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A LOOK BACK: Great Central Lake

Take a trip back in history with the Alberni Valley Museum
Large landing barge on shore of Great Central Lake. One man on the shoreline. The barge is carrying boy scouts and their leaders, and some vehicles. 18 men and boys in total. One truck has a canopy on it with a woman standing outside. Painted on the door of the truck “Art Skipsey Sash and Door”. Front of the barge has a gang plank that is open. Painted on the side of the barge “B.C. FOREST-SERVICE”. On the back written in blue ink “Sat.1:30 pm 1st Sept/ 1951 / at N.W. end of / Great Central Lake , on the / Della Falls trip.” This is one of 24,000 photos included in the Alberni Valley Museum’s online digital archives, at (PHOTO PN20251 COURTESY AV MUSEUM)

Great Central Lake, located northwest of the City of Port Alberni, is 35 kilometres long, the second deepest on Vancouver Island, and deeply connected to the post-colonial beginnings of the Alberni Valley region. It was once the site of a sawmill that employed hundreds of men, until it closed in 1953.

The lake remains rural, and the steep terrain surrounding it means it is largely undeveloped, save for a number of float homes.

It was once the site of a large sawmill, employing hundreds of men. Port Alberni pioneer Joe Drinkwater built a floating lodge called The Ark at one end of the lake, and a version of The Ark remains today.

Great Central Lake is also the entrance, if you will, to Della Falls, which Natural Resources Canada states is the steepest waterfall in Canada at 440 metres.

(There is some debate as to whether Kiwi Falls, in Schoen Lake Provincial Park, northeastern Vancouver Island, is the steepest—it is unconfirmed at 475 metres.)

The trailhead to Della Falls is only accessible by boat, and anyone intending to hike the trail in modern times needs to book a water taxi. Back in the 1950s, a group of Boy Scouts took a B.C. Forest Service barge to the end of Great Central Lake for a late-summer hike to the falls, on Sept. 1, 1951.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I have been the Alberni Valley News editor since August 2006.
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