Named for Lt. Ciriaco Cevallos, a member aboard an early ship of Spanish explorers, Zeballos remained relatively obscure until the gold rush in the 1930s. Although estimates vary, Zeballos may have had a population of over 5,000 during the peak of mining activity. Between 1938 and 1943, $13 million worth of gold bricks were shipped from Zeballos.
With the onset of World War II, Zeballos lost significant numbers of its workforce to the Canadian Army. Eventually, the mines began to close. Although post-war efforts were made to begin production again, the set price of $35.00 an ounce made it uneconomical for the mines to continue operating. Within twenty years, the mines had closed for good.
In the 1950s, logging emerged as a promising new industry for the village. In 1964, an iron mine was established. Although the timber industry proved successful for the community, the mine shut its doors just five years after opening.
Today, logging is the mainstay of the Zeballos economy. An ice plant receives and processes a variety of fish through the year, which is shipped to markets throughout Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. Zeballos is increasingly becoming a destination for travelers who are looking for the excitement of wilderness recreation activities.
Zeballos is a deep-sea port surrounded by rugged mountains and forests, located on the Zeballos River delta, at the end of Zeballos Inlet. It is accessible by Highway 19, 190 km (118 mi) northwest of Campbell River and 86 km (53 mi) southwest of Port McNeill. Zeballos' position relative to nearby Nootka Sound and Kyuquot Sound make it a popular "jump-off" point for tourists and anglers.
The maze of islets and reefs that make up Nuchatlitz Provincial Park offer excellent opportunities to study intertidal life in the many tide pools that can be found throughout the area. These remote islands offer both exposed coast and protected waters for paddling, quiet coves and a multitude of beaches. The park is located approximately 18 km (11 mi) southwest of Zeballos, on the west coast of Vancouver Island between Nuchatlitz and Esperanza inlets. Access is by boat or float plane only.
Catala Island Marine Provincial Park encompasses numerous reefs, islets and marine ecosystems as well as a lake, bog area and rugged shoreline, all of which provide ample opportunities for exploration. Rustic trails lead to the lake and bog in the center of the island, which features tall trees twisted by the fierce winds coming off the Pacific Ocean. This forest forms a ragged backdrop to the island's smooth, sandy beaches. Catala Island is located in Esperanza Inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Access is gained via kayak or power boat. The closest boat launch is in Zeballos.
Running along the west side of Nootka Island from Louie Bay to Friendly Cove, the Nootka Trail is 30 km of coastal hiking. Charters are available in Zeballos to take you to the starting point of Louie Bay if you want an alternative to floatplanes. Visitors are attracted by the rich intertidal life, old growth forests, abundant wildlife and the rich native heritage of the area. Ancient village sites can be seen in the Bajo Point and Beano Creek areas. Shady boardwalks and walking trails wind through the Zeballos River estuary and along the river, providing visitors with a perfect opportunity to enjoy the native plants and wildlife of the rainforest.
The Zeballos River estuary is designated a Wetland Reserve by the Ministry of the Environment and the Nature Trust of BC. In the spring, swarms of hummingbirds enjoy feeders put out by many residents. Eagles and herons are plentiful, as are flickers, kingfishers and finches. Ravens, woodpeckers and wrens can also often be seen. In the winter months a flock of trumpeter swans calls the inlet home. Sea ducks, such as goldeneyes, buffleheads, mergansers, widgeons and scoters, are commonly found diving and dabbling about the inlet.
Zeballos has become a hot spot for kayakers accessing Catala and Nuchatlitz Provincial Parks, the islands of Kyuquot Sound and the rest of the spectacular northwest Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. Fresh water, beaches for camping, trails and a rugged coastline to explore entice return visitors. A Forestry Recreation site at Fair Harbour is ideally located for continuing your adventures with explorations of Tahsish and Amai Inlets or the beautiful ocean beaches of Rugged Point Marine Park. Kayaks are available locally for day trips or longer excursions.
Erosion of the continuous band of limestone that runs down from Quatsino has produced thousands of caves on northern Vancouver Island. The Artlish Caves Provincial Park, located northwest of Zeballos, is a concentration of river karst features unique in Western Canada. In terms of flow volume and passage dimensions, the Artilish River cave system is currently the largest active river cave system known in Canada. Little Hustan Cave Regional Park can be easily accessed just off the road into Zeballos. Dozens of "undiscovered" caves, sink holes, and disappearing streams in the area await those who like to explore. For the more adventurous, Rugged Mountain and the Slab in the Nomash River valley are well-known to rock-climbing enthusiasts.
Fly fishermen keep returning to the Zeballos and Kaouk Rivers to fish fine runs of steelhead, cut-throat, and rainbow trout. Cut-throat trout up to 5 pounds have been caught in the small lakes along the gravel road into Zeballos. Dolly Varden and rainbow trout are also plentiful in Wolf, Anutz, Atluck and Hustan Lakes. The sheltered waters of Zeballos Inlet are not immune to stormy weather, but for the most part the water is calm year-round and suitable for boats of all sizes. Bring your own boat or hire a local charter to fish the waters of Nootka Sound. From Zeballos, it's a 45 minute run to the open Pacific at the entrance to Esperanza Inlet. The north side, near Catala Island, is a favourite spot for sports fishers looking for winter springs or summer runs of coho. Fishers head off-shore for halibut and red snapper, canary cod and rockfish can be jigged almost anywhere in the inlet. In the spring prawns and Dungeness crab can be caught right out in front of the village.
Some of the best cold-water diving on Vancouver Island can be found just a short boat ride away from Zeballos. The waters are especially clear in the winter months. Colourful anemones sway in the currents while Puget Sound king crab scuttle below. Purple hinged scallops, soft corals and abalone cling to the rocks. Curious six gill sharks glide past in the clear waters. The steep walls of Zeballos Inlet and Kyuquot Sound provide for exceptional wall dives. Tahsis Narrows and the Gardens are well known local diving sites.
The beaches of the west coast of Nootka Island receive swells that travel across the Pacific from Japan. Charter boats are available in Zeballos to take you to these pristine beaches.
In April and May, bears are a common sight on the forestry road leading into Zeballos. Elk are occasionally seen along the road. In the woods around Zeballos are deer, bears, cougars, elk, marten, squirrels, raccoons, beavers and river otters. During salmon spawning season in the fall, the river teems with fish. Bears and eagles that arrive to partake of the annual feast can be watched safely from the Sugarloaf Bridge. Trumpeter swans drift down the river, competing with the seagulls for newly laid salmon eggs. With the river running through the center of the village there's not much need for a nature channel on TV. Charter a boat in the spring to catch a glimpse of the grey whales passing by Nootka Island on their annual migration north. Rafts of sea otters can be seen throughout the year.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia