Tag Archive | Port Alice

The Village that Moved: Port Alice


Original townsite with Mill at left

Last year I went to Port Alice for the first time. This year, I am returning for a long stay during the summer of 2017 and will be welcoming guests.  Anyone interested in staying can contact me through this blog or through the Airbnb listing or go to beachfrontbnb.wordpress.com.

All I knew about Port Alice before I went was that it had been a mill town located in North Vancouver Island on the west coast. I found out upon arrival, that the Port Alice you would visit today was not the site of the mill town.  The original townsite that surrounded the operating pulp mill was vacated by most of the population in 1965, and Port Alice residents were moved over to a brand new town a few kilometres to the north, but still on the Neurotsos Inlet.  The big difference was, they were out of sight of the mill.  Being out of sight of the mill also meant they were away from its ill effects.

Blair McLean 043The Port Alice of today is a pretty place that has scenic views whether you are up the mountain or right on the coast, and the drinking water is excellent, coming from a freshwater spring.  The air too, is fresh.  I had the fortune to stay right on the water, facing west; a five bedroom house with three bathrooms and big surprise, a Turkish bath!  I tried it out and it was great!  Because just my mother and I occupied the house, she took the upstairs and I took the downstairs.

Port Alice boasts magnificent sunsets, which we didn’t witness while there, but nonetheless, the sky was IMGP0376everchanging and lovely.  My purpose in being there was to find peace and quiet, and Port Alice offers both in abundance.  It is a pleasant place for taking short walks and even has a library.  It has the requisite liquor store, grocery store and post office, but unfortunately no restaurant apart from the occasional meals available on weekends at the Quatsino Chalet and breakfast at the Legion.

IMGP0402I was told that if I wished to meet the locals, I should head down to the golf course around 4pm.  I did go, but a little early.   Still it was interesting to chat with Gail, the woman who works at the golf course as she could tell you anything you wanted to know about the place.  She said that she enjoyed growing up in the intimate community that was the old townsite adjacent to the mill, where you knew everyone and made your own fun.


Yours truly at the local ‘yacht club’

My timing was off for another reason:  I missed shopping at the local thrift shop, which is only open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 2pm.  Too bad I didn’t read over all the visitor information I picked up at the municipal office the day before!  However, my real interest was in the history.

My friend Blair suggested that I read a publication he had at the house entitled ‘Why Port Alice?’ that covers its history from 1917 to 1965.  Like many local histories, it gets bogged down in details about early settlers, but at least does provide all the pertinent facts about how and why Port Alice was built where is was, and how people survived there.  A reference in the beginning to an earthquake somehow related to atomic testing in Alaska had me puzzled, but I found out later that indeed in the early 1960s atomic testing in Alaska did ‘shake up’ BC and particularly affected Port Alice since much of the original townsite suffered damage from a tidal wave, resulting in the rebuilding of the village a short distance away.

Another puzzle brought up by reading the book was, what happened to the Quatsino people?  They clearly interacted with the early settlers, but no mention was made of what became of them.  The females were distinguished by their elongated heads, that are wrapped tightly while the girls are babies, although today there are no more Quatsino women with this feature.  I found out later after a chance meeting with the chief of the Quatsino, Tom Nelson, that several reserve sites had been set aside for the Quatsino in the inlet, but that only one remains in nearby Quatsino Sound.  Chief Nelson, unfortunately, is the last of his people to speak his language.  He also told me that he was one of the last people to work in the whaling station near Port Alice that was in operation right up until the late 1960s.

IMGP0392 This time around, I plan to get out on a boat to explore nearby Quatsino Sound and the village of Quatsino.  If I’m lucky I might even get out fishing!  Port Alice is a good getaway place within driving distance of Campbell River – just two and a half hours away.  The road from Highway 19 heading west to Port Alice is an excellent paved road with some roller coaster hills, lovely curves and great views over Victoria Lake.  Well worth the visit!


Treat Yourself To Local Trout

While salmon often get all the press in the Campbell River area, one of the nicest local fish to eat and one of the most fun to catch is trout.  Around here you can catch Cutthroat, Rainbows and Dolly Varden.

Early morning Echo Lake

Early morning Echo Lake

You don’t have to go far to find them – Echo Lake, for example, just 15 km west of town on Hwy 28, has been stocked with trout for your fishing pleasure.  It is a lovely little lake and when driving by you often see people fishing off the small dock or out in the lake in their inflatable waders.  With no motor craft being allowed on the lake, it is a peaceful place in which to plunk your pole.

Further down the highway, going towards Gold River, Lower Campbell Lake, Upper Campbell Lake and Buttle Lake all offer good fishing.

Reid Robinson with the big one in '06

Reid Robinson with the big one in '06

Pictured here is our grandson who caught a nice sized Cutthroat (about three pounds) out of Upper Campbell.  My favourite way to fish Upper Campbell is to troll along close to shore in a small tin boat powered by a quiet electric motor.  Doing this, I also caught a similar sized Rainbow that same summer.

At Buttle Lake, in Strathcona Provincial Park, you can cast off from the shore.  (You can do this at Lower Campbell too).   If you have a boat, fishing is good near the mouth of the Wolf River.  This weekend, a local business held a trout derby which one of our neighbours attended, and someone caught a six pound Rainbow!

Also this weekend, my son and his friend went north of town to Morton Lake, and they caught a couple of small Cutthroat.  In the past my son has caught some nice sized Cutthroat at the Oyster River.  I heard that Victoria Lake near Port Alice has prime trout fishing as well.

Trout are delicious and light in texture and flavour, and are easily prepared, with pan frying being the

Lovely little cutthroats

Lovely little cutthroats

preferred method.  Once the fish are cooked, remove them from the pan, throw about half a cup of chopped almonds into the pan with butter and sautee them, garnish your trout with the almonds and you have Trout Amandine!

Trout like worms and will also go for powerbait. One fairly offbeat method we heard of for attracting the particularly large trout is to bait your hook with a live white mouse, and fish at night when the moon is full.  Apparently, the monster trout can’t resist the sight of a bright wriggling rodent in the moonlight.  Not for me, but it might appeal to the more intrepid fisherman.

Since freshwater licences became available for purchase online, not as many outlets sell them, so check around if you want to pick one up in person.

My all time favourite fishing  joke:

A fellow was driving down the road and was pulled over by a conservation officer.  He had a large number of fish in the back of his truck, clearly over the allowable limit.  The officer questioned him about this and the driver responded: “This isn’t what it looks like, Officer, these are my pet fish.”

“Your pet fish?”

“Yes, you see, Officer, I take them down to the lake for a swim everyday and after about 10 or 15 minutes they come back.”

“This I have to see,” replied the officer.

They went back to the lake, and the fellow released the fish into the water.  They waited for what seemed to be a long while, and the officer finally said, “So where are these pet fish of yours, I thought they were coming back?”

The fellow turned to him and asked, “What fish?”