Homalco People, Water, Land
HOMALCO PEOPLE, WATER, LAND
The onset of spring and summer brings Black Bears and Grizzly Bears down from the coastal mountains to valley floors in their never-ending quest for food. For millennia they have come to Orford Bay in Bute Inlet and the traditional home of the χʷomaɬkʷu (Homalco) First Peoples. The water and land of Bute Inlet provided the Homalco with transportation, food, shelter, medicine and more. Legends were born here, and Homalco stories became interwoven with characters representing the creatures with whom they shared the earth and sea. Join us to uncover the stories of the bears, the ǰɛnxʷ (salmon), the χʷomaɬkʷu people and much more. You may even see χawgəs (the Grizzy Bear) or Mexaɬ (Black Bear) while exploring the Orford estuary.
This exclusive, small group tour (maximum 12 people per day) begins by meeting your First Nation guide at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River. From there you’ll travel aboard a comfortable, heated boat through the Salish Sea, while watching for its residents that include humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles and other seabirds. During the 2-hour journey through spectacular West Coast landscape the guide will share stories about culturally significant sites such as Aupe (New Church House) and Hole-in-the-Wall.
Your arrival in Orford Bay marks the beginning of the next part of the adventure that includes an interpretive walk and exploring the estuary by boat. The history of Orford as a traditional winter gathering place by Homalco will come alive and include discussions of how the Orford Salmon Enhancement Hatchery has contributed to increasing the population of native fish species in the rivers.
Following a quick visit to the Orientation Centre the tour continues toward the estuary. Guides will point out bear signs such as scratching trees and day beds. You will also be taken on an ethnobotany journey that explores how local plants were used traditionally to create medicines, clothing and shelter. Climb the viewing platform known as the Estuary Tower to search for wildlife, including visiting bears who come down to feed.
Back out in Orford Bay you’ll board a zodiac-style boat to travel up the shallow estuary for a closer look from the water. Guides will search for black bears, grizzly bears, Roosevelt elk, otters, beavers and more. Glide past ancient pictographs high on the rock walls and discuss the net pens that hold brood stock for the salmon hatchery.
The journey back to Campbell River continues the search for whales and marine wildlife, while providing inspiring vistas from which to reflect on your adventure.