The Other Cutthroat

January 24th, 2021


Most of BC’s population is concentrated in the lower mainland and southeast Vancouver Island so the fish they know as cutthroat trout if they know it all, is the coastal cutthroat both sea run and resident. A fine fish by any measure. but not the only cutthroat trout in the province. Not by a long shot


Westslope cutthroat. Water colour by V. Ericson in Native Trout of North America by Robert H. Smith

Journey beyond the coastal ranges and the Okanagan Valley and you will meet the Westslope Cutthroat. This is a very colourful and beautiful fish that I am going to now refer to as simply the Interior or Inter Mountain cutthroat. He has less spotting than the coastal fish and a part of his body is absent spotting completely. He is rosy orange on the side and kind of olive greenish or brownish on the dorsal surface. He is the Westslope in BC and some parts of the adjacent US but the Intermountain cutthroat have taken on an amazingly wide diversity of forms and characteristics further south. The western US is an area with a complex array of habitat conditions and climates and the trout has made many adjustments in order to survive in an often harsh landscape. Biologists have given these forms titles like the Greenback Cutthroat and Fine Spotted Snake River Cutthroat and more Taxonomists have likely had no end of debate whether or not these classifications are valid. The classifiers fall into two general groups: lumpers and splitters. Lumpers tend to be very conservative about giving a new classification and splitters delight in teasing out small differences and arguing they should justify a separate species or subspecies. We see it here with our rainbows. We speak of the Blackwater Strain, the Gerrard race and the Pennask strain. These have not been given separate classifications or sub specific titles because it is fairly evident that they are simply different forms of our interior rainbows. Take a Gerrard rainbow from a big lake with kokanee and put him in a small lake with sparse food resources and he becomes just another small tiddler. There may be some separation of our rainbows though. Some biologists have classed them as coastal and redbands (interior). Where the cut-off point is is quite vague but there seems to be some justification. But cutthroats are not so easy. One of the most prominent and respected biologists of our time spent more than fifty years and prepared more than 100 scientific papers on the interior cutthroats. More than any other person, he has informed anglers and other interested people on the diversity and biology of our native trout – he is a world authority on the classification of salmonid fishes.

Robert Behnke described at least fifteen forms of Interior cutthroat trout, our Westslope is just one. Dr. Behnke died in 2013.

The Westslope cutthroat seems to be strongest in the Upper Columbia Basin. The cutthroat has crossed the great divide into the Upper South Saskatchewan and Missouri River Basins. But is most common in the East Kootenay Region where it is the primary game fish of streams commonly cohabiting with Bull Trout. It is the native trout of the East Kootenay as rainbows were not able to navigate the falls between Libby and Troy Montana on the Kootenay River. Rainbows of the East Kootenay are hatchery introductions to lakes like White Swan and Premier. I believe these are Pennask strain even though they are reared at The Bull River Hatchery and Premier Lake may once have had a strain of its own or Gerrard Strain (there were some Gerrard size rainbows in Premier prior to rotenone treatment in about 1960). In the West Kootenay, the Westslope is almost absent from the big lakes (you could sometimes find one or two in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake following a year of strong spring freshets in the creeks. The Westslope is confined to reaches of mountain creeks above migration barriers. Kokanee, Lendrum and Woodbury come to mind. Here they are quite small with a 30 cm fish being a prize. It is in the West Kootenay mountain lakes where the West Slope has attained some fame. Not all mountain lakes have Westslopes and they are usually small and undernourished but it wasn’t always so. When some of these lakes around Kokanee Glacier Park were first stocked back in the 1930’s or so, some amazing fish were caught. My father used to fish Wheeler Lake near Ainsworth and catch three and four pound cutthroats for a number of years. The lake had lain fallow until then and food supplies had built up. Now the fish are all small. Some Interior cutthroats have attained great size. A 41 pounder was caught in Nevada’s Pyramid Lake back in the day and sixty pounders were said to have been taken in net fisheries. The original Pyramid stock is finished. They were called Lahontan cutthroats and still survive but are no longer super sized.

Westslopes are fragile and are not in a good state of health over much of their range. The usual land use issues like logging, intense agriculture and grazing have taken a toll as has mining especially East Kootenay coal mining. I cringe when I think of what might happen when some of those raw piles of tailings and overburden get loose. Even coal exploration is problematical when bulldozers trench side hills and pile the overburden wherever they can. The more mess a machine can make, the more ground is exposed and it is easier to decide on a procedure. Currently there is much concern about elevated levels of selenium in the Elk River a prime Westslope cutthroat stream. Some fish are showing deformities and invertebrates like stone flies and mayflies are showing declines. Another of the most outstanding issues in Interior cutthroat management is hatchery introductions. The main culprit is rainbow trout which have been displacing/eliminating cutthroats for decades especially in the US. Shot gunning hatchery trout around the west is coming to a close and was never much of an issue in BC. Our hatchery programs are directed to lakes and have been very successful. There has been some hatchery effort toward steelhead in streams but it is not favoured. The other thing about all cutthroats is their susceptibility to angling. They are very easy to catch and fishing may have to be curtailed even more than it presently is if we are going to keep this fish around.


Coal spoil: Elk River. Photo by Jayce Hawkins The Narwhal


Westslope cutthroat from the Elk River caught by Ryland Nelson. Jayce Hawkins photo from The Narwhal.


Billy Clark

January 18th, 2021



I have long been amazed at the spirit of adventure displayed by English settlers in areas far from their natural habitat. The chronicles of our province are laced with stories of bachelor characters from the old country that happily settled into some of the wildest lands on earth. Some of these places are still pretty wild and far from the beaten path of contemporary Canadians.

One of these characters was Billy Clark. He left his home in Guildford, Surrey in 1907 at age twenty to journey to the Lardeau region of southeastern BC. This area is located just north of Kootenay Lake and to this day is still remote and wild with settlement just beginning to return and edge in as other areas in the province become too highly settled for some people. But first he stopped in Saskatchewan to visit his sister where he might have stayed until he learned that she had wires out to the outhouse, barn and chicken house. The  were installed to keep people from getting lost in blizzards and freezing solid in minus 64 temperatures.

What drew Billy to Duncan Lake is uncertain but I suspect the glowing accounts of the fruit growing potential had something to do with it. These accounts were available in UK publications and the US. There had been a storm of mining activity in the 1890’s. Most of the activity was in the Lardeau Valley where several towns sprung up. Ferguson, Trout Lake City, Poplar Creek and Goldhill boomed for awhile as did Howser (Duncan City) and Healy’s Landing in the Duncan Valley. Howser was said to have 4000 people with a store, school and steamer landing. By 1904, the boom was pretty well over but more serious folk had settled in. These included Billy and fellow Englishmen like Charlie Malloch, Tim Ainsworth and others who attempted to farm and grow fruit. One of the first places they tried was near the outlet of Duncan Lake. They were able to grow apples and supply the miners


Billy’s cabin at Howser

still working in the Lardeau.  They also trapped, logged and did whatever they could to keep themselves going. The fruit business didn’t last long and when I worked in the Lardeau for the Fish and Wildlife Branch in the 1960’s we used to hunt grouse on the big riparian flat where the farms were. An old railroad grade ran from near Argenta to the bottom of Duncan Lake provided access. This was an old Great Northern Grade but it was abandoned and left to the grouse and deer.

Another ranch was developed by the Hincks Brothers further up the lake. They raised cattle and built two large houses surrounded by flower beds and rock gardens. When the Great War broke out the Brothers returned to England and left the property in the care of Billy Clark. The widow of Tom Hincks returned after the war with her sons but the life didn’t suit them and they left the place to the bush. Several miles above the Hincks Ranch, the Matthews Brothers tried their luck. A bear killed one of the brothers and the other died from blood poisoning. Later on, Doctor Besecker of Woodbury Creek raised sheep on the east side of Duncan Lake. My cousin John Burns worked there and reports that the sheep had to be in the barn at night because of possible grizzly predation.

Because of the decline after the war, Billy Clark moved into Howser which was now almost deserted. His companions had gone off to the war never to return. He built a trim log house and a boat house and settled in. He worked at various mines and logged at times. In the winter, he trapped. He always was a prospector and he and his friend, Joe Gallo discovered a vein of lead and zinc which they sold to Cominco (now Teck) which became their Duncan Lake Mine. When he grew older Billy began making snowshoes for trappers and outdoorsmen in the region which was famous for very heavy snow. My father and I visited Billy at Howser in the 1950’s shortly after the road between Kaslo and Lardo was improved. He was glad to have company and took us down to his boathouse where he fed his breakfast porridge to the fish that frequented the boathouse. It was like feeding time in a hatchery and he was very proud to show us how he got along with his neighbours.

But all great things must come to an end (or so we are told). The Columbia River Treaty and power and flood control demands in the US ended it for Billy. “I will be drowned out like a gopher” he said. The Duncan Dam was completed in 1967 and his place was flooded out along with the creatures and forests around him. The government of the day bragged how they had tamed the wilderness, created a beautiful lake and hoodwinked the Americans in the process.


This is the way Duncan Reservoir looks today. But the basin was left uncleared for a number of years

I am so sorry Billy.

Ted Burns. With input from an Elsie Turnbull story in BC Digest, April 1965.

January 20/2021

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December 28th, 2020


A recent report published in the Narwhal explained that a recent snorkel count of Gold River winter steelhead FOUND NO FISH.

This has never happened before. Former counts range as high as 900 plus (no counts were ever made when steelhead were really abundant) but after 2017, they have dropped to next to nothing (1-4 fish). In a river like the Gold which features some huge, deep pools and some rough water, some fish could have been missed but certainly not many. In the last forty some years, snorkel surveys have proven to be a solid method of enumerating salmonids and biologists have gained a huge amount of experience with the method. So many people were dismayed by the report in the Narwhal. BC steelhead have been in trouble for decades but there always seemed to be hope. Hope because rivers like the Gold are strong and well constructed. Of all the Island streams, it seemed to have the best chance of holding on. For decades biologists have believed that the most significant issue for steelhead production was the rapid logging that occurred mainly prior to the 1970’s. Many watersheds were scalped utilizing some very destructive methods and during some risky times of year. Big time logging on the Gold really didn’t even get going until the 1960’s. There was no town of Gold River until then. Tahsis Company, a branch of the huge East Asiatic Company based in Denmark started up by building a pulp mill near the Gold River estuary and logging in the watershed. Gold River was an instant town that didn’t exist until 1965. It was built on prime deer and elk winter range that was also a good locale for humans. The town ramped up to more than a thousand people by 1968 and everyone was happy. 1968-69 was the big winter on Vancouver Island and people got so snowed in or plagued by cabin fever that they resorted to wife swapping until the sun and green came back. I know this because two of my friends from Nelson worked in Gold River that winter so I received some pretty detailed summaries of the action while guzzling beer at The Gold River Chalet.

Pacific Logging also had a hand in the Gold along with Elk River Timber.

Steelhead angling also started to uptick with the town. Delta Hotel even had expert steelheader Tim Timmons hired on as a permanent guide for hotel guests. Tim had very good knowledge of the Gold and Heber Rivers and I am convinced that he knew every summer steelhead lie in the Heber. Fishing was so good that pioneer biologists Dave Hurn and Bob McMynn caught 100 steelhead at the Gold-Heber confluence and held them in a pool they created on a bar there for 24 hours to assess hooking mortality. Most of the fish survived and the pool became known as the Century Pool. This happened in 1961.

On my first cast on the Gold, a fish followed the fly right to my feet before turning back to deep water. It was a bum cast and I wasn’t ready. I soon hooked another and had several more plucks at the fly.

That’s the way it was then. Highly experienced steelheader Barry Thornton considered the Gold to be the finest wild steelhead river in BC. The BC Fish and Wildlife Branch estimated steelhead returns to be in the three to five thousand range in the 1970s. Clearly, this was a special river. In the January 1984 issue of BC Outdoors, Alex Blake reported on a trip he and two other anglers from Coquitlam made to the Gold. In three days, they hooked and released 22 big winter steelhead. Now? Nada…

How could it fall so low? My own experience with the logging was that it was nowhere near as bad as it was in some other Vancouver Island basins. In my first encounter with the Tahsis Company, Dick Kossick their forester told me how he had a difficult time getting them to think long term. He had set aside some good low elevation timber for winter shows only to have the company cream it in the summer which forced the company to log less suitable areas in the winter. The Oktwanch River may have been the victim of this shortcoming. The Oktwanch is what I call a poorly confined river. It has a rather wide channel that is easily distracted by disturbance. It was winter logged just before my time and became unravelled during peak flow events following logging. Now the channel is over loaded with bed load and parts dry in the summer.


Oktwanch River lost much of its integrity following logging in the late 1960’s

But the Oktwanch enters Muchalat Lake which absorbs its impacts and buffers the Gold. Some other parts of the basin also suffered unduly. I once found the company washing the sediment off a newly constructed road surface by diverting a creek down the road for some 30 meters before it entered the Upana River.


A rough road surface ready to be washed

This road became the Tahsis Road. I let a sample of silt from this event settle out in a graduated cylinder and found the sand and silt were 100,000 parts per million. About as high as can be found. There were also some issues on some Heber tributaries like Saunders Creek and the creek beside Elk River Timber’s Branch 80 called Camel Creek. (Elk River Timber also logged part of the Heber Basin).

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A Heber River tributary called Camel Creek logged by Elk River Timber – debris and yarding damage

Because I haven’t been around the watershed for over twenty years,I recently performed a cursory overview of the watershed via Google Earth. My judgement is still the same: although there are places where it could have been done better, there are no obvious wounds that could have led to river degradation on the scale that steelhead would fail. But it still remains that a lot of the watershed has been logged and roaded and there has to be a cumulative impact. Death by a thousand cuts? It also evident that climate change is having an influence in the river and at sea. The monsoon like rains often called The Pineapple Express because they originate far to the southwest around Hawaii, seem to be much more common of late and they can have serious impacts on instream steelhead survival especially incubating eggs and over wintering juveniles . Warmer and drier summers also take their toll. To top it off, there is now a fish farm near the Gold River estuary.

Ocean survival is also becoming a stronger factor. Temperatures at a station off Washington have increased by 2.7 degrees centigrade over the average. A warmer ocean is hard on salmonids because predators from the south become involved and warmer seas hold less plamkton. Ocean smolt to adult survival of Keough River steelhead has fallen from 15 to 4 % since 1990.

There may be a solution to logging impacts. In the early 1990’s, I prepared a report for the then Ministry of Environment that delineated what were termed Recreational Fishing Corridors. They covered a broad swath of streams including the Gold. The corridors don’t just protect access and aesthetic considerations, they also protect Fisheries Sensitive Zones like over steep ravines, zones of instability and highly riparian areas possibly subject to flooding. The zones would cover all aspects of development, not just logging.

I have been unable to follow up on the fate of the corridors to any degree but after moving to Port Alberni in 2017, I was shocked to learn that a big house was built right on the trail to Money’s Pool. When I found out why I was told that the ministry was reluctant to apply the corridors to private land and most regional district planners are not much concerned with matters to do with fish protection which is very unfortunate.

But according to The Narwhal, there may be others who are certainly interested. The Nuu chah Nulth Tribal Council has proposed the idea of Salmon Parks as a means of protecting salmon streams. Much of their assessment work may already be done via the Recreational Fishing Corridors. But the heavier part of the work is having government and industry accept them. The Forest Companies will argue that they have improved their act markedly which is certainly true. But they are going to have to get even better if we want to keep steelhead and salmon around.

Ted Burns, December 21, 2020


Unlike the Oktwnach, the Gold is a strong river well put together


Part of the Lower Gold. Increased bed load is starting toe show up (1990 photo)



December 15th, 2020


For the better part of 20 years I lived and worked in and around Chilliwack, a good hockey town but overblown with bible passion. What bothered me most about living there was the state of the watercourses .The vast majority of them were ditched and virtually useless as salmonid habitat despite the Fedfish claim that much of the Fraser’s coho production came from the lower valley. The most frustrating thing about these ditches was, despite the mess they are in now, a relatively simple fix would have brought them into a decent level of production. Most of the ditches are very slow moving with a mud and silt substrate. There is almost no gravel spawning habitat and not much cover or complexity. Nonetheless, these waterways could support a reasonable number of coho fry if reproduction was possible – I believe it is.

