One of the boat tours being offered this season is a tour of the Thurlows, with a lunch stop at Blind Channel Resort. The Thurlow Islands consist of two islands, East Thurlow and West Thurlow. They owe their early development to logging, mining and fishing. Logging began on East Thurlow as the stands of timber in the lower mainland were being used up. Companies like Hastings Mill out of Langley, BC were searching for areas to expand into. As early as 1880, Hastings Mill made Bickley Bay on East Thurlow Island their regional headquarters. Further development was curtailed, however, when gold was discovered in nearby Shoal Bay, also on East Thurlow.
In 1884, the first stake was claimed and by 1890, the gold rush was on. This attracted a large number of prospectors and development. By 1897, there were two stores and two hotels. That same year Shoal Bay became incorporated as a town and the Union Steamships were stopping by four times a week. The plans for a township never developed however, and today, all that remains at Shoal Bay is a privately owned lodge and seasonal residences. Even the famous store pictured here had to be dismantled in 2008.
The government dock is still in good shape and today, pleasure boaters have replaced the working population and the Union Steamships which both left the area in the late 1950s.
The two Thurlows are separated by Mayne Passage, and West Thurlow lies to the northwest. On the south side of the island, location of present day Blind Channel Resort, a sawmill was built in 1910, then by 1918 it disappeared and was replaced by a cannery.
In ’Guide to Blind Channel’, Phil Richter says: “The visitor to the area today, might find it difficult to imagine the activity which existed here within less than one lifetime.” He goes on to say that the area attracted people looking for opportunity and an independent way of life. An independent way of life was what attracted the Richter family to Blind Channel in 1969, and by 1970, they had sold their home in Vancouver and purchased the property and existing store there. The family consisted of parents Edgar and Annemarie, sons Philip, Alfred and Robert and grandparents William and Therese. They developed the location into a thriving resort, complete with a first class dining room, general store with a liquor licence and post office; washroom and laundry facilities, and mooring and fuel for boats.
Travellers to the area quickly discover the excellent homemade bread sold in the store and admire the unique artwork created by Annemarie Richter that is comprised of items she collected on local beaches; bits of crockery, jewellery and seashells.
For the tours of the Discovery Islands, the Museum partners with Discovery Marine Safaris, a local wildlife tour operator. Passengers are taken out on comfortable, heated aluminum boats equipped with toilets. The four to five hour trips also include a lunch at Blind Channel Resort’s Cedar Post Restaurant. The restaurant is known for using fresh local ingredients to create delicious meals for their guests.