The Campbell River a Designated Heritage River
Originating from the snow capped peaks of the rugged mountains of Strathcona Park from the heart of Vancouver Island the crystal clear waters that make up the Campbell River drainage. From 1,460 square kilometers of precipitous, mountainous terrain with peaks measuring in excess of 2,200 metes, snaking through hundreds miles of wilderness finally spilling to merge with the oceans salinity into the Discovery Passage on the central east coast of central Vancouver Island.
Kwatiutl First Nations
This rich wilderness remains the ancestral homeland of the Kwatiutl First Nations people. The wealth of salmon produced by the Campbell River, it tributaries and estuary sustained the Kwatiutl people and their rich cultural traditions for countless centuries. Although many tribes moved from hunting ground to hunting ground more permanent settlements were common in areas where food and protection were assured and the Campbell River estuary is identified as one of these important traditional sites.
Building of a Dam
Since 1947 three dams have been erected on the Campbell River which has affected the natural flow of the river. These man-made dams have created major impoundments within the watershed. In addition to the dams, diversions have been created from the Heber, Salmon and Quinsam Rivers to add to the flow within the lower Campbell River to support the requirement for Hydro Electricity for the more than 70,000 resident households on Northern Vancouver Island.
The Campbell River estuary is particularly significant to the biological and cultural history of the river with tidal influences creating a rich environment that supports a profusion of both wild and hatchery-raised salmonids, including many freshwater marine and anadromous species. Five species of salmon (Chinook, coho, pink, chum and sea run trout (steelhead and cutthroat) benefit from the protection of the estuary during their life cycle.
While tidal action is powerful in this area, the gradient of the estuary is relatively steep, limiting the tidal influence to a distance of approximately 2.5 kilometers, these results in a prevalence of gravel in the bottom sedimentation which is ideal for spawning salmon and out-migrating fry.
A Change from Past to Present
In past history the estuary played a key role in the industrial activity of the area, particularly logging. A much greater mix of land uses has emerged in recent times. Over the years, recreational activity has expanded exponentially both in the estuary and along the length of the river itself as fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, hiking; snorkeling and nature study have become major activities in the area.
In the most recent past a considerable community co-operation along with BC Hydro has been focused on management of the Campbell River and its estuary. Extensive planning supports a responsibly managed mix of land uses with the co-operation of many local agencies and interests.