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History of Ucluelet

Ucluelet is a Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) word meaning, ‘People of the Safe Harbour.’ The Ucluth peninsula has been inhabited by the Yuu-tluth-aht people as far back as 4,300+ years ago.

The Ucluth Peninsula has a significant First Nations history, inhabited by the Yuu-tluth-aht Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Nootka) people for thousands of years. The Yuu-tluth-aht Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ have stories and legends about living in the Ucluelet area dating back as far as 4,300+ years ago. One of Nuu-chah-nulth’s primary teachings is ‘Hishuk ish is’ awalk’ or ‘Everything is one.’ The land and the sea gave them food and supported their livelihood and culture and we continue to honour that spirit here today.

European explorers first set foot in the Ucluelet area in the late 1770s returning as traders to pursue maritime fur trading, sealing, and whaling. Among the first documented European settlers in Ucluelet were George Fraser, a world-renowned Scottish Horticulturalist, arriving in 1894. In 1892, George Fraser acquired lot 21 in the Clayoquot District, comprising 236 acres on Ucluth Peninsula. When Fraser arrived, descendants have noted approximately five additional European families residing along the Ucluth Peninsula, inhabited alongside the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ people. Two notable settlers were William and James Sutton, who operated a sawmill and general store. The turn of the 20th century brought the development of a commercial logging and fishing industry. Japanese fishers [from Steveston, BC] started settling in Ucluelet around 1920.

By the 1950s forestry started to dominate life on the coast. For close to 40 years, forestry provided many families in Ucluelet with a solid income.

Historically, and continuing today, commercial logging and fishing play a part in Ucluelet’s economy. Ucluelet remains one of Canada’s largest ground fishing ports; where you find an abundance of salmon, halibut, cod, and herring.

Historic Timeline

1774

Juan Pérez anchors and trades on the west coast of Vancouver Island, at Nootka Sound, 100 km north of Ucluelet.

1775

Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra sails along the coast of Vancouver Island, and heads north for Alaska. He does not stop, but roughly charts the coast in the vicinity of Kyuquot Sound.

1778

Captain James Cook of the British Navy anchors in Nootka Sound and goes ashore.

1787

Maritime fur traders follow, such as Charles William Barkley, Captain of the Imperial Eagle, who arrives near Ucluelet harbour in Barkley Sound searching for sea otter pelts.

1870

Fur sealers come to the area seeking ports for vessels working the Bering Sea sealing grounds. Captain Francis, the owner of several sealing schooners, establishes a trading post in Ucluelet harbour.

1890

Ucluelet begins to grow along with the sealing industry and becomes a bustling town. More settlers begin arriving on the news of pending road access from Port Alberni.

1898

The Presbyterian Church builds a Mission House and school, and a doctor is dispatched to the area.

1900

More settlers move to the west coast of Vancouver Island, bringing more infrastructure and services. Canadian Pacific Railway operates a small freight boat sailing from Victoria three times a month.

1903

A whaling station is established in Barkley Sound. In Ucluelet, the Amphitrite Point Light lighthouse, a government telegraph office, and a lifeboat station are built.

1914

The First World War begins.

1939

World War II begins. The Government of Canada takes measures to protect Vancouver Island’s west coast from potential invasions, establishes a seaplane base in Ucluelet, and a land base at Long Beach.

1940

The road to Tofino is completed.

1941

The direction finding capabilities at RCAF station Ucluelet (Long Beach) are placed at the disposal of the Royal Canadian Navy.

1942

Royal Canadian Navy operators at Ucluelet, Coal Harbour and Alliford Bay are transferred to Gordon Head in Victoria.

1959

The long-awaited road to Port Alberni opens. Ucluelet continues to prosper after the war, bringing more residents to the region.

1962

Ucluelet is incorporated.

1997

Ucluelet’s status is changed to a District to reflect the increased population and importance within the region.

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Experience Ucluelet’s history with a self-guided walking tour you take by using your phone!

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