Menzies Bay, Vancouver Island
The Bloedel, Stewart & Welch logging company was created in 1911 by Julius Bloedel, John Stewart and Patrick Welch. Bloedel was drawn to BC by the vast forests with easy access and coming relaxation of customs duties on Canadian lumber. By 1925, BS&W had purchased and was in the process of logging large tracts of prime timber in the Menzies Bay area. Logging was done by steam donkey and the logs were hauled to the bay by train where the booming was done.
In 1951 Bloedel, Stewart and Welch merged with H.R. MacMillan to form MacMillan Bloedel Limited. The two companies had timber holdings in the same areas. Bloedel, Stewart and Welch held many timber licenses and H.R. MacMillan was a driving force in new ways to log and had the ambition to exceed. The merger in 1951 created a company that was able to thrive on the global scene.
Menzies bay was quite an active place in its day. MacMillan and Bloedel by the 80s owned many logging operations on Vancouver Island, including Menzies Bay Division. They had camps where over 300 men lived and worked. There was a big camp at Menzies Bay and up the valley from the bay, at Brewster lake was another very large camp that had many families living in it. Camp life was great, In the early years a camp was more like a small town, with homes for families, schools for the children and a camp store.
There still is some logging going on that uses the bay to boom but not like the old days. Now there’s great trails and places to picnic. Mohun creek flows in on the south side of the bay and Menzies creek flows in on the north side. You can walk to the Menzies creek estuary where you can cross a small bridge with spawning salmon below if you go in the fall. Just into the forest from the estuary, you will find one of the prettiest spots in the area, the creek flows deeply through a forest of giant trees, birds are everywhere and the forest hums with insect life, one of my favorite spots to take a walk in.
The ripple rock trail is located at Menzies bay and is a 2 hour walk (there and back) that takes you to the Seymour Narrows lookout with awesome views of Seymour narrows and Quadra Island.
The trail is 4 km long, you first walk an easy trail down to Menzies Bay and then up a steep section to Wilfred Point. It passes through areas that were logged more than 70 years ago that now have incredible forests filled with fir trees, alders, cedars, maples and hemlock. The chances of seeing wildlife like bears or deer is good and the bird life here is incredible. Bring your camera.
On the east side of Menzies Creek the trail takes you through forests of old growth trees. Some of these trees are over 300 years old. There are good viewpoints of the ocean throughout the trail and a great beach at Nymph Cove.
In the spring of 1938, during a prolonged dry spell, one of the worst forest fires in history started in the Campbell River area.
Also known as The Great Fire, The Sayward Fire, and the Campbell River Fire, the Bloedel Fire burned out of control for almost 30 days and destroyed roughly 30,000 hectares of forested land. Enough timber was burned to build more than 200,000 homes along with thousands of wild animals that perished in the blaze. The area burned was 64 kilometers long and 6.4 kilometers wide and stretched from north of Campbell River at Menzies bay to Courtenay.
By the 22 of July, the government shut down all logging operations in the province and the unemployed were by conscription, forced to work at fighting the fire, over 1700 men were on the ground fighting this fire. The impact of the fire was felt province wide. It was cooler weather and rain that finally got this blaze under control.
After the fire, forest officials could see that natural regeneration was not going to work so a plan was devised to plant trees in the burned out area. This was an important moment because it marked a turning point in how we looked at reforestation. Now its common practice to replant after logging.