winters, who has come from Montana with 300 head of cattle. As some of her hands have deserted to look for gold, she asks Jim to lead them into the Chilcotin Valley. He agrees to do so in return for a quarter share of the herd. Walsh is informed that Jim is heading his way again and, realizing that the gold boom is clearly over, considers going into the cattle business. As he is hiring men and still considers Mike a partner, Jim goes to see him, but Mike has been drinking heavily and refuses to work for him. The cattle drive moves on, observed all the way by Indians. Back in town, Francie throws Mike out of the saloon and goes to ask Walsh what he is up to, as he, too, suddenly wants to be rid of Mike. Mike reveals to a crowd at the saloon that Walsh has made a deal with the Indians to massacre all the members of the cattle drive. After defending Jim, he and Francie ride off to warn him. The Indians attack at night, lose many men and refuse to attack again until daylight. Walsh decides to stampede the cattle, and they just miss going through the camp site. Mike then arrives and shoots Walsh, who returns fire. After Mike dies in Jim's arms, Jim, Francie and the others finally reach the lush grazing grounds of the Chilcotin Valley.