There are some valley streams with good levels of habitat essentials including spawning gravel and there are some degraded ditches that have a few stretches of gravel with suitable gradients. I once walked for miles along ditched and dead water Chilliwack Creek. I wondered if there may be some gravel and gradient up toward the Ryder Lake area and perhaps a few spawners there . Sure enough, as I rounded a bend and heard a waterfall in the distance, I also heard the thrash and splash of spawning fish. There were several groups of chum salmon making the best of a stretch of good gravel below the falls. In those days (mid 1990’s), I was working as an environmental monitor for West Coat Energy. They were more than game to replace muddy substrates with gravel when they backfilled ditches they had excavated to replace old sections of gas pipe. They were also agreeable to shape the ditches somewhat to speed up the current. They did this at a few locations at Maria Slough. I had the crew narrow and shape the channel at the pipeline crossing and above and below Cuthbert Road Bridge. An excavator shaped the channel and the gravel was cast in place by a clamshell bucket

I was able to monitor the improvement for 22 years and was surprised to learn that smallish red Chinook salmon most often used the platforms. 39 chinooks used the sites along with 15 chums 6 coho and 8 sockeye

Since 1993, I have built a number of these riffles. The outlet of Cowichan Lake, the outlet of Gillespie Lake, Beaver Creek, and Kissinger outlet. I guess my first attempt was at Six Mile (Duhamel ) Creek near Nelson when I moved boulders aside to expose good gravel. The spawning kokanee swam right to the newly exposed substrate  and started digging. Of course my efforts were washed away in the spring in this steep mountain torrent that gallops along in high water rolling boulders and gravel downstream. There is a fair amount of scattered  spawning spawning habitat in this creek where Mountain Whitefish and Bull Trout also spawn  I just wanted to try and help the redfish of that year (1968). The  Fraser Lowland ditches are highly deficient in gravel and the careful placement of spawning riffles with some streamside cover thrown in make it even more attractive to shy spawners like coho is a sure winner.

DFO has also utilized similar methods to improve habitat In the Fraser Valley. Another location on Maria Slough has been successful as well as an improvement on Hope Slough at Quarry Road Below .

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Hope Slough at the Quarry Road footbridge. DFO squeezed the flow already constricted by the Quarry Road foot bridge by adding a directional berm and placing gravel in the right side channel.

I am not aware of how successful the improvement has been. But I have seen both Chinooks and chums using the site.where, as far as I know, no fish spawned before.


Maria Slough spawning platform at the West Coast Energy (now Enbridge) natural gas pipeline crossing


Paula Ditch in Chilliwack with fresh willow stakes starting to grow on the left bank.

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A sample of Fraser valley ditch water – a mix of sediment, manure and who knows what? Conditions are especially bad in the spring when field are still saturated with water and farmers spread liguid manure to fertilize their fields


Rough sketch of a Burns Riffle. Vegetation band should be species such as willow and red osier not the usual Fraser Valley ditch assemblage of Himalayan Blackberrry and Reed Canary Grass.

Ted Burns

December 13, 2020


December 7th, 2020


Pappy Flynn – A Traveling Man

Thomas Joseph Flynn, my maternal Grandfather was born in The Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco on April 8, 1881. He died June 29, 1960 in Grass Valley California. He was said to be  one of 13 children although only three survived to adulthood. The family lived at 610 18th Street in the Potrero where his mother Julia ran a small neighborhood market. His father, Michael was a drinker and Pappy told me that one night he and his brothers way laid him as he was coming up the stairs to where they lived and knocked him down the stairs. Evidently, he never returned.


Potrero Hill neighborhood of 2020. In Pappy’s day, it was quite rural with fields of California Poppies on south facing slopes. It gradually evolved into a working class ghetto. These days it has become highly gentrified with a few rough spots. Recently an old, beat up house came on the market for 2.5 million. This has happened to many of the old neighborhoods of  THE CITY as Californians like to call it. As far as they are concerned there is only one city in California – San Francisco.

Tom enlisted in the US Navy at Mare Island, CA in 1897 at age 16; his mother had to give consent. He was paid $9 per month. He was on the receiving ship USRS Independence until August 1897 (a receiving ship was an old semi-retired vessel anchored somewhere to act as a recruiting depot.) Next he was on the USS Adams until February 1898. The Adams was a single screw wooden hulled bark rigged steamer. She spent the fall of 1897 visiting ports on the West coast of US and Canada. In November the ship docked in Hawaii for three weeks. Next stop for the Traveller was the Cruiser USS Baltimore. They delivered badly needed ammunition to Commodore Dewey in Hong Kong and Mirs Bay. From there they


The Baltimore

sailed to the Philippines for some serious action. The Baltimore served with the US Asiatic Squadron under Dewey and took part in the battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. She was the second largest ship in Dewey’s fleet and an important part of the attack which was mainly a duel with Spanish shore batteries. The only casualties on the Baltimore were caused by a single shell which rattled around the deck wounding 8 men. The Spanish Fleet was destroyed. The Baltimore remained on the Asiatic Stations convoying transports and protecting American interests until May 1990 when she sailed for New York via the Suez Canal.

Thomas didn’t go along. He was stationed on the USS Yorkton from June 1900 to April 1901. The Yorkton was a steam driven schooner rigged small cruiser classified as gunboat and patrolled the northern Philippines. With the Boxer Rebellion underway in China, she was sent to Northern China to assist in relieving foreign legations that were under siege from Chinese troops. Her landing force served ashore at Taku. In June of 1900, she assisted the Oregon in backing off a reef there then departed Shanghai and reached Cavite in the Philippines a week later. She resumed pacification duties there.

