For many years, there was a small first peoples village at the mouth of the Salmon River, where it flows into Kelsey Bay. But by the beginning of the 20th century the inhabitants had left and today the area is still unoccupied. The first settlers to the area settled over across the river at Port Kusum in the 1890s, it became quite the little town, there are many ruins there today. You can hike the Port Kusum trail to see what’s left. The town was relocated to its present location around the turn of the 19th century and renamed Sayward.
When l was a lad of about 10 years old, l used to spend a fair bit of time up in Kelsey Bay, my brother in law was the head chef in the mac/blo logging camp that was right on the bay. This was a big camp, the cook shack was like a hotel. The food was better than any hotel though. Several of my other brothers logged here as well. I began my logging career across the straight on Hardwick Island.
Kelsey Bay Vancouver Island was at one time, the terminus for the B.C. Ferries Inside Passage route, but long before that, it was the terminus for the beaver cove ferry. I rode this ferry many times as it was the only route to reach the upper north island in those early days before the new hwy was opened in 1978, that was when hwy 19 was completed as far as port hardy.
During the WW ll years, a gravel road was constructed that connected Campbell River with Kelsey Bay and by the time l moved to Campbell River 1961, the road was paved. My family would take drives up to Kelsey Bay, Vancouver Island in an old 1937 Plymouth that my dad had and us boys would fish at every spot my dad would stop at. These were good times, the fishing was awesome.
The Kelsey Bay harbor is the only harbor located between Campbell River and Port McNeill, it offers a wharf with freight derrick, a boat launch, plenty of space for boats, all protected with a well-constructed breakwater system. The views visible from the wharf are incredible, you can see Mount Kusum with its foggy top, you can up and down the straight for many miles and looking across you can see Hardwicke Island, a place where I learned to log with the Bendickson Brothers. Looking beyond Hardwicke, you can see the coast mountains.
Just up from the wharf is the townsite of Sayward, there used to be a grocery store and liquor store here, but they are closed now, there is a police station, regional library, medical center, community center with indoor pool and a post office. You can find cafes, hotels, gas stations and b&b’s that will cater to your needs further up the valley.
This is a great place to visit, we still drive up quite often to sit on the old pier and watch for passing whales and dolphins. It also a great spot to watch the cruise boats go by.
We have finally fulfilled a dream of mine and have moved up to Sayward, it is wonderful living here, and the people are very friendly.