Destinations the Inside Passage

Destination: Butedale (Princess Royal Island)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

Butedale and Butedale Falls.

The Dock: 53°09.66’N, 128°41.76W

Butedale, situated along Fraser Reach on Princess Royal Island, was once the site of a successful salmon cannery where hundreds of people lived and worked from 1911 to some time in the 1950s.  It’s now a ghost town. 

Like so many other canneries along the Inside Passage, it grew redundant with the introduction of refrigeration aboard fishing vessels and had to reduce its operations until, finally, closing altogether.  There have been several attempts to resurrect parts of Butedale over the years but, despite the efforts, the site continues to rapidly deteriorate.  Most of the remaining buildings are beyond repair and are now falling into the sea; others have already made the journey. 

Butedale has seen better days.

Safe anchorages along Princess Royal Channel are few and far between and Butedale acts as a convenient layover for those travelling the Inside Passage.  The dock for visiting boats, though rundown, continues to be “maintained” and is safe to use . . . despite appearances.  Moorage runs around CA$30 for a 43-foot boat.  There may or may not be a correlation between your boat length and the fee; several of our friends with longer boats (47-feet) were charged the same rate, so the price may just be a matter of simplicity.  There isn’t any power on the docks, but there is water to wash your boat.  Though it’s possible to anchor at the head of the bay in depths of 17 metres (56 feet), it’s not advisable due to broken pilings and old cables fouling the bottom.

Cambria tied to the dock in June of 2013.

Ghost towns can be interesting experiences.  It’s fun to imagine days-past while walking the grounds.  But Butedale is in such a state of disrepair that its finer moments are beyond the scope of our imaginations:  The pilings still stand at the head of the bay where, presumably, the fishing vessels came to unload their cargo, but the wharf is gone.  Most of the remaining buildings, with very few exceptions, are too unsafe to enter.  The power house, which used to generate enough electricity for all of the homes and cannery, is now only hooked up to a car alternator that powers the new caretaker’s house (Lou Simoneau is no longer living in Butedale) and two outdoor lights.  And the shore is littered with rusted machine parts and planks of wood – Butedale’s days of being a charming glimpse into the past are long gone, at least at first glance.

Looking towards the head of the bay.

The former powerhouse.

There may be some hope, however.  The property was sold recently and there has been some clean up over the past year or so.  The word on the water is that the new owner wants to make a commercial endeavour out of the place, adding new docks and some services.  But more often than not, wilderness sites can quickly turn into more work with less opportunity for profit than envisioned, so it’s difficult to know what will happen.  Until then (due to insurance liabilities), Butedale continues to offer no services to passing vessels. 

Things to Do:

  • Tour the property with the new caretaker
  • Visit Butedale Falls

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