With over 100 kilometers of shoreline and a width that extends from 3 kilometres to 14 kilometres Quadra Island is the second largest and one of the most significant of the Discovery Islands.
At first glance
From the south, the first sight of Quadra displays the steep cliffs of Cape Mudge; then the slim white shaft of the lighthouse raising vertically from the beach with its adjacent buildings, farther along, a small cluster of houses skirts the water's edge with a backdrop of deep emerald green forest. Beyond these, a fleet of orderly seine boats lies at anchor. Nothing about this peaceable scene suggests that a mere hundred years ago the area was reputed as the death-hole, the haunt of piratical raiders who struck dread into the hearts of those white men and First Nations forced to pass the Kwakiutl village as they plied the narrow waters of Discovery Passage.
Quadra, the largest of the Discovery Group of Islands and the third largest Island of the coast of BC is situated between Vancouver Island and the islands of Maurelle, Read, Sonora and Cortes. Captain George Vancouver first landed on its most southerly shores in 1792, in his quest for the Northwest Passage.a
Huge timber stands, protected bays for booming and the promise of assay reports of the first miners proving the presence of valuable minerals in many areas of the island; caused the island to grow in popularity with early settlers. The new industries brought in workers; the workers brought in families and as population increased, Quadra acquired hotels, post offices, public schools, a mission, a dock and the only policeman and jail serving the surrounding area, in addition to the twice a week steam ship visits, all while the site of Campbell River remained unsettled forest land.
The areas of concentrated population were Heriot Bay, Quathiaski Cove, Granite Bay and Gowlland Harbour. In years past, when the mines were abandoned, logging petered, the fishing became less profitable, and the population decreased the island became a haven for the few who valued a self-sufficient rural life style.
The Constant Threat of Wolves
Wolves presented a constant threat in the early years, killing any domestic cats that strayed from the doorstep and terrifying the timid with their night time howling. There are early stories of wolves surrounding human beings and chasing them up trees. An unusually harsh winter at the turn of the century has been attributed to decimating the wolf packs and eventually they disappeared from the island. It may be as a result of the increase in human population as wolves are quite accomplished swimmers and island hopping is quite common when food sources become scarce.
When met with the smooth placid lake like conditions in Drew Harbour or Heriot Bay’s island encircled waters present such a setting in calm weather, visitors may well remain unaware of the unseen dangers surrounding the island, dangers that beset early voyagers and lie await today for travelers that ignore tidal charts and storm warnings.
A Vacation Paradise
Populations rose again on Quadra Island with the acquisition of Rebecca Spit by the Provincial Government, raising the year round population to 2500 residence and the summer population to almost double that number. Rebecca Spit’s official opening to the public as a provincial park was in 1959. At that time and on this route the very first car ferry was purchased by BC ferries and put into service in 1960, as a result of this new easy access was an ensuing tourist invasion, population on the island doubled during the summer months and continues to grow in popularity even today.