The Campbell River area was first explored by Captain George Vancouver in 1792, when he landed on nearby Quadra Island, while trying to find the Northwest Passage.
Nearby Mudge Bay is named for Zachary Mudge, Vancouver’s first lieutenant about the HMS Discovery. Discovery Passage, between Campbell River and Quadra Island is a key bottleneck between the Strait of Georgia and the Pacific, sometimes less than a mile wide, making it a key transit point for the annual salmon run from the Pacific Ocean to the BC interior. The Coast Salish people, who were in the area at Vancouver’s time, moved south to Comox and Qwualicum, and the Kwaguilth nation from Alert bay and North Island moved into the vacated villages, making this the southernmost reach of the Kwakwala speaking first nations. In the 1806s, Captain Richards who was doing the marine charting for the British Admiralty was assigning place name in the area, and named the Campbell River for his staff surgeon, Dr Samuel Campbell.
By the late 1800s, forestry was picking up in the area, and the abundance of local salmon began to attract visitors from around the world. An 1896 story about a 70 pound tyee caught in the Campbell River started a sport fishing frenzy that has never since subsided. Local sport fisher and conservationist Roderick Haig-Brown published over 50 books on the subject and his home is now a BC Heritage site In 1948 a power dam at Elk Falls helped drive industry in this part of Vancouver Island including the Elk Falls Mill, owned by Norskde Canada. In 1948, the dangerous underwater Ripple Rock, responsible for sinking many ships, was blown to bits in the world’s largest planned pre-nuclear explosion. It took miners 28 months to dig underwater from nearby Maud Island to destroy 700,000 tons of submerged rock, in a blast that sent it 1000 feet into the air.
This 35,000 resident community is an important lumber and fishing centre. The town has three sandy beaches to the south: Oyster Bay, Saratoga and Miracle or head to nearby McIvor Lake with its sandy beaches. Elk Falls was the location of the movie “The 13th Warrior” starring Antonio Banderas
Salmon Festival (July)
Campbell River Attractions
Elk Falls Pulp & Paper Mill, Norkse Canada
4405 North Island Highway PO Box 2000
Campbell River V9W 5C9
Learn about how paper is made from trees. Tours from mid-may to mid-August. Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 10 am, Tuesday and Thursday 10 am and 1 pm. Reservations required, children must be at least 8 years old and accompanies by an adult. No sandals, clogs or heels. Free admission.
Mount Washington Alpine Resort
1 Strathcona Pkwy, Comox-Strathcona C, BC
250-338-1386 toll-free 1-888-231-1499
Located in Strathcona Provincial Park, BC’s oldest (1911) provincial park and at 500,000 acres, the Island’s largest. You approach this resort along the scenic Strathcona Parkway from Campbell River. From the top of Mount Washington, you have 200 mile views in all directions. In the summertime (mid-June to mid-October), take the lift up for the view or mountain bike down the mountain, in the wintertime, ski or snowboard on over 500 trails through the West Coast’s best snow, or cross-country ski or snowshoe on 55 km of trails.
Campbell River Fishing Pier
655 Island Highway
This 183 metre (600 ft) pier is available for fishing, strolling or to watch passing cruise ships.
Campbell River Museum
470 Island Hwy, Campbell River, BC V9W 4Z9
Artifacts by the Indians of northern Vancouver Islands, including the Kwakiutl, Nuucha-nulth, and Salishan. Exhibits follow the pioneer history of the north Island. Allow 1 hour. Open Jun-August 10 am to 4 pm; Rest of year Tue-Sat 1 pm to 4 pm. Admission $.
Elk Falls Provincial Park
Hwy 28, Campbell River, BC V9H 1P1
This park covers 1,000 hectares in which the Campbell River has a drop of 27 metres (90 ft) into a deep canyon.
Quinsam River Hatchery
Hwy 28, Campbell River, BC V9H 1P1
.5 km west on Hway 28 and 2.4 km on Quinsam Rd
This hatchery produces pink, coho and chinook salmon as well as steelhead trout. The facilities include incubation tanks and holding ponds and displays show the life cycle of a salmon. Open daily from 8 am to 4 pm, with best adult salmon viewing mid-September to mid-October. Free admission.
Strathcona Provincial Park
Westmin Rd, Comox-Strathcona D, BC T9E 0V3
This huge park, the province’s first and the the Island’s largest, contains Mount Golden Hinde, which at 2,200 metres (7218 ft) is the tallest mountain on Vancouver Island. Della Falls is 400 metres (1,445 ft) and is the tallest waterfall in Canada. Park is closed Nov. 1 to March 31.