Hidden Acres Rhododendrons - Campbell River, BC

Some Campbell River History


The Garden Path
The Garden Path

A Short History:

Campbell River is nestled on the east coast of central Vancouver Island.  It has been known as the 'Salmon Capital' of the World.  Campbell River is a natural destination, in more ways than one.

Capture the spirit of Campbell River ... stroll in sea breezes on Discovery Pier and you might see a salmon, eagle, or whale. Take in views of Discovery Passage, Quadra Island and, in the distance, the rugged Coast Mountain Range of mainland British Columbia.  Explore trails along Campbell River's namesake, a designated British Columbia Heritage River. Restore your soul amidst streams and lakes in forests kept green by the mild Pacific Coast climate.

Campbell River is a coastal municipality located on Discovery Passage, on the north east side of Vancouver Island. Spread out before Campbell River are the islands of Quadra, Cortes, Read, Sonora and Thurlow.

There were six seasonal Indian Villages in and around Campbell River when Captain George Vancouver landed on Quadra Island in 1792.

Archibald Menzies, a botanist with Captain Vancouver, identified the Native people living here as Salish speaking. Sometime after the British explorers were here, the Salish abandoned these villages and retreated south.  Possession of the rich salmon fishing grounds and the strategic trading position offered by the narrow Discovery Passage was taken up by the Lewiltok people.  They established their current villages at Campbell River and Quadra Island, making this area the southern most territory of the Kwakiutl speaking people.

Shortly after the gold rush began in the 1860's, extensive mapping and charting of the coast was carried out by the British Navy. Captain Richards, on the HMS Plumper, assigned many of the current place names at that time. Campbell River, for example, was named for Captain Richards' staff surgeon, Dr. Samuel Campbell.

The earliest loggers staked a townsite just north of Campbell River, on the strength of a proposed trans-continental rail line crossing Quadra Island and terminating at Bute Inlet, Duluth, as the townsite was called, was foreseen as a great centre of commerce.

But several successive railway proposals failed to materialize leaving local developments to be slowly fostered on the strength of the massive stands of timber.

Logging shows sprang up on the islands of Quadra and Read in the late 1860's, where the timber could be easily taken from the shoreline.  As logging operations grew, large camps were set up in the vicinity of Campbell River from the 1880's onwards.

In a natural progression the loggers paved the way for settlers who took up homesteads, initially along the deep bays of Quadra Island.  Gold mines, a cannery, sawmills and a hotel helped to make Quadra Island a thriving community prior to the turn of the century.

Settlers may have initially passed by Campbell River, but world class sportsmen were quick to discover the massive run of "Tyee" salmon up the Campbell.  Local native people, who guided the sportsmen in dugout canoes to catches in excess of 40 lbs., still remember the early days when it "seemed as though you could cross the Discovery Passage on foot atop the teeming salmon".

Campbell River was to remain a quiet fishing and logging community until the long foreseen hydro development of the Elk Falls finally became a reality when the John Hart Dam came into operation in 1948.

Crown Zellerbach, now Norske Canada, established Elk Falls Pulp & Paper Mill in 1952 on the site of Michael King's undeveloped townsite.


A population of 30,000 in the District of Campbell River and a market population of over 60,000 make Campbell River a major regional center.

Campbell River is a young city with an active population. Based on the 2001 Census, a full 70% of Campbell River's residents are between the ages of 15 and 64 providing a potential labour force of over 19,000 people.