Ocean Falls Ramblings From the Dockside

A Walk on the Wild Side | Downtown Ocean Falls

Friday, August 05, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA


If you do a Google search for Ocean Falls, you’ll find more than 1.4 million results: blog posts, videos, a Wikipedia entry, news reports, historical facts and more. It’s probably one of the most written about places along the Inside Passage – this site alone has at least six articles on the subject. But this post is something a little different: A photographic stroll through what remains of downtown Ocean Falls, a modern-day ghost town.  

Despite being called a ghost town, Ocean Falls isn’t completely deserted. Most of the remaining buildings are owned and some of them are actually inhabited during the summer months: Darke Waters Inn & Lodge, the school, the former manager’s house, a row of workers’ homes, the church and approximately 30 year-round residents who live in nearby Martin Valley. But it’s a far cry from the thousands of people who used to call this place home.*
 

I can’t claim the idea as my own. It was inspired by a post from Roaming About which took readers on a walk through a haunted train tunnel in Massachusetts. At the bottom of the page, Liesbet added a link to a site called Restless Jo and Jo’s Monday Walk where other bloggers can join in and share a walk they’ve been on. I was sold. And what better place to start than here in Ocean Falls

There are only two ways to get to Ocean Falls: by boat or by float plane. So, we’ll begin where every visitor does, on the water.


From a distance, Ocean Falls looks like a booming coastal community. The four-story Martin Inn stands proudly, front and center, welcoming visitors. But as you get closer, the weather-beaten building comes into focus and an eerie feeling rolls over you. The windows are open, or broken out, and mildew clings to the concrete walls. Thread bare curtains flap in the breeze and a new picture starts to unfold. 

The building, once home to one of the largest hotels along the entire west coast, is in a state of disrepair much like its neighbour in the background, The Co-Op. 

 

Back along the waterfront, the old marine ways houses a museum of Ocean Falls artefacts run by “Nearly Normal” Norman Brown – a must-see for all visitors – and a gift shop that sells handmade Christmas ornaments.  

 
The former courthouse still stands along the waterfront, opposite the ferry terminal, and is now home to the post office. 


Someone bought the old firehouse with plans to renovate the building and turn it into a café for visitors and locals. But the money ran out before they could finish, and no progress has been made in the last four years.


Most of the company houses that once proudly lined the streets have been bulldozed down. And many that remain, are now beyond repair. 

 



The Garden Apartments, which were once home to so many working families, have fallen down.


The former state-of-the-art high school overlooks the tennis and basketball court which is now being overrun with moss.


The church is still standing and was purchased last year by a couple with plans to turn it into a residence. So far, there hasn’t been any changes but the former manager’s house, overlooking the church, has been fully restored and is for sale.


The streets which used to be lined with houses, and the vehicles that once roamed them, are being taken back by nature (that's my walking partner, Jax, in the bottom picture). 



But Darke Waters Lodge, which was once a hospital, thrives during the summer months and gives boaters a place to eat, do laundry and take hot showers while providing accommodation for loggers and visitors.


Walking up towards Link Lake, you pass the dormitory-style apartment building that used to be home to workers from the mill and has, like so many of the buildings in Ocean Falls, fallen into a state of disrepair. 




The dam and power plant continue to be maintained and provide electricity to Ocean Falls, the nearby community of Martin Valley, Shearwater and Bella Bella. 

And that wraps up our walk through Ocean Falls. If you’d like to read more about walks through interesting and unique places, check out Restless Jo and Jo's MondayWalk

*Photo courtesy of OceanFallsMuseum.com.

How about you? Have you been on an interesting walk lately? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.  
 



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43 comments

  1. Ahoy there and nice to meet you, nautical folks! Welcome to my walks :) I'm a little mystified by this 'ghost town'. Why has it been semi-abandoned? Lack of relevant industry I'm presuming?
    Thanks so much for the link. I'd love a narrowboat holiday. Have you an itinerary sorted? If I can help at all, give me a shout.

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    1. Hi, Jo. It's a long story, but Ocean Falls was founded in the early 1900s as a company town (timber and pulp mills). The last company moved out in the 70s (I think) and the government tried to take over but it wasn't able to make a profit so they decided to bulldoze the town. The remaining residents were able to stop the process but only after most of the downtown area was destroyed. A few businesses have tried to move in over the years and make a go of it, but they all failed. Now, most of the people living here are in Martin Valley (a suburb of Ocean Falls that's a mile away)and are retired.

      We don't have a narrowboat itinerary sorted. We need to sell this boat before we make the move, but I imagine we'll start in your neck of the woods -- David's brother and sister-in-law live near Thirsk. But it will really depend on where we find the boat we want to buy.

      Cheers!

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  2. Ahoy there and nice to meet you, nautical folks! Welcome to my walks :) I'm a little mystified by this 'ghost town'. Why has it been semi-abandoned? Lack of relevant industry I'm presuming?
    Thanks so much for the link. I'd love a narrowboat holiday. Have you an itinerary sorted? If I can help at all, give me a shout.