In February 1901, Thomas began suffering from vertigo and nervous prostration which became quite disabling. He also contracted malaria. He was honourably discharged in San Francisco and was awarded The Spanish, Philippine and China Badges.

He moved back to San Francisco and found that his nervous condition had rendered him unfit for manual work. His mother nursed him at home. Because of his inability to do hard work, he took a course at Heald’s Business College in San Francisco for six months then landed a job as a time keeper at Risdon Iron Works where he stayed for about 5 years.

About 1905, he moved to Goldfield, Nevada where he was a bookkeeper at the office of Webb Parkinson. He moved back to San Francisco about 1907. He married Mildred Hanson at San Jose in about 1909. He was living with Mildred in a tent outside of Bishop, CA when he had a stroke that left his right side partially paralysed. This condition lasted the rest of his days. He had to have his clothes custom made to accommodate his handicap.

In October, 1909 he was back living with his family in the Potrero working as a book keeper. Mildred is living in Los Angeles with her father and Thomas is now working as a stock broker. During this time he went for trips to Santa Cruz, to Nevada and to Williams AZ for his health.. He and Mildred were divorced on June 5, 1911. Shortly after the divorce, she married Fred Thomas and they operated the Bullard Hotel in Silver City, NM.

In May, 1913 he is in Winnimuca County NV in the mining business. In Dec, 1915 he is living in Reno and is Secretary – Treasurer of the Nevada Lincoln Mining Company. In January, 1913 he is engaged to Helen Sanderson of Adams, MA. They are married in Goldfield, NV Jan. 4, 1919.


Mother and Auntie going for a walk in Tonopah

In May, 1920 he is the office manager for Smith and Amann, a stockbroker’s office in Tonopah NV where he and Helen are living on Ellis Street. By May 1923, he is back in San Francisco at 364 Bush Street. By May 1925, he is a member of the San Francisco Stock Exchange. He is now living in San Francisco or across the bay in Oakland. In October of 1928; he sold his seat on the San Francisco curb for $47,000 which yielded him a profit of 31,000 in one year. He continues as a member of the San Francisco Mining Exchange which he continued to work with until late in life.

From the Nevada State Journal of October 22, 1928:

“Tom Flynn made quite a fortune during the Goldfield boom most of which he later lost and a serious sickness followed. He is credited with having made a bunch of money during the divide boom. Having learned a lesson from the Goldfield boom this time he kept his money and has been adding to his capital ever sense. He is widely known in Nevada and on the coast and has a high reputation for square dealing. Mr. Flynn has a reputation of being a very shrewd operator…”

It was also said that Tom Flynn had a hand in the development of skiing in the High Sierras.

In September 1932, he bought the Marshall Ranch in Grass Valley, CA. The ranch adjoined the Empress Mine. He became superintendant of the Rockland Mine near Yerington, NV. On May 12, 1920 his daughter Helen Jane (Elaine) was born in San Francisco. From family photos it appears she also lived in Oakland and Tonopah with Hazel her mother and her Auntie Helen who acted as a kind of secretary- executive assistant to Pappy.


The Flynn at 373 Parrot Drive, San Mateo, CA

By 1930, the family is mainly living at 373 Parrot Drive in the Bay Wood neighbourhood of San Mateo, CA. Pappy had this large and beautiful home built from old growth redwood lumber. It still stands as a testament to quality. This is the period when Nana (Hazel) and Pappy did a lot of travelling sometimes taking Helen Jane (my mother along). They visited Europe, especially Germany, The Orient, especially China and Japan and the Caribbean. But the Parrot Drive home was his pride and joy. I once lived there with my Mother while my Dad was away in the Second War. I was very young but remember having a garden of nasturtiums and marigolds and helping Roy the Filipino Gardner and my best friend. I can also remember going over to Halfmoon Bay with Pappy and up to the Stock Exchange in the City on the train. He introduced me to his friends and fellow workers and we had lunch at The Old Poodle Dog, a beyond ritzy restaurant. I also remember him taking me to baseball games and to visit merchants around San Mateo like Mr. Merkel at his cigar store. When I became older (about 12) Pappy, mother and I went to Alaska on the CPR boat The Princess Louise. This must have been one of the most early cruise ships on this run. Pappy provided me with lectures on the stock market and money management and many reminders on table manners. We landed in Prince Rupert, Ketchicikan, Sitka, Wrangell and Juneau and took the White Pass and Yukon Train from Skagway to Whitehorse. Of Course Pappy was fascinated by the old gold rush country and must have wished he was among the stampeders. He loved to travel and as he got older he would stick to more local trips. He came up to BC quite often. He loved to prowl around Ainsworth and Kaslo. They had also had their mining days and had lots of mining history. He also loved to fish and had a good split cane fly rod. I can remember him going up Woodbury Creek and hurting a leg clambering around on the slippery boulders.


The Flynn’s: My Mother, Pappy and Nana

Sometime in the 1950’s Pappy started to slow down. His ailments of the navy days and his stroke aftermath plagued him along with heart issues. He, Nana and Auntie moved to an apartment down by the El Camino at 321 Dartmouth Road about 1955. Pappy died on June 25, 1960 in Grass Valley which was a kind of haven for him. When he became under the weather he would sometimes go up and see Dr. Farthing, his long time physician who would place him in the hospital for a week or so until he was ready to carry on.

