Ocean Falls is noted for its abundance of rain – about 4,390mm/172.8in annually, and it is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rain People.” The Heiltsuk (hel-sic) First Nations people have inhabited the coastal region surrounding Ocean Falls for more than 9,000 years. The town is remote and only accessible by private boat, B.C. Ferries, or floatplane. It is situated around a waterfall from Link Lake straight into the head of Cousins Inlet, 88km/55mi northwest of Bella Coola.
Ocean Falls maintains a small residential community and social network of former residents remaining a popular stop with boaters and travellers on the Inside Passage BC Ferries connector routes. In recent years, the area around Ocean Falls has emerged as an eco-adventure hub, with terrific hiking, wildlife viewing, freshwater and saltwater fishing. Accommodation is available, but early reservations are recommended.
This community was once the site of the largest pulp and paper mill in the province. However, today much of the history has been lost with many of the original buildings in decay. The mill, operated from 1912 to 1980, supported a thriving town with a population of close to 4,000, its own school system, an orchestra, a musical and dramatic society, a hospital, one of the province’s largest hotels and a swimming pool where several champions trained. In fact, the town’s swimming club sent seven swimmers to the Olympic Games from 1948 until the 1960s, with resident Ralph Hutton winning silver in the 400-metre freestyle at the 1968 Mexico City games. The swim club also won the Canadian National Men’s Championship four consecutive years between 1962 and 1965. The closing of the mill ended all that with most of the townsfolk leaving to begin new lives.
Downtown has a good-sized government dock, fresh water for boaters and plenty of interesting nooks and crannies ashore to explore. As you near the dock, you can see the impressive size of the now deteriorating grand Hotel and other businesses along the main street, as well as the large hydro-electric dam. Visitors can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to live here during the bustling, recent past of Ocean Falls.