Cape Scott Provincial Park

History

Cape Scott was named in 1786 in honour of David Scott, a Bombay merchant who was one of the principal backers of a trading voyage to this area. The naming was done by Captain Guise and Captain Lowrie of, respectively, the Experiment and the Captain Cook. Remote and inhospitable, the history of Cape Scott has been shaped by its heavy rainfalls and violent windstorms.

Cultural buffs will appreciate the rich history of the area, which was first inhabited by the Nahwitti people prior to white settlement.

Danish Pioneers

From 1897 to 1907 the first white settlement attempt was made at Cape Scott. The settlers were Danes, mostly from Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota; they were hoping to establish an ethnic community around Hansen Lagoon and Fisherman Bay. The colony hoped to subsist initially on fishing until the government followed through on its agreement to build a road from Fisherman Bay to San Josef River and on to Holberg. This road was to provide the link necessary so that the settlers would be able to get their beef and dairy products to market. Unfortunately the road never materialized. The colony struggled to survive by fishing and trapping mink, river otter and beaver for their pelts. Eventually the trapping petered out and the men were forced to leave to fish at Rivers Inlet or to work in mines or logging camps. By 1907, the settlers had acknowledged the failure of their colony and plans were made for departure.Today, little remains of the Danish settlement except the names - Nels Bight, Hansen Lagoon, Frederiksen Point - and a few fragile buildings and other man-made relics.

The population of the area between Cape Scott and Holberg numbered less than 60 in 1909. By 1913, another wave of settlers had arrived from Washington State, the prairie provinces, Eastern Canada and Europe to occupy land available for pre-emption. Many of these settlers established themselves in homes vacated by the Danes near Hansen Lagoon. Others took up land and built homes at Fisherman Bay and San Josef Bay. The population of the second settlement peaked at over 1,000, then began a slow decline as the new residents encountered the same hardships as the Danes had experienced. Conscription in 1917 for service in the First World War brought an end to this second community and soon Cape Scott was virtually deserted again.

Requirements of national security during the Second World War led to the construction of a small radar station at Cape Scott in 1942, which remained in operation until 1945. Today, remnants of human activity can be seen throughout Cape Scott Provincial Park. Please be careful when exploring historic sites. Rusting tools and implements, dilapidated buildings and old wells can be hazardous. Please do not remove artifacts or disturb sites.

Cultural Heritage

Three native peoples - the Tlatlasikwala, Nakumgilisala and Yutlinuk - shared the Cape Scott area prior to white settlement. The Yutlinuk of the Scott Islands died out in the early 1800s. The Nakumgilisala and Tlatlasikwala amalgamated in the mid-1850s and moved to Hope Island, where they remained until 1954. That year, numbering only 32, they joined with the Koskimo people and moved to Quatsino Sound. Today they are known collectively as the Nahwitti. They have six reserves, three of which are within the boundaries of Cape Scott Provincial Park.

Conservation

Upland areas of the park are forested with red and yellow cedar, lodge pole pine, hemlock and true fir. The rugged coastline of the park is dominated by concentrations of old-growth Sitka spruce A thick undergrowth is made up mostly of salal, salmonberry, evergreen huckleberry and fern. The highest point in Cape Scott Provincial Park is Mt. St. Patrick, which rises 422 metres above sea level. Eric Lake, at 44 hectares, is the largest body of fresh water.

Wildlife

Hansen Lagoon is a stopping place for Canada geese and a variety of wildfowl traveling the Pacific Flyway. The ubiquitous gull and other sea birds frequent the shoreline. Coastal black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, black bears, cougars and wolves are found in the forested and open uplands. Seals, sea lions, sea otters, killer whales and gray whales all inhabit the waters offshore. Visitors to San Josef Bay will often see river otters and mink in the river and estuary, as well as Canada geese, common merganser and, in the winter, Trumpeter swans.