A curious feature of Pappy’s life was the lifelong argument he had with Veterans’ Affairs over whether or not he was entitled to a disability pension from his Navy Days. He even hired a Washington DC lawyer to act on his behalf as far back as 1903. By 1910 he was receiving a small stipend which was increased somewhat over the years. He never explained that he was a man of wealth and had no need for the stipend.

He was buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery with a 21 gun salute


Happy Days: Nana in the left foreground and Pappy the second man in from the pole with the white hair. They are on board a ship which was the main mode of long distance travel for many decades.

Ted and John Frederick Burns/2020


November 23rd, 2020

A Noteworthy Person – John Burns – My Grandfather

John and his brother Bob at Pulpit Rock around 1920. Bob died in Humboldt Sask in 1928

John Burns (right) with his brother Bob at Pulpit Rock probably around 1920. Bob settled in Humboldt Saskatchewan where he owned a store. He died in 1928

John Burns was born on the 15th of August, 1878 at Hopehill Road, Glasgow Scotland. He died June 14, 1962 In Nelson, BC from Cerebral Thrombosis (a blood clot which caused a stroke). He had a twin brother Walter who died a few weeks after birth. April 28, 1880, John his mother and brothers Bob and Harry sailed to Quebec on the SS Scandinavia. They arrived in Quebec City 0n May 13. They took the train to Gravenhurst, ONT where the group was met by his father. From there they took a covered wagon to temporary quarters in Dunchurch, ONT. Later, his father built a small hotel in Dunchurch where they lived until they journeyed west. Young John and his brothers had Scottish accents and even wore kilts at times. Of course the other children teased the boys as much as they could. It had no impact and John soon grew out of his clothes and accent.

He attended public school in a small log schoolhouse His teacher was Thomas Butler an old fashioned school master that provided a well grounded education in the basics. At the same time he was learning the skills of the country and could, ride, shoot, hunt and fish as well as his native friends. He also helped his dad with saw milling and freighting.

They remained in the Parry Sound region until the spring of 1897 when he went to Nelson with his father. They had to go via Spokane and the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway because the CPR’s Crowsnest line was still under construction. His mother Annie and Brother Bob followed a few months later and brother Harry came in 1901. John and his father were building contractors in the Nelson area for many years (operating as John Burns and Son). I never met my Great grandfather who died in 1916 before my father was born. I knew he was a big man (6 foot five) and a hard worker. But I knew my Grandfather. He was a very hard worker whose word was gold. When I knew him he was quite old and cranky long past his best. But he would crawl out to the wood shed to split kindling when he couldn’t walk, I offered to help him but soon learned that was one question you never asked this independent, multi talented man who had strong opinions on life and work. He reminded me of the great hockey player then tough coach – Eddie Shore. It was often said of Shore that his cures were worse than the illness so you never complained about anything lest it trigger a response from Dr. Shore. Mind you, looking back, I can see that Grandpa was way ahead of the norm and provided no end of great advice. And as a builder his work speaks for itself.


Nelson City Hall (Touchstones)







What role his father played in construction of the most prominent Kootenay Buildings is not clear but what is evident is that he taught his son well.

John Burns erected the Nelson post office / City Hall/Touchstones Museum, The Bank of Commerce, Mara and Bernard Block, Central School alteration, Hume School, Nelson Brewery, a number of houses on Carbonate Street, Hume Hotel upgrade, the Malone House at 1102 Front Street. The old hospital on Front Street, the first St. Josephs School, the old fire Hall. The government buildings in Rossland , Trail, Greenwood and Grand Forks. Then there is the Greenwood Post Office and the courthouse in Vernon as well as the Central School in Trail. He had 80 employees in 1928.








Around 1920, he built the first pool and hotel in Ainsworth where he also owned several houses and cabins including the cabin at Loon Lake as well as the Silver Ledge Hotel.

He and his father owned a lumberyard, a sash and door factory, and a brickyard. They owned the gravel pit behind the present high school (where large houses are now located). They had the Marble Head Quarry, another one across the lake from Kaslo and yet another on Granite Road. He sold the construction company to AH Green in 1929 but had one more task- the Civic Centre construction which he supervised.

He was a Nelson alderman in 1918 -19. After the Civic he and Rose pretty well retired to their North Shore home at Burns Point at the west end of Johnston Road and at their home in Ainsworth which they called “ The Wheeler” after A. D. Wheeler an important mining man in early Ainsworth.

In the 1960’s they moved to a small house they built at 212 Latimer in Nelson. He passed away in Mount St. Francis in 1962 at age 83.


Central School in Nelson


Nelson Civic Centre


Grand Forks Courthouse







John Burns at the Ainsworth Pool

By John Frederick Burns and Ted Burns

Nov. 2020


My Mother’s Canada

November 20th, 2020

My Mother’s Canada

My mother was born Helen Jane Flynn on May 12, 1920, in San Francisco. Her father was Thomas Joseph Flynn, a mining man in Nevada and Northern California and a shrewd investor who was once president of the San Francisco stock exchange. Her mother was Hazel Sanderson, a nurse who originally came from Massachusetts. Her parents became quite wealthy and built a large home on Parrot Drive in the Baywood neighbourhood of San Mateo, CA just south of San Francisco.


Mother on left then Pappy and Nana Flynn

My mother had the best of all worlds. It was an area of great beauty with the gold hills of the East Bay cradling the bay’s blue waters. On the west were the Santa Cruz Mountains, Crystal Springs Reservoir and the Ocean Beaches at places like Halfmoon Bay. Mother went to private schools and took training in voice and comportment for a young lady of means. I doubt if such a life of privilege exists anymore. My mother even had her own play house which could happily house a small family today. She also had a number of suitors who took her to places and events frequented by the well off.


