From the distinctive milky blue glacier fed waters to the vertical shoreline that stretches from sea to sky, a trip to Bute Inlet is not soon forgotten. The traditional lands of the Homalco First Nations, Bute is one of several long deep fjords which cuts into B.C.’s coastal mountain range. This summer’s schedule of Historic Boat Tours will include three trips to Orford Bay, located midway up this scenic Inlet.
Given the name Bute Inlet in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver it was named after John Stuart, the Third Earl of Bute, whose grandson was serving aboard Vancouver’s boat Discovery. In the late 1880’s Bute seemed to be destined to play an instrumental role in the early history of the Colony of British Columbia. Entrepreneur Alfred Waddington had ambitious plans, which eventually failed, to build a wagon road from the head of Bute Inlet to the Cariboo goldfields.
On board one of the Discovery Marine Safari vessels this tour sets off from Campbell River’s government wharf and is a chance to visit an area rich in history and known for its spectacular scenery. During the two hour trip to Orford Bay one of the Museum’s historical interpreters is on board to point out sites of historical significance along the way.
Upon reaching Orford Bay passengers are met by members of the Homalco Band paddling their Salish inspired canoe to greet the boat. The cultural program for the onshore portion of the tour has been developed by Homalco Wildlife Tours and involves a number of Homalco youth interpreters. From the Homalco Band’s perspective this program is part of an initiative to reconnect their youth with their culture and traditional lands. The enthusiasm of the youth involved is one of the many highlights of the onshore activities.
Orford Bay is the site of one of the Homalco’s winter villages. Located midway up Bute Inlet it is one of the few spots in the Inlet that is protected from the Bute winds. The topography of the inlet is such that the wind can be blowing in different directions at the same time on opposite sides of the inlet. Bute’s outflow winter winds are particularly ferocious and can blow for days at a time at speeds gusting over 100 km/h. The severity and force of the Bute winds is known by the Homalco as Xwoxw.
The first stop after disembarking from the boat is the Orientation Centre which features information about this winter village as well as the history and culture of the Homalco people. Other on-shore activities include an opportunity to join in a cedar weaving workshop atop one of the bear observation platforms and weather permitting, paddle the canoe in the bay. The visit concludes with a traditional seafood dinner enjoyed outside on a large deck.
Outstanding scenery at every turn, with exceptional hosts, this trip provides a glimpse into Homalco history and culture.