Historical Kingcome Inlet is an isolated fjord set against the breathtaking backdrop of great towering mountains, carved into the Coast Mountain Range of mainland British Columbia by the glaciers of the last ice age.
Formerly known as the Kwakiutl, the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations have lived here for thousands of years, a region with a history rich in native culture and heritage. Pictographs, burial sites, and shell middens on Harbledown, Village and Turnour Islands, to name only a few sites, offer a fascinating glimpse into Kwakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish culture and history.
The community of Kingcome Inlet is located at the head of the inlet, and two miles up the Kingcome River is the Tsawataineuk First Nation village of Kingcome. The Tsawataineuk (pronounced ‘tsa-wa-tay-nook’) belong to the Kwakwaka’wakw Indian group.
This coastline features magnificent fjord-like inlets hosting several remote fishing lodges set in spectacular surroundings. The area is a true west coast adventure, teeming with wildlife, cascading waterfalls and waterslides, and steep mountain cliffs rising straight out of the sea.
The vast wilderness area around Kingcome Inlet is an intricate maze of islands, channels, inlets, sounds, and straits, and includes Sutlej Channel, Hoya Sound, Tribune Channel, Bond Sound, Thompson Sound, Fife Sound, and numerous other sounds and channels. Islands immediately south of Kingcome Inlet, between the inlet and Vancouver Island, include Gilford Island, Village Island, Turnout Island, Minstrel Island, and Cracroft Island.
At the mouth of Kingcome Inlet is the Broughton Archipelago, a wild array of small islands that form a marine park west of Gilford Island, the largest of the hundreds of islands, and home to the Kwicksutaineuk/Ah’kwaha’ First Nation. At the head of Kingcome Inlet is the Kingcome River, overhung with willows and alders.
Kingcome Inlet was the setting for the powerful and poignant novel I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven (1967). Craven describes the mystery and power of native life and tells the story of a dying Anglican vicar sent by his bishop to Kingcome Village to work with the Tsawataineuk people. The bishop believes that the young vicar will live a rewarding life till the end, and “learn enough of the meaning of life to be ready to die.”
Missionary activity with the Kwakwaka’wakw at Kingcome Inlet was initiated by the Church Missionary Society mission station at Alert Bay on Vancouver Island as early as the 1890s. By the late 1920s the missionary work at Kingcome had been transferred to the Columbia Coast Mission. St. George’s Church was consecrated in 1938.
Economic activities in the Kingcome Inlet area include commercial logging, fishing, and silviculture.
Location: Kingcome Inlet is accessible by private boat, water taxi, scheduled working freight service, and scheduled and charter floatplane. The village of Kingcome is located approximately 290 km northwest of Vancouver.
A pictograph at Petley Point on Kingcome Inlet represents a political history of the area, and commemorates a potlatch that the Dzawada’enuxw people held after the department of Native Affairs had placed a ban on all Native ceremonies.
Aerial Tours over Broughton Archipelago and Kingcome Inlet are operated out of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island.
Wildlife: The region is home to a northern population of resident killer whales (Orcas), with the salmon feeding areas and rubbing beaches of Robson Bight south of Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island being a preferred site. Other marine mammals include Pacific white-sided dolphins, harbour porpoise, Dall’s porpoise, resident harbour seals, and wintering Steller sea lions. Other wildlife in the area include deer, bears, shorebirds, seabirds, loons, and bald eagles.
Fishing: The waters of Sullivan Bay and Kingcome Inlet are exposed to the vast numbers of salmon migrating through Johnstone Strait and down the east coast of Vancouver Island. This area provides good access to early season winter Chinook salmon, with runs beginning in April. Summer sees transient runs of Coho and Chinook salmon heading south to their spawning rivers. The many islands and channels provide well-protected waters and consistent salmon fishing, accessed by charter companies based on Northern Vancouver Island, including Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Alert Bay – see Premier Listings below.
Kayaking: Broughton Archipelago and its maze of intricate islands and waterways provide some of the nicest paddling in BC. Highlights include the Sedge Islands to the west of Bonwick Island, and the large camping area on the southern tip of Insect Island. Owl Island and the Echo Bay Marine Park on Gilford Island provide additional campsites.
Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park is a wilderness area consisting of a maze of several small islands, islets and adjacent foreshore at the southern extremity of Queen Charlotte Strait, off the west coast of Gilford Island. The remote, solitary islands are undeveloped and largely undiscovered, and provide unlimited and unique fishing, kayaking and swimming opportunities.
Echo Bay Marine Provincial Park is located south of Kingcome Inlet, on the western shore of Gilford Island. The facilities are basic; 70-foot floating dock for small craft, walk-in campsites, picnic area, a walking trail, water and one pit toilet. Good fishing. There is a small wharf to tie up to, and fuel, moorage and supplies are available at Echo Bay Resort, adjacent to the park. Other amenities available at Echo Bay include a Post Office, Grocery Store and Arts and Crafts stores. Anchorage in Echo Bay is not recommended, but nearby Shoal Harbour provides good holding. Access to Echo Bay is by floatplane or by boat from Retreat Passage or Cramer Passage on the northwest side of Gilford Island. Echo Bay is best reached from Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay and Port McNeill on Vancouver Island.
Telegraph Cove is a major destination during the summer months, when the snug little bay bustles with boaters, anglers, campers, kayakers and whale-watchers. The tiny town Telegraph Cove, one of the last boardwalk communities of eastern Vancouver Island, is worth a visit even if you’re not planning to do any offshore exploring.
Alert Bay is North Vancouver Island’s oldest community, located south of Kingcome Inlet. Alert Bay was an important trading centre for early residents in the area, and is the traditional home of the Namgis First Nation.
Port McNeill on Vancouver Island has a sheltered harbour that serves as a launching point for sportfishing enthusiasts who test their skills in the maze of waterways between Vancouver Island and the mainland, including Kingcome Inlet.
Port Hardy is the largest community in the North Island region, and is the bustling southern terminal for B.C. Ferries’ service north to Prince Rupert via The Inside Passage.