Mom at home in Baywood


The Flynn Home at 373 Parrot Drive

Into this setting comes my father, a student at Santa Clara University down the peninsula from San Mateo and close to San Jose. Not exactly a poor farm boy, my Dad was from a different background and wildly different environment. Indeed. Dad was born in Nelson, BC in 1918 and was the son of pioneer builder John Burns and Rose Yvonne Swain, a Métis girl from Northern Saskatchewan.

Mother and Dad met at a party or dance at Santa Clara and were married in May of 1940. Now is when the story becomes more interesting. Remember that my mother was a California girl that had grown up with maids and gardeners and had been coddled by her parents and her Auntie who lived with the family as kind of an executive assistant to Grandpa Flynn. I wonder if Mom ever cooked or even decided what to wear on day to day basis let alone live in a cabin with a wood stove and shovel waist deep snow.


Dad as a young man

Not long after their honeymoon in Carmel, CA, the newlyweds travelled north to The Kootenay Region of BC, a place my mother had never seen but about which my father had likely waxed poetically. Her first views of Canada were shrouded by the low cloud and heavy rain so common in the month of June. What she could see of the country was burned off by a recent forest fire and the black spires and snags of dead timber were not exactly what the tourist brochures touted and probably contributed to a worrisome doubt: What have I done? Is this it? Her first views of Canadian towns though the misted windows of the car were of the Kootenay metropolises of Ymir and Salmo. Both had seen better days and some considered Ymir to be a ghost town.

Mom was likely much more impressed with Nelson which is a gem by all standards of measure.

They lived in a good house on the corner of Stanley and Latimer Streets but soon returned to California. I remember little of those years which must have been around 1943-44. I do remember that Pappy Flynn was very patriotic and conservative. He and Nana had a huge painting of George Washington in their ornate living room where people seldom went and I can remember him and Nana railing against Roosevelt and the Unions in the form of the AFL and CIO. In the yard was a tall flagpole and large flag that was kept clean and sparkling. I also remember Nana being an ace cook who gave me a small glass of beer with lunch and Auntie teaching me to read. Pappy Flynn had a good library of books by Brett Hart, Joaquin Miller and William Joseph Long – stories of the pioneer west

Then it was back to BC and Dad was off to the Canadian Army where he was stationed in England during the war. Mother and I lived in Kaslo in a small house on Front Street across from the wharf and where the Moyie (a beloved Kootenay Lake sternwheeler) is now parked. I have been told that Grandpa Burns built the house for her to live in. He did build a number of houses and other buildings in Nelson, Ainsworth and other West Kootenay towns.


Mother and I in Kaslo 1940’s

I was very young but remember the King George Hotel, and have vivid memories of the May Day celebrations where little Japanese girls in white dresses danced around the May Pole. I also remember the beautiful cherries that grew right on Front St. and were picked by everyone. These cherries were larger than the largest you see today. I was told their size diminished when the trees were infected by a pathogen from the ornamental cherries people started planting all over. The only business I remember was Eric’s Meat Market. Mother liked to shop there because he was very kind to her.

Then back to California once more where my sister Kathleen was born and I started school at St. Matthews. I planted a flower garden of marigolds and nasturtiums at Parrot Drive and helped Roy (the Filipino Gardner) in the main garden. I went to a baseball game with Pappy Flynn and up to his office in the San Francisco Stock Exchange. We took the train and had lunch at the Old Poodle Dog where uniformed waiters served ice cream in little silver cups and all knew Pappy.

It wasn’t long before we were on the way north again. I clearly remember that trip because of the strong heat in the Sacramento Valley. We stopped at a restaurant called the Nut Tree and at several drink stands shaped like giant oranges.

This time it was Ainsworth where we landed. Of all places I have lived, I liked it best. We lived in a house called The Wheeler which was built by Mr. A.O Wheeler, an important figure in the mining history of Ainsworth. The house rested on a flat bench above a short cliff by the lake. Uncle Jack, Auntie Helen and my five cousins lived next door in a large house built by the Giegrich family who ran the first store which was owned and operated by Pop Fletcher when we lived in Ainsworth.

But it couldn’t have been an easy place for mom. We arrived there at the beginning of a very hard winter. The lake froze. A path for the Moyie was kept open by the big tug the Grant Hall. We built a rink in the yard. Uncle Jack had played hockey in college. The winter was also hell for the deer. After stripping the fruit trees of bark, deer died in several places around town. There was a crusty snow that cut their legs so it was possible to follow them to their final resting places. We had a wood stove in the kitchen for cooking and larger one in the living room for heating. I don’t think there was insulation but Uncle Jack’s house had torn up newspaper in the walls which must have helped some. But mom did pretty well for herself. Auntie Helen helped her – Helen was a great cook and could have written volumes on country living. She and Uncle Jack ran the Silver Ledge and also had duties at the pool which Grandpa Burns had built many years before. Betty Olson stepped up for Mom in a very big way helping in every way she could. Mom’s health was starting to flag even then.


Mother and Rose Yvonne at Hot Springs Hotel in Ainsworth-1940’s

Ainsworth was an ideal place for kids and there were lots: Hawes, Lane, Turner, Fletcher, Isaacs. We roamed the country as we pleased. We swam all day at Uncle Jack’s beach in the summer then trekked our way up to the pool when the sun went down at the beach. The Burns kids all slept in little cots on the big front porch of the Wheeler. We told stories, read comics and watched lightening dance on the mountains across the lake. Sometimes we would go fishing with Dad or Uncle Jack up Woodbury Creek or Loon Lake and we often went over to watch George Hobbs come in from fishing in the evening. He often had some fine rainbows and Dollies to show us. George and Ruth Hobbs were kind of defacto grandparents to many of the Ainsworth kids. In fact, all elders were. We called them all Ma and Pa or Grannie or Grandpa. It has been said that it takes a community to raise kids. Ainsworth of those days was a prime example.


