The tale of Ocean Falls is all too common in North America, and across the globe. It manages to fulfill a number of models of human creation and destruction, all in the name of progress.
For over 9000 years, the area of Ocean Falls was occupied by the Heiltsuk people. With a unique language, the people had lived off the land and had a flourishing culture, isolated in the mountainous Central Coast region of British Columbia.
Of course that all changed at the turn of the 20th century. European settlers arrived in 1906, and immediately realized the potential of the area. Ocean Falls was abundant with natural resources. Forests lined the mountains, making timber an obvious industry. However, the real power was in the water of Ocean Falls.
Ocean Falls is situated on Link Lake, which is conveniently connected via waterfall to Cousins Inlet, a fjord dramatically leading to open water. As water rushed between lake and fjord, so too did large companies wishing to be the first to exploit the powerful and beautiful landscape. The Bella Coola Pulp and Paper Company moved in a few years after surveying the land and set up a town to house paper mill workers and their families. For years the town thrived, and swelled to 14 times its size in just 40 years.
As business slowed, so did the town’s growth and the population leveled off at and dropped to 1,500 by 1970. At the time, industry in the town was owned by Crown Zellerbach and in 1973, the company pulled its interests out of the town, leaving almost no people behind. After it became too costly to use the land near Ocean Falls, the town died and essentially became abandoned.
Today, Ocean Falls has a population of 70 people, and has returned to its isolated roots. Although the lush and stunning landscape peaks the imagination of would-be visitors, its location is too difficult to reach without a sea-plane or trustworthy boat.