Zeballos was a small, west coast fishing village until 1924, at this time a small gold vein was found. It attracted prospectors from around the country. The vein proved to be very difficult to get at and after a number of years, the mine was abandoned. Then in 1934, a substantial gold vein was discovered by Albert Bird. Albert subsequently sold the claim to a Victoria mining company, which turned out to be a bad move on his part as this mine was soon producing between 30 and 40 ounces of gold per ton of ore, making it one of the highest gold producing mines in the world.
The village soon sprang up into a small city with 3 hotels, a brothel, a general store, and a hospital. Over 1500 people called the town home. The town even had its own newspaper. The town was abuzz with people from all around the world arriving to be part of the excitement. The harbor was full of ore ships, freighters, and floatplanes.
In 1939, W.W.2 broke out and many of the men left to fight overseas, when they returned at the end of the war, gold prices had fallen to $35.00 an ounce and this was not high enough to keep the mines going. Within a few years, the town had far fewer folks with only about 200 remaining, mostly sustained by logging and fishing. Logging remained the main industry, still is today.
In 1962, with high iron ore values around the world, a mine was opened and ran for about 7 years, boosting the population and adding a new cash source to the community, but iron prices fell again, and the mine closed in 1969.
Today, the village is a small west coast community with a resource-based economy, but tourism is starting to be a driving force as more and more visitors are looking to Zeballos as a destination, a gateway to the west coast. The village is becoming a favorite place for kayakers, sports fishers, and nature lovers who want to leave the crowds behind and experience the wilderness of Vancouver Island. Comfortable accommodation and several cafes welcome visitors.
The road to Zeballos turns west off Highway 19 just north of Woss. The 40 km gravel road is usually in good condition and is looked after. Watch for bears, deer, and elk crossing the road and eagles soaring overhead as you drive in. The village is very beautiful, it is located at the head of Zeballos Inlet.
During the early 70s, l logged out of Zeballos and the village at that time had a fairly large population of around 300 plus another 350 men across the river in the logging camps. There even was a small theater that showed movies a couple of times a week. The problem for us who lived in the camps across the river was that there was only one bridge to the other side of the river, and it was 5 miles up the road, making it a ten-mile trip to get across to a town you could hit with a rock.
I can still remember how we would get gussied up and head to town on a Saturday day-night, we would remove our shoes and pants at the river’s edge and wade over to the other side, fairly easy to do. Then after a night of drinking, we would head back to camp, sometimes there were quite a few of us. Now getting back across was not as easy due to most of us would have quite a stagger. So many would lose their balance and float down the river to the harbor. Now there were two young native brothers who had a house beside the camp who would head out in a rowboat to pick up the floaters, $20.00 for a lift to camp was the deal, they would make a fair bit on a Saturday night.
The natural settings around the town are just breathtaking, there is a wildlife viewing platform located in the center of town, and the estuary is easily accessed and is a great place to view birds and sea life.
Fall, winter, and spring are the best viewing times for waterfowl, which include many kinds of seabirds and ducks. In the fall, back bears come to feed on the spawning salmon and many other birds and animals use the area throughout the year. There are some great trails running through the estuary full of picnic tables and boardwalks and a great campsite for your stay. These trails are ideal for bird watching.