James and Elizabeth Forbes and the Forbes Landing Lodge

Forbes Lodge, Vancouver Island, BC
Forbes Lodge, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

James Forbes was born in Wick, Scotland, and was a saddler by trade. He had lived in the USA before moving to Victoria, Canada. After a short stint in Victoria, James moved to the Lower Campbell Lake area, it was 1910. James took work in the area for the Cudahy Timber Company and after a short while, he purchased some lake shoreland from the company that had various timber holdings in the area.

There was a trail that began on his property that headed up into what would very shortly become Strathcona Park, this trail was used by surveyors, miners, and other people involved in the creation of the park. It was becoming evident that Strathcona park was to become a reality, the surveyors and miners who used this trail were joined by potential businessmen looking to invest in resorts and hotels on the edges of the Strathcona park wilderness. Unknown yet to James though was the true potential for his property.

In 1911 he met and married Elizabeth Sutherland, this was the same year the park became a reality. Their life in this wilderness area at the edge of the park was pretty rough with the couple began their marriage living in a 10 x 12-foot float house on the lake. Many times they had guests stop for the night as they traveled to or from the upper Campbell & buttle lake area and they always were able to put them up for the night, it was usually a home-cooked meal and a clean floor close to the fireplace that was offered, but the food was good and it was warm and dry place to sleep.

Soon the number of men traveling through their place had increased to the point where they could not accommodate them all. So along with the assistance of numerous guests and a few friends, they began to build a small lodge on the shore of the lake.

Forbes Lodge, Vancouver Island, BC
Forbes Lodge, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

The lodge was built with lumber obtained from the timber company. Lumber was brought to the southern shores of Lower Campbell Lake by horse and wagon and from there to the Forbes land by canoe. In 1912 three of Elizabeth’s brothers arrived to help with the building of the new lodge. After the lodge was built, the brothers were so enamored with the beauty of the area that they then built a number of tourist cabins on Upper Campbell Lake, they would guide tourists into these cabins where they would take them mountain climbing, fishing, and on other wilderness adventures. They operated these cabins for many years.

The original Forbes Lodge burned down in the great forest fire of July 1938 and another was built and opened in the spring of 1939. Then in 1948, it was moved to higher ground when the level of Lower Campbell Lake was raised about 65 vertical feet by the creation of the ladore hydroelectric dam.

In 1972 the Lodge was sold to Jack Slade from Haney BC and then was again destroyed by fire on September 2, 1974, and a well-known historic landmark was lost forever.

As a young man, I used to spend time here, there was a great little bar with shuffleboard and darts along with awesome vistas. We would go up fishing, then we would spend a few hours playing darts or shuffleboard before heading home, Jack was a great guy who always had a story to tell. Two of my older brothers lived here at the time and they would usually join us in the bar for fun and drinks.

Forbes Lodge, Vancouver Island, BC
Forbes Lodge, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Forbes landing is still a destination for campers and fishermen, at one time there was a bush-plane company operating out of the landing, I do believe it was called rainbow air, my wife and l flew with them on a few occasions.

The landing is surrounded by forest and water on three sides and the site has the feeling of an isolated island in the middle of a lakeside oasis.

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