Orcas Vancouver Island, Photo Destination BC Reuben Krabbe
Sayward is a small coastal community on Kelsey Bay overlooking Johnstone Strait on the east coast of North Vancouver Island. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the pathway winding by Sayward’s estuary and you’ll find a variety of wildlife. Count the species of birds and other wild animals who make their home in this beautiful natural environment. At the end of the old Island Highway, a well-worn trail leads to the locally known “Gentries Pool” where you can lay on white sand, snorkel with the salmon, or swim. The Salmon River is a popular river for exhilarating river rafting. In addition, the lakes and rivers offer a range of canoeing and kayaking routes. You can also enjoy a guided marine wildlife trip up scenic Johnstone Strait to the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve on a quest to locate and observe killer whales, eagles, bears, and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Bird watching is also popular at the Salmon River Wildlife Reserve and fishing and whale watching from the Port of Kelsey Bay wharf.
The community of Sayward is located on the east coast of north Vancouver Island, 73 km (45 mi) north of Campbell River, 178 km (110 mi) south of Port Hardy and 142 km (88 mi) south of Port McNeill. It is accessed by a 10 km (6 mi) paved road off Island Highway 19.
Sayward was first established in the 1890s at the mouth of the Salmon River and was called Port H’Kusum. Settlers began arriving and pushing inland, spreading into the valley. One of the early settlers, Otto Sacht, established a trading post up the river in 1904. He opened a post office in his store, calling it Salmon River. In 1911, the settlement was officially named Sayward after William Parsons Sayward, a pioneer lumberman who came to Vancouver Island in 1858. Although he never visited the Sayward area, the government of the day decided he deserved to be honoured and so named the community after him. At the time the settlers arrived, there was a small native village on the Salmon River. By 1917, the village was empty and today the reserve is unoccupied, with most descendants living in nearby communities.
Railroad logging started around 1904 and continued through 1914. The rail line became a wagon road which people used to take to reach their homesteads. In 1937 a railroad line was built on the opposite side of the valley. Over time, this line was also closed and became the basis of the current truck road.
As with all communities on the North Island, Sayward was only easily accessible by water. It was not until after World War II that a gravel road connected Sayward with Campbell River and not until 1979 that a paved road connected the North Island.
Logging is still the primary industry, but tourism continues to grow and gain in importance.