Clayoquot SoundWest Coast Vancouver Island
Located mid-Vancouver Island on the west coast, Clayoquot Sound contains some of the only remaining old-growth forests in BC and is known around the world due to the 1993 protests that occurred there in opposition to the BC Government’s approval of logging the remaining forests in the sound. A rugged and largely unpopulated area, Clayoquot Sound supports an incredible diversity of life, including many species endangered or threatened, such as sea otters, Vancouver Island wolves, orcas, and the Cassin’s auklet. Clayoquot Sound remains a sensitive and threatened ecosystem, due to the high biodiversity in the area, as well as the constant threat of clearcut logging.
Location and AccessCoordinates: 49°10’N 125°30’W
Clayoquot Sound is approximately mid-island on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is one of many sounds and inlets on the island, and is of typical size. Bordered on its south side by the town of Tofino, access into the sound is relatively easy. Most people choose to explore the sound by water, with kayaks and small powered vessels being the most popular choices. Chartered float planes and larger boats also visit the sound. There is a network of logging roads penetrating the forests throughout the mountains and valleys of the sound, though these are largely inaccessible to the general public.
Though located on the rugged west coast, the sound is a popular destination for tourists, and many charter companies and tour operators have boats departing daily for sightseeing through the islands and trips to Hot Springs Cove on the north side of the sound.
Clayoquot Sound consists of several long inlets, sectioning off a few large islands (Meares, Vargas, and Flores) and many smaller islands within it. Combined, there are many hundreds of kilometers of coastline, providing both exposure and shelter to a number of sites, all which teem with a variety of life. The landforms of the sound are mostly mountainous and steep, with several substantial formations occurring both on the islands and the mainland.
The terrain is almost exclusively forested, with the occasional grassy area or swamp presenting, and old-growth forests still predominate in some areas. The area has been heavily logged in the past, and as a result, most of the forests are less than 100 years old. The foreshore, especially on the open ocean side, tends to be rocky and steep, and is under constant punishment from the Pacific Ocean wave action.
Life and History of Clayoquot Sound:
The Clayoquot Sound wilderness is one of the most rich and diverse on Vancouver Island. Nearly every species that can be discussed as unique or important to Vancouver Island can be found here, including many seabirds, sea otters, cougars, black bears, wolves, orcas, grey whales, salmon, numerous songbirds, eagles, falcons, and deer. The diversity of the terrain and habitat means that this area can support a denser population of many of these species than would exist in a mono-culture of coniferous forest. This ability makes the sound particularly sensitive to disturbances, and several environmentalist organizations continue supporting and actively advocate for the sound’s protection.
Clayoquot Sound also holds the auspicious title for being the site of the largest ever civil protest in Canada. In 1993 the BC Government’s decision to open two-thirds of Clayoquot Sound to unrestricted clear-cut logging brought over 11,000 people to the Kennedy Lake bridge to block the logging trucks from entering the sound. The protesters were largely successful during their period of occupation despite over 800 arrests and prosecutions for criminal contempt of court. The prosecutions of these individuals remains a bone of contention in BC, as the charge was much more severe than what is normally levied at unruly protesters, and the full extent of the law was applied to as many people as possible.
Though the government undoubtedly learned from the events of 1993, Clayoquot Sound still remains under threat, as logging companies owned by the area First Nations have free access to most of the area, and possible open pit mining, including a proposed copper mine on Catface Mountain, continues to be explored.