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  3. Wow - this is so cool! Exactly the kind of walk I would love to do. I haven't been for a proper walk in ages - it's just too darn hot at the moment.

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    1. It really is a cool place. In fact, every time we're here we're tempted to buy property -- there's just something special about it that I can't quite describe. We've really enjoyed the last three weeks. Not only have we gotten heaps of work done, but lots of exercise as well!

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  4. What a neat walking tour! We recently walked to Springers Point on Ocracoke Island, where Blackbeard the pirate had a lair and was killed in an amazing battle. I love a good historical walk where you can imagine the past.

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    1. That's one of the things we like so much about cruising the Inside Passage -- there's so much history. Everywhere we go, we're following in the footsteps of Vancouver. It's pretty cool.

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  5. I've read another blog article about this place somewhere. I'd love to go there! Mike and I explored an abandoned lodge up on Vancouver Island last year and it was just really spooky! Filled with children's toys and other detritus of lives once lived there. A little post-apocolyptic. Love the photos! Maybe we'll get up there one day. I'm looking forward to your narrow boat adventure and am admitting to being dead jealous!

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    1. I'm getting excited about it, as well. Too excited, in fact. I really need to focus on what we're doing right now and stop thinking about all of the things I want to do once we get back to Kingston -- first and foremost, packing years and years of our personal possessions and raising Cambria's waterline a few inches.

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  6. What an intriguing place! I'd love to explore Ocean Falls in person, but am happy with the virtual tour for now. Glad you "found" Jo and decided to join in with this (and probably other future ones) walk! Thanks for the mention. Your photos are awesome. They really give the reader a good sense of the place! Good luck with the boat prep work and listing.

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    1. Thanks, Liesbet. I'm really glad you mentioned Jo's blog in your haunted train tunnel post. One of the neat things about it is that she lives in Yorkshire, so her local walks will help me get a better feel for our future home. :-)

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    2. Nice! What a coincidence about Yorkshire. Based on her walks, it is an amazing area over there! And, the walks have benches and a place to eat cake!!! So different from the woods where we go hiking now. :-) I do prefer the quiet, though...

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    3. We've already got our first major walk planned -- the Lyke Wake Walk through the North Yorkshire moors. It's 42 miles (one way) and if you complete it in 24 hours, you become a member of the club and can buy a badge. I wonder if they have any benches along the way because cake is always a good idea! http://www.lykewakewalk.co.uk/

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  7. That's really sad! Interesting, but sad to see the abandonment.
    The Glasgow Gallivanter

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    1. It really is sad, Anabel. Had there been any forward thinking by the government before they bulldozed most of the buildings, the scene was set for a vibrant tourism community that caters to fishing, wildlife viewing, tours to nearby natural hot springs and more.

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  8. What a great post idea. It would have been so cool if that had been able to continue the Reno on the fire station.

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    1. I know. It's one of my favourite buildings in town.

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  9. This is so crazy looking! Almost eerie in a way. Beautiful photos too!

    http://www.melbeeblog.com

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  10. What a very cool walking tour!! I was raised in BC and never heard of this place...it would be cool to check out, I was raised in Surrey, miss BC like crazy..so beautiful there! Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Maple. You're so right. BC is incredibly beautiful. We've been cruising the Inside Passage in our boat for the last 8 years and can't seem to get enough of this place!

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  11. Wow! This sounds like such a cool place to visit! I love ghost towns!

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    1. I really is a cool place . . . and some believe it's haunted. I haven't seen any evidence myself, but I did go into a house once that raised the hair on my arms and gave me goosebumps.

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    2. Last Trip Home
      My children took me to the dock,
      The Prince sails at twelve o’clock,
      We boarded at Vancouver North,
      From Burrard Inlet, we set forth,
      Sailing across the English Bay,
      Ocean Falls, we’re on our way,
      Into the rollers of Georgia Strait,
      The ports of call, cannot wait.

      Vancouver lights, they faded fast,
      Campbell River, we went past.
      The tide we hoped was almost slack,
      Memories of Ripple Rock come back,
      As we crossed that terrible place,
      Up Johnstone Strait, we kept apace.

      Was not so long, there's Kelsey Bay,
      Queen of the North, getting under way,
      Her whistle blew, she left the pier,
      Not knowing this was her final year,
      Someone said, on another day,
      She was lost near Hartley Bay.

      As we passed, the lights dimmed quick,
      The fog was eerie and pea soup thick,
      As we entered Queen Charlotte Sound,
      We feared that we would run aground,
      As the waves hit the wheel house glass,
      We prayed for this hell to pass.

      To our relief, we entered calm waters,
      Spotting Whales, Porpoises and Otters,
      At Rivers Inlet, the Salmon jumped high,
      But the Captain said we'll pass her by,
      We sailed up the Sound of Fitz Hugh,
      Past the bustling cannery, Namu.

