Tribute to Van Egan at 2010 Haig-Brown Festival

The dual passions of well known author and early environmentalist Roderick Haig-Brown, fly fishing and conservation, are being celebrated at the 9th annual Haig-Brown Festival.  Again the festival coincides with World Rivers Day and is held on Sunday, September 26, from noon to 4pm.  Admission is free, with activities for all ages, good food, music, great displays, tours and more.

The City of Campbell River will again present Stewardship Awards at 1pm to any individuals, groups or businesses who have made an impact in an area of conservation like pesticide and waste reduction, energy and water conservation, habitat awareness or air quality protection.

This year, the festival will commemorate the life of Lavant Gorman Egan (better known as ‘Van’) who recently passed away in July.  Pictured here are Valerie and Ann Haig-Brown with Van Egan.  Egan was a friend and neighbour of Haig-Brown and a fellow fly fishing enthusiast, and he was a biology teacher at Carihi, a Campbell River high school.  Among his accomplishments, he wrote and taught Canada’s first oceanography course, and authored several books including The Tyee Club of British Columbia, Waterside Reflections, Rivers on My Mind, Rivers of Return, and River of Salt. In his most recent book, Shadows of the Western Angler, Egan wrote a wonderful story about the ‘Silver Lady’.  This special fly is now the 2010 Haig-Brown Festival Commemorative Fly, and you will be able to bid on it at the festival’s silent auction.

The Haig-Brown Heritage Site is located at 2250 Campbell River Road (on the Gold River Highway). For a list of this year’s participants, visit  For further information call the Museum at 250 287-3103.


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Melissa March Exhibits at Haig-Brown Festival

Cutthroat Trout

Melissa March’s oil paintings of fish are as dramatic and arresting as they are beautiful.  Her love of fish and nature shines through her work, and as such, her paintings fit in very well with the other displays that will be at the Haig-Brown Festival this year.

Although she once received a Fine Arts scholarship after completing high school, Melissa chose to travel rather than attend a post secondary institution in pursuit of the study of art.  She is largely self taught as a painter, and has been drawing ever since she can remember.  She attributes her interest in painting to the influences of her family, who all participate in creative activities like carving and sewing.  They also contributed to her love of the outdoors.  In fact, it came as no surprise to her family, that fish would be her favourite subject to paint.  “They (fish) live in a mysterious world”, she says, “and unless you really look, you never know anything about it – it is a big part of the intrigue.”

Melissa in her studio

While exhibiting at ‘Art in Bloom’ at Kitty Coleman Woodlands in Courtenay, she was approached by Erin Nowack from Greenways Land Trust, who suggested that she participate in the Haig-Brown Festival.  Since coming to Campbell River from Vancouver three years ago, Melissa has found that the festival has become her favourite event to attend, and she feels honoured to be involved.  “It is a fitting venue for what I believe in”, she explains, referring to Festival’s celebration of the natural environment with love of fish and fishing.

The festival, taking place on Sunday, September 26 from noon to 4pm at the Haig-Brown Heritage Property also features Haig-Brown readings, fly casting and tying, river rafting, property tours, children’s crafts and games, music and more.  See the website for a complete list.

To see more of Melissa’s paintings, go to

Frank Assu discusses ‘Lekwiltok Anthology’

Frank Assu has brought oral and written history together in a collection of essays about the origins, history and culture of the We Wai Kai people of Cape Mudge.  The Museum at Campbell River will host Assu on Saturday, May 8, from 1pm-3pm, who will discuss the essay collection entitled ‘Lekwiltok Anthology’.  Born in Campbell River, Assu is the grandson of Frank Assu and great grandson of Chief Billy Assu and is a member of the We Wai Kai First Nation on Quadra Island and a member of the Laichwiltach Tribe, which is a sub-tribe of the Kwakwaka’wakw Tribes.

He self-published his anthology last year in 2009 and has been studying for his Bachelor of Education degree at Vancouver Island University, while working part-time for the Canadian Coast Guard.  In the same year he published a creative non-fiction piece in Vancouver Island University’s Portal Magazine called ‘K’umugwe Performance’.   Frank Assu resides in Comox with his wife and four children.

The cost for the talk is $6.00.  ‘A Lekwiltok Anthology’ is available for sale in the Museum Shop.  A book signing will follow the talk.  To register please call the Museum at 287-3103.


