For thousands of years, the area around Osborne Bay was occupied by the Tliyamen First peoples. Their name means People Of The Mountain, then several hundred years before the first settlers arrived, they simply disappeared. Not much is known about the Tliyamen.
Then in the mid 19th century, people began to arrive in the bay, they logged off the forests, cleared the land, and build farms, there were only a few settlers at first but in 1873, the area was incorporated as the district of North Cowichan and this drew in more settlers.
In 1902, Henry Croft began mining copper on mount sicker, he built a smelter in the bay and brought in 400 workers to operate the smelter. He built housing and named the new community Crofton. He was shipping his copper our out from the bay, this had quite the effect on the area’s beaches, the residue from the smelter was small black glass beads, and they blackened the beaches, if you used the beach, these glass beads would stick to your feet, hands and any other body part that came into contact with the beach.
In 1906, Henry sold the mine and smelter to the Britannia mining company who operated the mine for a few more years, but in 1908 the mine and smelter were closed and most of the workers moved off to work in other mines on the island. Although there were rumors that a huge sawmill was going to be built here to cut the vast forests that abounded in the area, alas, these were just rumors and Crofton was well on its way to becoming a ghost town.
In 1955, a ferry system was put into operation that ran from a new wharf constructed in Osborne bay and Vesuvius Bay on Saltspring Island. This began to bring life back into the community.
Still, there was no industry here and only a few hardy loggers, farmers, and ferry staff remained. Then in 1956, BCFP began to build a pulp and paper mill in Crofton and this drew in a whole new group of workers to the area, the mill began operations in 1957. It was eventually sold to Fletcher Challenge and in 2001 it was sold to Catalyst paper.
Osborne Bay is a great place to put in a kayak, canoe, or boat, many tourists and locals get out on the water to fish or put out crab and prawn traps, the area has some awesome salmon fishing there are many crabs and prawns waiting to be welcomed to your feast. The bay has a government wharf and there is a boat ramp for your use.
The ferry runs to salt spring island is just a 20-minute run across to Vesuvius Bay and all the adventures that the island has to offer. The tourists that use this route add to the local economy as they wait to get on the ferry.
Water skiing, paddleboarding, and windsurfing are all popular activities in the warm waters off the shores of Osborne Bay and diving is quite exciting here and in the diving area that has man-made reefs just off Thetis Island. You can boat to Thetis Island or catch a ferry in Chemainus that will take you over.
There are a great campground and RV park right on the shores of Osborne Bay and the bay has a great sea walk running along it. There are quite a few trails that will take out you to some awesome forests, mountains, and streams, maple mountain trail is one of the best. All in all, Crofton has quite a bit to offer those who like great adventures.