      We spot Grizzly's, as they lurk,
      On the shore of Channel Burke,
      Sailing up the North Bentinck Arm,
      To Bella Coola in all it's charm,
      Off loaded there, all kinds of goods,
      At that town in the coastal woods.

      Through the rip tides of Mesachie Nose,
      Labouchere Pass, the cold wind blows,
      Then we arrive at the Channel Dean,
      Most beautiful place I've ever been.
      Off to the right is Mackenzie Rock,
      Alex Mackenzie's last place to dock,
      We passed the hot springs at Eucott Bay,
      There Frenchie and Simpson use to stay.

      At Cousins Inlet, on our second night,
      Ahead, we could see Martin Valley bright,
      As we turn past Coolidge Point,
      Once stood there a brothel joint,
      Looking ahead what to our surprise,
      Behold the sight, we're mesmerized.

      The mill is gone and there no more,
      At Cousins Inlet southern shore,
      The homes once there, all burned down,
      Only trees and brambles cover the ground,
      Martin Inn lays in great despair,
      No money or time for any care.

      We walk solemnly up front street,
      Till the mist of dam, felt good in the heat,
      My children knew what I did yearn,
      As they poured the ashes from my urn,
      My ashes caught the warm summer breeze,
      They settled on the maple and alder trees.

      It was only then my life flashed by,
      My children had their final cry,
      I could hear so faint the whistle blow,
      Remember the rain and winter snow,
      And the children playing in the street,
      Their boots all wet, and soaking feet,
      Then I heard the Raven Calls,
      I'm finally home at Ocean Falls.

      Douglas A Jubb
      Edited by Linda Williamson
      2016

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    3. David and I think your poem is absolutely brilliant -- thank you so much for sharing it!

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    4. Thank You very much. Feel free to pass it along to your many other boating friends. I've had a few folks say they feel they are there taking the journey as they read it. Ocean Falls has a special bond for the many people who lived there. Regards Doug

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  12. I was born in Ocean Falls in 1959... it was a company town...I believe it was in about 1967 we were told we had to move out of our house on 6 th street because it was rotting and going to fall down. The company moved us to a house on 10th street. They tried to pull our house down to burn it and they could not pull the main level or the basement down and they ended up burning it down standing... so so sad

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    1. I was told the road that I took a picture of (the one with the dog) was 10th street, but I haven't seen a map so I can't be sure. And yes, it is really sad. There's something very special about this place and it's a shame that it's going back to nature so quickly -- there should be children playing in the streets and neighbours chatting on the corners.

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    2. Yes, it was 10th street you took the picture of with your dog walking ahead of you. It was once wooden like many of the streets, but they paved it in the late '70's. Why, I don't know, since it is now disappearing too.

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  13. Even if it is a "ghost town," I think it's still adorable!

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    1. It's definitely an interesting place to spend some time and explore.

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  14. Whoa, this is creepy and cool at the same! Will have to add it to my list next time I make it up to BC!

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    1. You won't regret it! Ocean Falls is the best example of a former company town that I've seen along the Inside Passage. It's just a shame they didn't save more of it.

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  15. WOW!! This is absolutely fascinating!!

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    1. My only regret is that we never saw it during its hey day -- the contrast would be really interesting.

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  16. I love this!! I've always loved old buildings. It makes me so sad to see the so rundown, but it amazes me to think about the stuff those walls have seen and the stories they could tell.

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    1. What's really interesting is talking to someone who used to live here! From all accounts, it was an amazing place to grow up.

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  17. Lucy McRae

    Quite a few people who lived in Oceans Falls moved to Kitimat and Kemano when the new aluminum smelter was built here in 1954. Some still live here.

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    1. I didn't know that but it makes a lot of sense.

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  19. It was great to see these pictures! My family lived there from 1960 - '67 and we lived in that large concrete/steel apt. It was called The Cypress Apts and was a very well constructed building. Ocean Falls was and is a piece of heaven on earth and is truly loved by many of its' former residents, me included. Hope I get to retire there on day.

    Cheers.

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    1. It's a shame that the building was left open to the elements. It'd be in good condition today if it hadn't. In fact, apart from the buildings that are inhabited, it's in better shape than any other and was interesting to walk around.

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  20. Beautiful pictures. We've visited Ocean Falls a number of times in the last ten years and I always feel mixed emotions: it's a wonderful place to visit but it's also sad. Each year there's some new spark of hope for the town -- and new evidence of deterioration. For those who want more information, I would suggest the interesting and very readable book: Rain People, the Story of Ocean Falls by Bruce Ramsay. Be sure to get the 1997 edition which includes the story of the city's closing. You can buy it at Ocean Falls or on Amazon. By the way, there are three ways to get there, not just two: the BC ferry stops there every other Saturday in fall and winter (I couldn't find a summer schedule). See http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/inside/prph.php.

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