Located at the head of Cousins Inlet off Dean Channel, northwest of Bella Coola, the remote and beautiful coastal community of Ocean Falls is once again coming alive. Once a flourishing pulp mill town, since 1909, the closure of the mill in 1981 left the town of Ocean Falls virtually abandoned, with only a small community of residents continuing to live in Martin Valley, a mile down the inlet from the old town site.
In earlier years, communities like Ocean Falls on British Columbia’s Mid-Coast were dependent upon marine traffic for their survival and communication with the outside world, as indeed they still are today – there are no roads to Ocean Falls.
Travel by land increased, while travel by sea decreased. With rail and road routes reaching communities like Prince Rupert and Bella Coola, the volume of sea traffic to coastal ports and communities diminished. The coastal port of Ocean Falls was severely impacted by this change.
Contact with the community received a boost with the inauguration of the BC Ferries’ Discovery Coast Passage Route in 1996, which provides scheduled calls into Ocean Falls from both Bella Coola and Port Hardy. Nestled on the shores of the Pacific and surrounded by snow capped mountains, Ocean Falls is a picturesque town with a big heart.
Ocean Falls was named after the impressive waterfall located where Link Lake empties into Cousins Inlet. The spillway from the hydro dam is now a prominent feature at the head of Cousins Inlet.
Location: Ocean Falls is located approximately 300 miles (480 km) north of Vancouver and 55 miles (88 km) west of Bella Coola. Isolated by steep terrain and rugged coastal mountains, the community of Ocean Falls is accessible only by sea or air.
BC Ferries’ Discovery Coast Passage service runs between Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and Bella Coola on the BC mainland, stopping at different ports along the way, including Ocean Falls. Bella Coola is the nearest road access point on the provincial highway system, and the nearest community to Ocean Falls. During the summer months, scheduled air flights are operated from Vancouver and Port Hardy.
Ocean Falls is a very popular stop with boaters who travel the Discovery Coast Passage and Inside Passage, offering a good-sized government dock, fresh water, and plenty of interesting places ashore to explore on foot. The establishment of some quaint eateries and private lodging encourages many to stay and visit.
Boaters can visit Eucott Bay Hot Springs, at the head of Eucott Bay near Ocean Falls in Dean Channel. Amongst the largest and best-known on the coast, these hot springs don’t have a sulphur smell – just really clear hot water that soothes the soul. The Eucott Bay Hot Springs are popular with boaters, as Eucott Bay offers good anchorage and shelter for small craft.
Hiking and Mountain Biking: There are plenty of trails and roads in and around Ocean Falls for hikers and mountain bikers. Those who enjoy the challenge might want to hike up and around Link Lake and the surrounding mountainside, while others may choose to stroll around the remains of the old community trying to imagine what it was once like. Information can be obtained at the courthouse adjacent to the ferry terminal.
Fishing: While visiting Ocean Falls, the avid angler is invited to stroll up to Link Lake and wet a line in the pristine waters of this 18-mile long lake – or hook up with a small fishing charter that takes guests out on the ocean for an afternoon of saltwater fishing for salmon and halibut.
For those who would rather be fishing than riding a ferry, BC Ferries allows passengers to fish over the side of the Queen of Chilliwack at the various stops. You can use your own tackle or rent gear from BC Ferries. Just don’t hook the anchor!
Depending on your route, your trip aboard the Queen of Chilliwack may include an offshore photo stop at Mackenzie’s Rock, 39 kilometres east of Ocean Falls on the north shore of Dean Channel. Of inspirational significance for hikers, this marks the western terminus of Alexander Mackenzie’s historic overland passage, where he inscribed the following message on a rock: Alex Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three. An engraved plaque commemorates the first-ever transcontinental journey, achieved by this employee of the North West Company, and the small Sir Alexander Mackenzie Provincial Park surrounds the site. This is also the formal terminus of the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail.
South of Ocean Falls is the First Nations village of Bella Bella, located on Campbell Island, and Denny Island, with a settlement known as Shearwater. The Queen of Chilliwack ferry docks at both Bella Bella and Shearwater en route to Ocean Falls.
Circle Tour: See the best of British Columbia when you embark upon one of the many circle tours available by land or sea. The Discovery Coast circle tour by vehicle and ferry takes in Vancouver Island, the Discovery Coast, the BC interior, and the Coast Mountains in a spectacular 2000-km tour of British Columbia.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.