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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

Strathcona Centennial Expedition with Phil Stone

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Price Ellison expedition that led to the formation of BC’s first provincial park, Strathcona.  In July this year, photographer, author and mountaineer Philip Stone of Quadra Island will be leading a group into Strathcona Provincial Park to replicate Price’s expedition of 1910.  To introduce the history of the Park and provide insight into this summer’s expedition, Stone will present an illustrated talk at the Museum at Campbell River on Saturday, April 17 from 1 pm to 3 pm.

The Ellison expedition was undertaken at a time when 19th century attitudes were still prevalent in terms of looking at natural resources as something to exploit.  Although Strathcona Park was viewed as a nature preserve and ‘set apart as a public place and pleasure-ground for the benefit, advantage, and enjoyment of the people of British Columbia’. (Strathcona Park Act March 1, 1911), there were ambitious plans to build a railway into the Buttle Lake area and to construct a resort in the tradition of the Canadian Pacific hotels.

An early brochure about the park makes glowing references to its attractions:  ‘There are no venomous snakes, and no wild animals from which danger may be apprehended.  In most localities flies and mosquitoes are nearly absent, and will not interfere with the trout fishing.’

While this idealized version of the park might have eventually attracted the general public, Strathcona never did become the ‘Banff’ of Vancouver Island and despite a mine being built in the park in the 1960’s there has been relatively little development.  Stone hopes that the current expedition will raise awareness of the park and help preserve its natural state.

Philip Stone himself has explored Strathcona Park extensively over the past 20 years and has written several books on hiking on Vancouver Island.  He is currently the owner and editor of the Discovery Islander and WildIsle publications.

When asked how he initiated his current project, Stone explained that the first step in making the expedition a reality was to “write to the Premier”, and that “the SPPAC (Strathcona Provincial Park Advisory Committee) and BC Parks have been vital in getting the profile needed to have it recognized as an official reenactment’.”

The talk is in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit ‘Into the Wild: The 1910 Ellison Expedition and the Birth of BC Parks’.  The cost for the talk is $6.00.  Please call 287-3103 to reserve a seat.  For more information on this summer’s expedition, check out Stone’s website:


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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit

Hazardous Rock Obliterated in Blast

Fifty-two years ago on April 5, 1958, an event in Campbell River BC was broadcast across the country and remains a one of a kind occurrence to this day.  What was it?  The largest non-nuclear explosion in the world, the blasting of the Ripple Rock, now declared an event of National Historic Significance.

The infamous rock was located 16 kilometres northeast of Campbell River in the Discovery Passage that separates Vancouver Island from Quadra Island. On the day of the blast, ships and planes were diverted, and the area within five kilometres of the site was evacuated. At 9:31am, the plunger was pushed and Ripple Rock exploded with a “cataclysmic crash.” The blast blew about 700,000 tons of rock and water 300 metres into the air, and created waves several metres high, but there was little or no environmental damage and no injuries were incurred.

This year, the Museum at Campbell River and the Ripple Rock Pub in Willow Point are joining forces to mark this special day.  Patrons of the pub will receive a Two for One Pass to the Museum, and anyone who spends more than $10 in the Museum Shop gets a free Ripple Rock T-Shirt!!

Come visit us over the weekend (we are also open Monday, April 5) to view ‘The Devil Beneath the Sea’ and ‘Remembering Ripple Rock’ in the lobby of the Museum.  The Shop has special items on sale to commemorate the anniversary, like the limited edition ‘Ripple Chips’.

Check the Museum  website for more details on the Ripple Rock story.

‘Into the Wild’ – New temporary exhibit of Strathcona Provincial Park in 1910

‘Into the Wild – The 1910 Ellison Expedition and BC’s First Park’ is a new temporary exhibit at the Museum celebrating the 100th anniversary of the journey that culminated one year later in the creation of British Columbia’s first Provincial Park – the 429,000 acre Strathcona Park.   The exhibit draws on archival photographs and passages from a journal kept by one of the Ellison expedition members, Harry Johnson and chronicles their journey along a watershed now much altered.

The expedition, a 36 day trek that was essentially a reconnaissance mission, was undertaken by a group of twenty two men and one woman, who  travelled by canoe and on foot along the Campbell River watershed to Buttle Lake. After a nine day detour to climb Crown Mountain, the party headed overland, making the traverse through a rugged mountain pass to Great Central Lake, then finishing their journey in Port Alberni.

They left Victoria on July 5, 1910, boarding the steamship the “Queen City”, and sailed to Vancouver for supplies.  Among those participating were some notables, like Reverend William Washington Bolton, Headmaster of Victoria’s University School for Boys, who had made an exploratory journey of Vancouver Island in 1894,  (Beyond Nootka – Lindsay Elms), and the Honourable Price Ellison, Minister of Lands and leader of the expedition.  They arrived in Campbell River on July 7, 1910 and stayed at the Willow’s Hotel, with which they were very impressed, not expecting to find such fine accommodation in such an isolated community.  Some of the rooms actually had running water!

 “Campbell River was a very small and quiet place in those days, but very lively on week-ends as there was a large logging camp located near the mouth of the river, and the Willows Hotel with a big barroom open for business six days a week”…This is the best place on the Pacific Coast for Tyee salmon fishing”.

Getting to the Buttle Lake area at that time was very different from how it is today.  A wagon was able to take the group along the newly formed road to McIvor Lake for a distance of six miles (9.6 km).  There they camped before continuing on their journey up the Campbell River.  The inimitable Lord Bacon, an eccentric character who lived alone at Buttle Lake with his dog ‘Man’,  had  joined them in Campbell River as their guide, and entertained them that evening.

“While waiting for supper we have our first talk with one of the leading figures of the expedition, Lord Hugh Nathan Bacon, one time of ___ Scotland, now Lord of Vancouver Island; and make the acquaintance of his sole partner, “Man”, a little fox-terrier. We find very soon that the Lord is no ordinary person. He spends his time in the princely fastnesses of his forest-home back in the Buttle Lake region, and comes down to the settlements only when the silence of the forests palls on him and he feels it his duty to come down and straighten out the rabble of the ordinary workaday world. He takes a fore-place in the hotel bar and tells the loggers they are a pack of drunkards and under the persuasive influence of good old Scotch recites Kipling to them to tell them what they may expect in the next world”.

They paddled up the Campbell River and through the small Lower Campbell and Upper Campbell Lakes, fording rapids and portaging, combating mosquitoes and camping on islands in the middle of the river that are under water today.  They did take time to enjoy the scenery however, as this description of a sunset at Lower Campbell Lake illustrates.

“The sky is clear except for a few clusters of clouds in the west, and there is one of the most gorgeous possible sunsets.  The clouds change from gold to red and wine.  The peaks are blue, then pink, then lavender, and the forests all about and up the mountain sides are every delicate shade.  The water about us too takes on all sorts of shades of light and dark blue, green, yellow and pink.  The changing colours last until 9:45 and we continue our fishing until then just to watch them.”

Upon reaching the Elk River, they took a detour west towards Crown Mountain, as ascending this mountain was a pertinent objective on their itinerary, being a landmark to mariner’s on the West Coast.  Nine members of the group (including the author, Price Ellison and his daughter Myra) were elected to make the ascent.

Once this was accomplished, they continued on their journey through the Buttle Lake area and on to the traverse across to Great Central Lake.  While their journey was roughing it in many ways, they didn’t suffer when it came to the food.

“Pete (the cook) rewards us for our noontime fast by offering us vermicelli soup, lobster pates, mutton (canned) a la Spanish etc, and plum pudding with proper sauce – not bad for the woods!”

They arrived in ‘Alberni’ August 11th, and were officially out of the woods. Telegrams were sent to the Premier McBride and to the expedition member’s families to inform them of their safe arrival. From there went by road to Nanaimo, and the trip was almost at an end.

“Lunch at the hotel, (August 13) a walk about the streets of Nanaimo, more rain.  Then we board the afternoon train of the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, and are in Victoria at the Empress in time for dinner.”

This expedition will be replicated this year in July by local mountaineer Philip Stone and several participants (see

All the above excerpts in quotations are taken from the ‘Journal of BC Exploratory Survey Trip into the Buttle’s Lake region by Harry McC. Johnston.’  The journal can be found in the Museum archives and is a rare treasure – full of wonderful descriptions and humour.  It is strictly a reference item, and is not available for reproduction.  Many archival photos of the Park are also available in the Archives, open Tuesday – Sunday 1-4pm or by appointment – 250-287-3013.