Swanson Island is a small island located in Blackfish Sound, off the east coast of north Vancouver Island. Gentle conditions prevail in these sheltered waters, where the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations are the traditional gatekeepers, having lived here for thousands of years and still call the area home.
Swanson Island is a prime spot for watching whales and wading among other sea life in the waters of Blackfish and Johnstone straits. To experience a tranquillity that passes all description, paddle these waters where whales rub and salmon run in summer months.
Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park is a wilderness area consisting of a maze of small islands located immediately north of Swanson Island. The islands in the marine park are undeveloped and largely undiscovered, providing a superb destination for sea kayaking.
Learn about the history and way of life of the Broughton Archipelago at the Private Museum in Echo Bay, created by lifelong fisherman and beachcomber Billy Proctor. The ‘junk collector’ was born in a shack in the woods in Port Neville, across from Kelsey Bay, and grew up in Freshwater Bay on Swanson Island, where his parents ran a fish-buying camp. The museum artifacts, some of which go back 6,000 to 8,000 years, represent different cultures and include 400 stone and bone artifacts, old hand logging equipment, old animal traps and skinning boards, and 1,300 old bottles. Entrance is by donation, with the proceeds going to support salmonid enhancement at Scott Cove hatchery.
Blackfish Sound is productive for salmon fishing, offering feeder chinooks throughout the year. The first migratory chinooks appear in late May through to August, followed by the sockeye (June to August), pinks (July to August), coho in mid July, northern coho in September and chum salmon from late August through to October. Winter chinook end off the year by passing through toward the end of December.
Johnstone Strait, a deep and narrow glacier-carved passage immediately south of Swanson Island, is home to the largest resident pod of killer whales (orcas) in the world, with a population of approximately 200 whales. There is no better place to view these amazing marine mammals.
Alert Bay, the oldest community in the North Vancouver Island area, provides access by boat to Swanson Island. The Cormorant Island fishing community was an important trading centre for early residents in the area and has been the traditional home of the Namgis First Nation for several thousand years.
Telegraph Cove also provides boat access to Swanson Island. In 1912, Telegraph Cove was a one-room station, the northern terminus of a telegraph line that began in Campbell River and stretched from tree to tree along Vancouver Island’s east coast.
Location: Swanson Island is located in Blackfish Sound, off Johnstone Strait, off the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Access to Swanson Island is by floatplane, or by boat from Port McNeill, Alert Bay or Telegraph Cove.