Campbell River has been a focal point for salmon fishing and an important gateway to the rich wilderness of northern Vancouver Island for centuries. Old legends told of salmon running so thick, a person could walk on their backs. In the late 1800s and into the first decade of the 1900s, a small trickle of settlers followed loggers who were moving along the coast, but it was the abundance of salmon that caught the attention of aristocrats and wealthy outdoors enthusiasts from Europe and America.
Campbell River was to remain a quiet fishing and logging community until the hydro development of Elk Falls became a reality when the John Hart Dam came into operation in 1948. Since then, it has grown into a modern city of over 31,000, with a diversified economy centred around forestry, mining, fishing, farming, light manufacturing, and tourism.
Campbell River is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island 29 km (18 mi) north of Courtenay.
The museum features exhibits highlighting the unique culture and history of northern Vancouver Island. Learn about the rich heritage of the First Nations peoples and watch footage of the legendary 'Ripple Rock' explosion, an underwater mountain that sank more than 100 ships before it was destroyed in 1958 by the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion in history.
The Maritime Heritage Centre features marine-oriented artifacts, including the BCP45, a seiner that once adorned the Canadian five-dollar bill.
Extending 45 m (145 ft) from the shore, Discovery Pier was Canada's first saltwater fishing pier and today provides access to high quality recreational fishing. Equipment is available to rent. The pier is also ideal for sightseeing and evening strolls.
During the winter, come here for alpine and nordic skiing. During the summer there's mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing, mini-golf, and camping. There are also special events every month.
North and Central Vancouver Island's premier motor speedway. Rent a go-cart and race against your friends around a 3/8 mile oval track, or watch others compete in the weekly competitions. Saratoga Speedway is located halfway between Courtenay and Campbell River, on the scenic Island Highway. It has been a staple of the area for over 30 years and is ranked as one of the finest tracks in the province. The pit area inside the racing surface allows spectators to view their favourites preparing their cars for the next event.
Strathcona Provincial Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Located almost in the centre of Vancouver Island, Strathcona park is a rugged mountain wilderness comprising more than 250,000 hectares. Mountain peaks - some perpetually mantled with snow - dominate the park. Lakes and alpine tarns dot a landscape laced with rivers, creeks and streams. Summer in Strathcona is usually pleasantly warm, while winters are fairly mild except for the higher levels, where heavy snowfalls are the norm. Buttle Lake and vicinity and Forbidden Plateau - offer a variety of visitor-oriented developments. The rest of the park is largely undeveloped.
Thundering waterfalls and some of the finest year-round salmon fishing in Canada are just two of the reasons Elk Falls is one of the most popular provincial parks on Vancouver Island. Add to that the extensive network of forest trails, the nearby Quinsam salmon hatchery and, in the fall, the sight of spawning salmon in the Quinsam and Campbell Rivers. Elk Falls is located 2 km (1.2 mi) from downtown Campbell River.
There is a reason the area northwest of Campbell River is called "lake country", that visitors to Morton Lake Provincial Park are sure to discover. From April to June and September to October, lake fishing for Rainbow, Cutthroat and Dolly Varden trout on Mohun Lake in the park can be excellent. While this park is popular with anglers, there is still plenty to do if fishing isn't your favourite pastime. During the summer, visitors can fill their days swimming, canoeing, boating or just lounging on the sandy beach at Morton Lake. Morton Lake Provincial Park, which includes all of Morton Lake and a section of shoreline on neighbouring Mohun Lake, provides access to the popular Sayward Canoe Route - a 47 km (29 mi) paddle and portage circuit. The park is located 27 km (17 mi) northwest of Campbell River in the Sayward Forest.
Quadra Island and the nearby island of Steep are acknowledged as two of the top scuba diving destinations in the world. Both provide exceptional visibility, and feature an amazing diversity of sea life and wreck sites. Be prepared to see wolf eels, anemones, crabs, hybroid sponges, sculpins, rockfish, seals, and the spectacular giant octopus.
The abundance of Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum is the reason Campbell River is known as the Salmon Capital of Canada. As well as offering some of the best salmon fishing in BC, salmon can be viewed from river floats and on snorkelling adventures, watching bears catch salmon and touring salmon hatcheries.
There are several golf courses in the area for every level of golfer. Included are: Storey Creek which is carved out of a dense mixed forest and is truly a course in nature. Stepping into its rhythm, you'll play your game in the company of wildlife - pausing as a family of deer cross the fairway, or as a young eagle preens in a freshwater pond, or the salmon spawn in Woods Creek. This Les Furber designed 18-hole par 72 championship course has 4 sets of tees allowing every golfer to select their desired degree of difficulty. Sequoia Springs Golf Course is blessed with a multitude and variety of plant life, including the largest population of Sequoia trees on Vancouver Island. With the recent completion of the 1,006 m (1,100 yd) expansion, guests will be challenged at every level of the game.
There are many trails and places to walk in and around Campbell River. The Rotary Beach Seawalk offers wonderful scenery including Transformations on the Shore, a display of driftwood sculptures. You can also walk on Discovery Pier, or walk on one of two golf courses.
Local mountain biking enthusiasts have carved out excellent trail systems throughout the region. Check with local bike shops for inside info, maps, and rentals.
Campbell River's lake and river systems are a paddler's dream with deep wilderness, smooth water, and connected waterways. Tours, guides and rentals are widely available.
Visit Sybil Andrew's Cottage in Willow Point, the home of Campbell River Community Arts Council and a showcase for more than 150 artists and art groups. There is also the Campbell River and District Public Art Gallery and several First Nations art galleries as well as a carving shed, where you can watch new sculptures being created.
Campbell River Visitor Centre
1235 Shoppers Row
Campbell River, BC V9W 2C7
Toll Free: 1-877-286-5705
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia