Port Alberni, British Columbia

Port Alberni, British Columbia

Infobox Settlement
official_name = Pagename
motto = Bear Tracks And Lumberjacks

imagesize =
image_caption = Entering Port Alberni

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city_logo =
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mapsize =
map_caption = Location of Pagename
subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_name = Canada
subdivision_type1 = Province
subdivision_name1 = British Columbia
subdivision_type2 = Region
subdivision_name2 = Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District
subdivision_type3 =
subdivision_name3 =
subdivision_type4 =
subdivision_name4 =
government_type =
leader_title =Mayor
leader_name =Ken McRae
leader_title1 = Governing body
leader_name1 = Port Alberni City Council
leader_title2 =
leader_name2 =
leader_title3 =
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leader_title4 =
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established_title = Incorporated
established_date = 1912
established_title2 =
established_date2 =
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established_date3 =
area_magnitude =
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population_as_of = 2007
population_footnotes =
population_note =
population_total = 17743
population_density_km2 = 881.0
timezone = PST
utc_offset = -8
timezone_DST =
utc_offset_DST =
latd=49 |latm=14 |lats=2 |latNS=N
longd=124 |longm=48 |longs=18 |longEW=W
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postal_code_type =Postal code span
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blank_name =Highways
blank_info =Highway 4
blank1_name =Waterways
blank1_info =Sproat Lake, Alberni Inlet
website = [http://www.portalberni.ca/ portalberni.ca]
footnotes =

Port Alberni is a city located in the province of British Columbia in Canada. It is the seat of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District. The city has a total population of 17,743, and the census agglomeration area a total of 25,396.

Port Alberni lies within the Alberni Valley at the head of the Alberni Inlet, Vancouver Island's longest inlet. The other end of the inlet is located on Barkley Sound. Port Alberni was once dubbed the "Salmon Capital of the World" but declining salmon numbers have tarnished this reputation. During the 1990s, a confluence of negative environmental impacts on salmon habitat resulted in a great and rapid depletion of local salmon populations. These salmon populations have not recovered. Public concern over the negative effects caused by industrial effluent deposits in the Inlet and unsound forest harvesting practices along creeks where salmon spawn continues to the present.

Port Alberni is the sister-city to Abashiri in northern Japan. Each year many students participate in student exchange programs between the two cities.


Port Alberni was named for Captain Don Pedro de Albernicite web
last = Archer
first = Christon
publisher = Library and Archives Canada
url =http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2229
] , a Spanish officer, who commanded Fort San Miguel at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island's west coast from 1790 to 1792.

origin, such as Somass (washing), Kitsuksis (log across mouth of creek), Pacheena (foamy), and Nootka (go around). Ancient petroglyph carvings can be found at Sproat Lake.

In 1787, Captain Charles William Barkley of the "Imperial Eagle", explored Barkley Sound, which now bears his name. Barkley traveled with his 17-year-old bride, Frances, the first European woman to visit what is now British Columbia. "Frances Barkley" is also the name of one of the two vessels that makes trips down the Alberni Inlet from Port Alberni to Bamfield and Ucluelet. The other is the MV "Lady Rose".

In 1856, Adam Horne, a Scottish fur trader employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, was directed to locate a land route across Vancouver Island. There were stories that the natives used a trail starting at Qualicum. Adam Horne found this trail leading to the Alberni Valley and it became known as the Horne Lake Trail. Many other settlers used this trail to get to the Alberni Valley.

and started running the Anderson sawmill at the mouth of the Somass River in August 1861. The first mill in B.C. was built to export lumber. The original mill failed, but several others were established in the 1880s. Sproat Lake was named after Gilbert Sproat and Stamp Falls and Stamp River were named after Edward Stamp.

Rogers Creek, which flows through the centre of Port Alberni, was named after A.B. Rogers,the discoverer of Rogers Pass, when he surveyed in the Alberni Valley for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1800s.

In 1862, small-scale placer gold mining took place on China Creek; in the 1890s more gold mining took place along the Alberni Inlet at China Creek and Mineral Creek. Several gold veins were found. Exploration for gold continued over the years with peaks in 1930s and 1960s.

In 1912, Port Alberni was incorporated with the arrival of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, and planned arrival of the Canadian National Railway, and the trans-Pacific telegraph cable at Bamfield. Mining took place on the Alberni Inlet and, as with many fish camps and outports, depended on Port Alberni as a base.

With ample western red cedar and Douglas fir forests surrounding the valley, the forest industry became the dominant economic force. Large logging operators moved in, namely Bloedel, Stewart and Welch. Sawmills were built at Alberni, Great Central Lake, and the McLean Mill. By the Second World War, plywood mills and a nascent pulp industry had started. For the next forty years, the forest industry reigned supreme. MacMillan Bloedel Limited became the dominant lumber player in the valley. Then came industry modernization, business mergers, over-cutting, and nearby logging protests.

Port Alberni was once an industrial resource-dependent town, with logging and mining being the main economic drivers. Today, the town is a major service centre for local, regional, and provincial governments, and a supply centre and hospital for west coast communities like Bamfield, Tofino, and Ucluelet. Currently, the natural resources of the area are taking centre stage again, but in a different way. Port Alberni is in the process of "re-developing" itself as a tourism destination. The area's amenities, such as the natural beauty of the area, the opportunities for fishing (both marine and freshwater), its convenience as a jumping-off point for new outdoor recreation and ecotourism activities such as hiking, kayaking, and mountain-biking, lend themselves to these activities very well.

From 1920 to 1973 Alberni Residential School was established. The Canadian Federal government now says that this was a big blot on race relations in Canada. [http://www.irsr-rqpi.gc.ca/english/reconciliation.html ] The residential school system run by the United Church forcibly separated children from their families and communities. Many suffered physical and sexual abuse.

In 1955, the Alberni Athletics Senior-A Men's Basketball Team had an outstanding year. The Alberni Athletics won the Canadian Senior Basketball Championships at home. A young Jim Robson honed his sports reporting skills doing the play-by-play on radio station CJAV. The Alberni Athletics were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 1964, Port Alberni was hit by two tsunamis (called tidal wave in 1964) during the Good Friday Earthquake. The water rose about one foot in a minute reaching ten feet above the high water mark. About 375 homes were damaged and 55 were washed away, however there were no injuries or fatalities. [http://www.city.port-alberni.bc.ca/AVMuseum/Tsunami.htm]

In 1967, the neighbouring towns of Alberni (on the north) and Port Alberni (on the south) amalgamated to form the city of Port Alberni.

The Alberni Valley has a museum and many ancillary attractions. Sproat Lake, located just outside of Port Alberni is the present home of Martin Mars water bombers.


Located at the head of the Alberni Inlet, Port Alberni lies adjacent to this natural harbour as well as the Somass River. Sproat lake is located 10 km west of the city, and the valley is guarded by the snow-covered peaks of Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Klitsa, and surrounded by mountains on all sides. Kuth-kah-chulth, is the Nuu-Chah-Nulth name for Mount Arrowsmith.

The city itself owes its unique layout to its former "twin city" status, due to its two official city centres, as well as the numerous creeks and ravines that bisect the townsite. The former city of Alberni is now dubbed "North Port", and is centered at Highway 4 and Gertrude Street. Visitors continuing onward to the west coast will pass this intersection, marked by the historic Alberni Post Office on the Southeast corner. Much of Port Alberni's recent development has occurred in the North Port area, especially "up the hill", east of the North Port downtown.

The former City of Port Alberni (now referred to as "South Port" or "Uptown") can be found about 3 km South on Gertrude Street/3rd Avenue. This business district has struggled over the past decade as it is quite removed from the highway. However, rejuvenation efforts are being made to attract people to this historic neighbourhood. In 2004, the Capitol Theatre, a local landmark in South Port, underwent extensive renovations and emerged as a stately yet modern relic of past times. This theatre now often hosts live performances. South Port is anchored by the Harbour Quay, a waterfront collection of shops and parks. The Port Alberni railway station, as well as the Maritime Discovery Centre can be found here.

The city's West End is an eclectic mix of new suburban style homes, large acreages, and two First Nations reserves. Much of the residential growth over the past decade has occurred in the city's West End, where the Westporte neighbourhood has taken shape.

The creeks and ravines that cut through the city create natural barriers; Kitsuksis Creek, Cherry Creek, Roger Creek and Dry Creek each flow through the city, separating Port Alberni into several distinct areas.


The total population of Port Alberni and surrounding suburbs consisting of both Cherry and Beaver Creek districts is 26,569 (as of the 2004 census conducted by Statistics Canada). Over the course of about 30 years due to economic recession, the actual population has declined, but is not receding anymore due to a recent economic shift.

One major characteristic known is the twin city demographic, where previously there were the distinct Port Alberni and Alberni Valley municipalities, the remnants remain with two distinct city centres.


The chief source of employment in Port Alberni is the forest industry. The Alberni Valley's forests consist primarily of Douglas Fir, Hemlock, Yellow Cedar and Western Red Cedar. Most of the old growth forests have been logged with current logging coming from second growth forests. A large paper mill, Catalyst Paper, Port Alberni Division sits on the edge of the Alberni Inlet. There is also a lumber mill, Alberni Pacific Division, that also sits on the inlet. Several smaller sawmills exist throughout the valley. Some farming is also practised on the Alberni Valley's red clay soils.

Forestry is still practised, but over the years the forest industry discontinued selling the trees to local mills, leading to a major economic recession, and decrease in the population. The recession is being stopped with attempts to shift the focus onto tourism.

The illegal marijauana growing and selling industry is also a large part of Port Alberni's economy. The climate in and around the valley creates perfect conditions for the outdoor cultivation of marijuana plants.

Port Alberni also serves as a hub for those travelling to the West Coast of Vancouver Island, including Ucluelet, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park. As commodities tend to be much pricier in these remote areas, campers and travellers often do their shopping in Port Alberni before continuing their journey. This has resulted in development along the Johnston Road (Highway 4) corridor, including several big box retailers, grocery stores and strip mall developments. From 2003 to 2008, several eco-tourism companies have set up shop in the Alberni Valley, taking advantage of the city's location on the fringe of wilderness yet proximate location to Vancouver and Victoria.


While sloganeering of Port Alberni as the "Salmon Capital of the World" was once common in the Alberni Valley, in more recent times a sharp decline in annual salmon populations has unfortunately put an abrupt end to the utterance of this proud creed among local residents. The chief cause of the disappearance of the salmon has been habitat degradation. The life cycle of the salmon has been interrupted in at least two crucial ways. Firstly, the Alberni Inlet, a key channel of salmon flow in the area, has been polluted by insufficiently treated industrial wastes. Discharging of such waste by local industry over many years led to the creation of what locals call 'the fibre mat', a sort of toxic bog that has settled at the bottom of the inlet. Chemical analysis has shown this fibre mat to contain harmful substances such as dioxins and mercury. Concerning salmonid reproduction, however, the key issue regarding the fibre mat is that it is like a vacuum that sucks the supply of dissolved oxygen available in the Inlet at low levels where salmon must travel in order to reach their spawning grounds. This chemical effect culminated in ecological disaster in 1992 when the fish run in Port Alberni was virtually nil. Following this event, the local pulp mill was audited and slapped with heavy new regulations in an effort to get the mill to literally clean up its act.

A further issue has been the destruction of salmon spawning habitat, particularly on the mountainsides of the Beaufort Range which crowns the Valley. Many creeks to which salmon must return in order to lay eggs and reproduce have disappeared due to irresponsible management of private land by forest companies. Cutting to the edges of creeks has caused erosion and raised ground temperatures, causing crucial salmon-bearing streams to dry up.


Port Alberni sits beneath Mount Arrowsmith and is almost completely surrounded by mountains. It is a 1.5 hour drive from Pacific Rim National Park. The city is also known for its fishing. Its waters contain five different species of salmon and yearly runs of steelhead. Halibut can also be found in the saltwater inlets near the city.

The state-of-the-art Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery is the most successful hatchery on Vancouver Island, producing chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead smolts. It is located a short drive west of Port Alberni. [http://www-heb.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/facilities/robertson/background_e.htm]

Port Alberni is home to the McLean Mill National Historic Site which incorporates a steam railway from the downtown harbour to the saw mill up the valley. [http://www.alberniheritage.com/] .

The world's largest aerial firefighting flying boat, the Martin Mars water bombers, make their home on nearby Sproat Lake. This lake is also a popular summer destination for local residents and cottagers from surrounding areas. Now owned by Coulsons and is no longer the Martin Mars Water Bomber but the Coulson Water Bomber

Port Alberni is home to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, a Junior-A hockey team in the BCHL.

Hiking trails around Port Alberni

Port Alberni has some of the best hiking on Vancouver Island. There are over 100 trails in and around the Alberni Valley, including mountain bike trails for all abilities. There is easy quick access to the alpine areas, including Mount Arrowsmith.

* Horne Lake Trail
* Log Train Trail
* Angler's Trail at Stamp River
* Rogers Creek Trail
* Labour Day Lake Trail
* Greenmax Anglers Trail
* China Creek Trail
* Climb Mount Arrowsmith
* Della Falls Trail
* Kitsukis Dyke Walking Path
* Old Forestry Lookout Trail


Port Alberni Airport (YPB) is located 11 km north west of the city. The airport has a 4,000-foot runway with another 2,500 plus feet of taxiways and apron. The airport is home to a number of key tenants such as. Coulson Aircrane, Canadian Aero Technologies, Alberni Valley Flying Club and Vancouver Island Helicopters.

The Port Alberni Port Authority was created in 1999. Under the Canada Marine Act, the Port Alberni Port Authority is responsible for the Alberni Inlet from the [http://www.britishcolumbia.com/LakesAndRivers/Rivers/details/?ID=78 Somass River] to Tzartus Island. [http://www.portalberniportauthority.ca/]

The main highway to Port Alberni is Highway 4, known locally as the Alberni Highway and the Pacific Rim Highway. It is the longest east-west main vehicle route on Vancouver Island, with a total length of 163 km (101 mi). The highway to Port Alberni was completed in 1942, and has been designated as Highway 4 since 1953. The highway starts at Qualicum Beach, then reaches Port Alberni from which it continues on to Tofino.

Notable residents

* Kim Campbell was born in Port Alberni and was the nineteenth Prime Minister of Canada from 25 June to 4 November 1993. She is, to date, the only woman to have held this office.
* George Clutesi was born in Port Alberni in 1905. He became a Tseshaht artist, actor and writer as well as an expert on and spokesman for First Nationas cultures. In 1959, he received the British Columbia Centennial Award and the Canada Centennial Medal in 1967. [ [http://www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A397 Native American Authors: George Clutesi. Online October 9, 2007] ] Clutesi was commissioned to paint a mural for Expo 67. Emily Carr was so impressed with his work that in her will she left him her brushes, oils and unused canvases. He died in Victoria in 1988. [ [http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/exhibits/timemach/galler03/frames/clutesi.htm George Clutesi—First Nation'S Art in B.C.—B.C Archives Time Machine. Online. October 9, 2007] ]
*Paul Cyr was born in Port Alberni and was drafted into the NHL by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round (9th overall) in 1982.
*Joe Drinkwater resided in Port Alberni. He was a trapper and prospector who first visited Della Falls in 1899 (named after his wife).
* Rick Hansen was born in Port Alberni (1957–) and is a Canadian paraplegic athlete and activist for people with spinal cord injuries who is most famous for his Man in Motion world tour to raise money for the cause and show the physical capabilities of such people.
* Rob Shick was born in Port Alberni (1957-) And has been with the NHL as an official since September 1st, 1984
* Scott Vickaryous (actor), born in Port Alberni
* Dakota Morton (radio host), Youngest radio host Dakota Morton (born in Canada June 12, 1988) created the record and set it on January 16, 1999 at the age of 10 years 218 days. Record was awarded while Dakota was hosting his radio show at CJAV radio in Port Alberni. "Guinness World Records 2005 Special 50th Anniversary Edition" ISBN 0 9735514 0 2
* Alec Thomas born around 1894 near Alberni. He was a fisherman, trapper, longshoreman, logger, “anthropologist”, interpreter, and Tseshaht politician. [http://www.tseshaht.com/tradition_history/figures/alec_thomas.php]

Local news sites & community web forums

*CJAV-FM (known on-air as "The Peak") is a Canadian radio station, broadcasting from Port Alberni, British Columbia at 93.3 FM
* [http://www.alberni.info Alberni Underground]
* [http://www.albernivalleynews.com Alberni Valley News]
* [http://www.canada.com/vancouverisland/albernivalleytimes Alberni Valley Times]
* [http://www.alberni.ca Alberni Online]


* [http://www12.statcan.ca/english/Profil01/CP01/Details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=5923008&Geo2=PR&Code2=59&Data=Count&SearchText=Port%20Alberni&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=59&B1=All&Custom= Community Profile: Port Alberni (City), British Columbia; Statistics Canada]
* [http://www12.statcan.ca/english/Profil01/CP01/Details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CMA&Code1=940__&Geo2=PR&Code2=59&Data=Count&SearchText=Port%20Alberni&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=59&B1=All&Custom= Community Profile: Port Alberni (Census Agglomeration), British Columbia; Statistics Canada]

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