The History of Gold River
Gold panning attracted Chinese miners into the traditional territory of the Mowachaht and Muchalaht peoples in the 1860s, and the name Gold River first appeared on maps in 1871.
In the early 1960s the Tahsis company logged at the mouth of the river. In 1964 they began building a 750 ton-a-day bleached kraft pulp-mill there, because of the flat delta land, the deep-sea access for oceangoing freighters, and the steady source of water.
The Company also selected a site eight miles east of the mill on which to build a town to service the needs of the mill and in 1965 Gold River, a resource-based community appeared – – Canada’s first all-electric town, and the first in Canada with underground wiring. Incorporated in 1965 as a District, it reincorporated itself in 1972 as the Village Municipality of Gold River.
In the mid-1980’s, the mill added a paper manufacturing component, thus creating a short-term building boom and increasing employment. However, newsprint prices soon collapsed amid a glut of new supply, the cost of wood chips increased, and high interest rates proved so crippling that in 1993 paper production shut down. In 1998 the mill ceased operations entirely.
As working families moved away, many of the houses in the town were sold at auction– some to Europeans. Since then Gold River has reinvented itself as a west-coast tourism hub. Affordable housing, a friendly small town atmosphere, excellent civic amenities and a paved all weather road connecting it to the more populated eastern coast of Vancouver Island have helped fuel a rebirth of the community.
On the edge of Strathcona Park, Gold River has much to offer people who love the outdoors: about 10 miles away, the Upana Caves are easily accessible to spelunkers; the Crest Creek Crags, Kings Peak, and Elkhorn Mountains challenge rock climbers; rugged trails attract mountain bikers; the steelhead fishing in the Gold River ranks with the best in B.C.; and a visit to the Conuma River Estuary allows a glimpse of black bear, elk, or coastal black-tailed deer.
Nearby, Nootka Sound abounds with salmon in summer, with halibut and rock cod year round, and close at hand freshwater fishing fans try their luck in many lakes and rivers. The Uchuck III, floatplanes or water-taxis take tourists and history buffs to Friendly Cove and to the start of the Nootka Trail. Possessing all tourist amenities, Gold River is only the starting point for a host of outdoor west-coast activities.