Formerly known as the Kwakiutl, the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations have lived in the Echo Bay region for thousands of years. The island has a history rich in native culture and heritage. Pictographs, burial sites, and shell middens offer a fascinating glimpse into Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish culture.
Echo Bay was originally called Echo Cove because of the reverberations of sound from the cliff on one side of the bay.
Once a Forest Ranger Station, Echo Bay is located on the north side of Gilford Island, near the east end of Fife Sound in Cramer Passage, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Echo Bay is west of Broughton Archipelage Marine Provincial Park, approximately 48 km (30 mi) northeast of Port McNeill. Echo Bay can be reached by boat through Retreat Passage or Cramer Passage on the northwest side of Gilford Island, with departure from Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay and Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. Floatplane access is available by daily seaplane service between Seattle, Port McNeill, and Cambell River.
The private museum was created by lifelong fisherman and beachcomber Billy Proctor. The 'junk collector' was born in a shack in the woods in Port Neville, across from Kelsey Bay, and grew up in Freshwater Bay on Swanson Island, where his parents ran a fish-buying camp. The artifacts, some of which go back 6,000 to 8,000 years, represent different cultures and include 400 stone and bone artifacts, old hand logging equipment, old animal traps and skinning boards, and 1,300 old bottles. Entrance is by donation, with the proceeds going to support salmonid enhancement at Scott Cove hatchery.
Broughton Archipelago Provincial Marine Park, BC's largest marine park, consists of a wonderful collection of dozens of undeveloped islands and islets situated at the mouth of Knight Inlet on the west side of Queen Charlotte Strait near the north end of Vancouver Island. Established in 1992, Broughton Archipelago Provincial Marine Park offers excellent boating, kayaking and wildlife viewing opportunities. A multitude of islands provides park visitors sheltered waters and anchorages with a backdrop of the magnificent coastal mountains to the east and the waters of Queen Charlotte Strait to the west. These islands have been utilized by First Nation peoples for generations and there is ample evidence of their extensive use of the area. Kayakers and boaters can easily discover white midden beaches, culturally modified trees, clam "terraces" and even a petroglyph while exploring the park. This park is extremely popular with sea kayakers from around the world. Most kayakers prefer the southern portion of the park, though increasing numbers are starting to discover the beauty of the northern islands and their protected waterways.
Access to Echo Bay Marine Park on the northwestern side of Gilford Island is by boat or floatplane only. This small park provides a sheltered spot for boaters to stop and stretch their legs. A number of kayak transportation companies utilize Echo Bay as a drop off point for their kayak operations, as it is a good place to start a journey through the adjacent Broughton Archipelago. A small wharf provides overnight tie-up facilities for vessels less than 7 m (23 ft). Larger vessels must anchor or use the neighboring docks located at one of the two resorts in the community of Echo Bay. Fuel and supplies are also available at these resorts, adjacent to the park. Other amenities available at Echo Bay include a post office, grocery store, and arts and crafts stores.
Kingcome Inlet is an isolated fjord north of Echo Bay, set against the breathtaking backdrop of great towering mountains and carved into the Coast Mountain Range of mainland British Columbia.
Broughton Archipelago and its maze of intricate islands and waterways provide some of the best paddling in BC. Highlights include the Sedge Islands to the west of Bonwick Island, and the large camping area on the southern tip of Insect Island. Owl Island and the Echo Bay Marine Park on Gilford Island provide additional campsites. Several island groups await exploration by kayak, including Burdwoods, Benjamin, and Fox Islands.
Cruise the inland waterways of coastal British Columbia and experience the magic of the MV Aurora Explorer, a 40 m (135 ft) landing craft that transports a wide variety of heavy equipment and general freight throughout the Gulf of Georgia and the remote inlets of Johnstone-Queen Charlotte Straits. You will enjoy rugged coastal scenery, observe many species of whales and other sea life, and experience the history and influence of the early explorers, settlers, cannery workers and native populations on the coast. You'll listen as the crew works the radio telephones or navigates the ship by radar and watch as freight is loaded and discharged along the way. The Aurora Explorer operates from a base at Menzies Bay 15 km (9 mi) north of Campbell River, and offers a dining lounge, lower deck lounge, and bridge deck lounge for passenger comfort and viewing. There is a nautical and history library of coastal BC on board. The vessel has outside observation decks where passengers can observe activity on the freight deck, enjoy the passing scenery or simply lie back and soak up the sunshine and salt air.
These waters are exposed to the vast numbers of salmon migrating through Johnstone Strait and down the east coast of Vancouver Island, providing excellent fishing for several species of salmon (coho, pink, sockeye, and spring/chinook/king). The best fishing for Coho is mid July, August, and early September, for Tyee (Chinook) from late April to mid August, and March to September for Halibut. Fishing is also good for halibut, rock fish, and cod, as well as clams, crab, and prawns.
The region is home to a northern population of resident killer whales (Orcas), with the salmon feeding areas and rubbing beaches of Robson Bight (south of Telegraph Cove) on Vancouver Island being a preferred site. Other marine mammals include Pacific white-sided dolphins, harbour porpoise, Dall's porpoise, resident harbour seals, and wintering Steller sea lions. Other wildlife in the area include deer, bears, shorebirds, seabirds, loons, and bald eagles.
You can walk on the beaches and look for lost "treasures" washed ashore by Pacific currents. Watch for eagle feathers, periwinkles and driftwood polished smooth by gentle ocean waves. At low tide check the tidal pools for interesting sea life such as starfish and crab.
Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia