Campbell River

Campbell River  005 Campbell River  002We traveled south to our final destination on Vancouver Island, Campbell River, about halfway between Victoria and Telegraph Cove. We’d booked a waterfront campsite, a bit of a splurge, but it was to be our last campground near the ocean for a while.Campbell River  004Campbell River  003

Campbell River is a pretty large town with a population of over 31,000 people and is a supply point for Northern Vancouver Island and a couple of other islands. The river, which the town is named after, drains into Discovery Passage, a channel separating Vancouver Island and Quadra Island.Campbell River  008

The channel links Johnstone Strait with the Strait of Georgia. It is part of the Inside Passage to Alaska.

Campbell River  019Campbell River  020One of the “features” of the campground is that cruise ships to and from Alaska pass right in front of the campsites during the night. The campground staff actually list which ships are scheduled to travel each night and provide a website for cruise ship tracking. So we discovered that it’s possible to track any cruise ships position at any time.  Who knew?

We saw quite a few cruise ships and it was very cool.  But they sailed by between 10:30 p.m. and midnight which made for a couple of late nights.Campbell River  009

With such a lovely campsite we took it easy for a couple of days and hung out.  There were crazy currents and whirlpools and passing boat traffic.  It was sort of mesmerizing.

Although Hector’s taking it easy involved waxing part of the motorhome.  He’s decided to handle this task in parts rather than all at once to break it up a bit.Campbell River  074Campbell River  006Campbell River  007Campbell River  065Campbell River  011

The town of Campbell River is also known as the “Salmon Capital of the World” according to their tourist literature, and many people come here to fish. And, even though Hector and I don’t fish, we checked out the Discovery Fishing Pier.Campbell River  012Campbell River  010

And took a walk on Pier Street, “the birthplace of the city”.  The pier was pretty cool with built-in rod holders, bait stands, and fish cleaning tables; obviously a great place to fish for those without a boat.Campbell River  017

Campbell River  016There is also a tiny aquarium that collects specimens from the nearby waters in the spring and places them in tanks in water that is pumped from the Discovery Passage. The specimens are returned to their place of origin after the season.  We didn’t visit the aquarium, but the premise sounds very interesting.Campbell River  055Campbell River  054Campbell River  028

Last but not least, the pier has a little concession stand that served us some very nice fish (halibut) and chips.

Campbell River  045Campbell River  052Campbell River  021Back in Telegraph Cove, we had asked the captain of our whale watching boat, who is from Campbell River originally, for recommendations on boating in the area.  He recommended a marine wildlife and tidal rapids tour that is not solely focused on the whales.

So we visited the sister company to the Telegraph Cove tour company, Discovery Marine Safaris, on Pier Street and Hector asked for a “frequent customer” discount.  And we got one!  And it turned out that the captain that was going to lead our tour was the older brother of the captain on our whale watching tours.

The marine wildlife tour goes out into the Discovery Passage and between the nearby islands looking for marine mammals, eagles and other birdlife, and for whales if they’re in the area.  It’s a four-hour tour in a smaller boat than the one used for their whale watching tour.

We set out on another calm and slightly cloudy day, but fortunately there was no rain, and it was pretty warm.  The group included nine others.Campbell River  047

Once again we had beautiful views of the mainland and the surrounding islands, this time with Captain Geord.Campbell River  026

After a bit of traveling we went right by our campground on our way to see if we could catch up with some whales the captain had heard were in the area (no luck).

Campbell River  023Campbell River  039We turned into the inlets and spotted Pacific harbor seals and some Steller sea lions, which are the largest in the world and can grow to 1000 pounds. Pretty hefty.

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Campbell River  030And we saw more eagles and more of the cute rhinoceros auklets. And lots and lots of Bonaparte’s gulls.Campbell River  042Campbell River  037Campbell River  001Campbell River  038Campbell River  046

Campbell River  031Campbell River  034But the unique part of this tour is that the boat takes you through various tidal rapids. These are formed when incoming tides are forced to travel through narrow channels that have ledges and pinnacles at the bottom. The rapids made early travel in the area treacherous, and some are still impassable by larger vessels.

The tides are, of course, affected by the gravitational effect of the moon. And since we were between the full and new moons, the rapids were not very high. But they were still impressive, like river rapids but without the big drops.  And, like river rapids, they had whirpools, boils and eddies.  Campbell River  029

Campbell River  033We rode through Yuculta Rapids, known as the most treacherous of all, then Dent Rapids and Arran Rapids.  After our run through the rapids, we stopped for lunch in one of the mellower whirpools downstream. We floated there and it spun us around slowly as we sat. This was definitely a first for us.

Campbell River  048Campbell River  053After lunch we headed back.   Another beautiful day on the water!Campbell River  051

Campbell River  015We hurried over to the Museum at Campbell River but it was only going to be open for a little over an hour. The very nice lady at the front desk gave us a ticket with a pass to return the next day.  Perfect.Campbell River  013

The museum includes exhibits of First Nations cultures, my favorite was a wonderful story told in conjunction with a mask display. There are also exhibits on logging, pioneer life, sport fishing, and the salmon industry.Campbell River  063Campbell River  058Campbell River  059

Campbell River  060Campbell River  061Campbell River  024It also features several movies including a film about the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. Ripple Rock was an underwater mountain that created a marine hazard on the trade route north from Vancouver.

This planned explosion, which took place in 1958, took three years of work by hundreds of men building shafts in the rock in which to place explosives (2.7 million pounds of TNT). The film takes you through much of the men’s work through to the final explosion.  It was an astounding event.

More walks around town revealed reminders of the First Nations who originally inhabited this region.

Campbell River  089Campbell River  093Campbell River  091It was time to get out on the water again, and, having experienced tidal rapids, we decided to go out on the much calmer Campbell River Estuary, much of which has been restored after it had become “an industrial pit”.

The restoration work was done through a partnership between the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Tula Foundation and others. Work began in 1999 and included purchasing a couple of islands, cleaning up concrete and fill, regrading the shoreline, digging new backchannels and replanting marsh vegetation in marsh and riparian areas.Campbell River  083

Campbell River  079During our two and a half hour paddle, we spotted tons of jumping salmon, great blue heron, ducks, kingfisher and eagles. Bravo!Campbell River  080

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Campbell River  088All too soon it was time to take the ferry out of Vancouver Island to the mainland and the city of Vancouver.

~ Brenda

14 thoughts on “Campbell River

  1. How did you get all that wildlife to pose for you? : ) Amazing pictures especially of the eagles. Looks like a wonderful place to be with nature. Enjoyed it much. Take care, K

  2. Hector must be over the moon with all that fabulous wildlife and stunning landscape to photograph. You have shown us an area that is very high on our life list of places to visit. Thank you for the back story and the breathtaking images.

  3. What a fabulous island! Sounds like the perfect end stop for this amazing visit. Another great boating adventure. LuAnn and I were talking about your visit here last night (we just met up here in MN). We both are now very anxious to visit Vancouver Island. I love everything you have shared. Thanks for all the detail:)

    • I recommend it, although the ferry is expensive. If I were to do it again, I’d stay a month and go to Tofino on the west side. It’s even more remote than Telegraph Hill, but sounds beautiful. Also, there is lots of hiking to be done, but since we had a limited time, we focused on the water. Happy to give you more details via private message if you’d like more information.

  4. You guys sure know how to explore a place. Looks great. I was there a 10 years ago and never saw half of what you discovered. Very cool!

    • Wonderful, the ferry is expensive, so if you can stretch the visit to longer, I think it makes it more worthwhile. Also, check out Tofino on the west side, we didn’t make it, but it looks remote and beautiful – road may be tricky, I’m not sure. I’m happy to give you more details of what we learned for next time if you send me a private message.

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