Ainsworth party: Top row – Jackie Fletcher, Flash Olson and Frisky Olson

Middle row: Brenda (Shadow Foot) Brown, Dorothy Hawes and Lynn Burns.

Bottom Row: Teddy Burns, Jeannie Burns and Peggy Burns

In the fall, dad and I would often go hunting. There were many varying hares (snowshoe rabbits) in the woods above Ainsworth so we shot lots as well as quite a few grouse. We always had trout and we shot a couple of deer at Peterson’s Ranch – a whitetail spike and a four point mule deer. Fall outings included huckleberry picking and harvesting apples. Dad and I also explored many of the old mines above Ainsworth. Both dad and Uncle Jack had semi active claims. One summer, we went on a holiday. We just crossed the lake to a place we called Honeymoon Bay near the mouth of Indian Creek. We only stayed for a few days because an obnoxious bear drove us off but I had the best fishing days ever fly fishing at the creek mouth.

The end of summer also meant school. There were eight grades and one teacher. Kids skipped quite a bit. If there was one kid in Grade 2 but 3 in grade 3, the Grade 2 kid became a third grader and so on. That’s how my cousin Peggy ended up teaching big Peace River Farm boys at age eighteen. Peggy was very bright and a good student but she got a few skips to ease her way. The teachers were Pat Currie and Margaret McDonald. They weaved magic for the eight grades in the one room school.

In the winter of 1949, my brother Tom was born in Kaslo. He was very pre mature and the sisters kept him a chick incubator for a long time at the Victorian Hospital. The hospital always seemed like just a big house to me but we were lucky to have it. There was also a doctor: Dr. Marion Irwin. There was another doc at Woodbury named Dr. Besecker. He didn’t practice but helped in emergencies. Despite Tom’s peanut size, mother and Betty brought him along fine after we finally brought him down from Kaslo. He had cerebral palsy but it didn’t slow him down until much later in life.

To my everlasting dismay, we packed up and went back to California once again. This time we didn’t go back to Parrot Drive and Baywod. We moved south for a few miles to the Hillsdale District of San Mateo and lived in a mega apartment complex which I hated. It was somewhat close to parrot Drive so mom spent a lot of time with her folks and the place was nice and modern. They built a huge mall near the apartments and are now in the process of re-purposing it. I do not remember much about Hillsdale where I learned to ride a bike and hung around with kids who are likely in jail now. Dad worked for Pacific Gas and Electric and things were OK but I missed my cousins and the green hills of Canada.


Kath at Hillsdale Apartments

I shouldn’t have worried because we were soon on the road north again headed to Nelson. This time we would stay for awhile. Dad worked for Gordon Burns at his Passmore logging and milling operation (TFL #3) and we lived in a small house at 1002 Kootenay Street well up the hill. His was a great place and I made some very good friends: Tom Ramsay, Gary Kilpatrick, the Goldsbury brothers (Freddie and Vernon), Dick Gelinas, Clare Palmer, Harry Cox, Muggsy Holmes and Gary Higgs.


Kootenay Street: me on left then Kath and Tom with Sue in front

When the highways were realigned in the 70’s, much of our old neighbourhood was lost. The Ramsay’s lovely big house at the end of Kootenay Street, The Gully behind it which destroyed our fantastic toboggan trail, all the houses in Cottonwood Canyon and upstream as far as Vancouver Street. There was a little neighbourhood in the canyon. Harry Cox lived there in a small house where Gary Kilpatrick’s grandparents (Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler) had lived earlier. Bill and Mary Vickers ( Mary was one of mom’s best friends) lived on one side of a big house while Neil McClenaghan lived on the other There was a trail that wound down to the fish hatchery and Dago Town. The Rosemont side also lost some good houses especially that of Mary and Bill Murphy. Just across the Rosemont Bridge, a tiny dirt road led to some old places where elderly bachelors held forth making elderberry and dandelion wine and reading outdoor magazines. Mr. Oliver had hundreds of Sports Afield and Outdoor Life.

On the Hall Mines – Ymir Road side of the creek there was the old Nelson Power Plant and another small neighbourhood where the Pond family lived. There was almost always a shinny game there in the winter and early spring and my grandparents built a little house there at the end of the road. Its address was 212 Latimer St. but you went in from the Hall Mines Side. Gram and Grandpa were old then and I would sometimes see Grandpa crawling out to the woodshed to split kindling. When I offered to do it he would rant and rave. If I was working in our yard, Gram would yell across the little gully between the two houses: “ you go fishing Teddy”. This didn’t please my dad so I seldom went until I had finished the job. Gus and Natalie Madalozzo lived in the little gully and grew a large field of excellent tomatoes.


Mother enjoyed living in Nelson. She had some good friends and she really enjoyed the loads of kids that hung round our place. She was a very social person and at her best when she was around kids –the more the better. Kids loved her. She didn’t fuss over spilled milk or dirty shoes and treated all kids as if they were her own. She baked platters of chocolate chip cookies that were inhaled by the rug rats. She a happy go lucky soul and loved to tease and joke. Her main target was my father. Mom had great sport making fun of his native heritage ( his ( mother was a Metis girl from the north). She would dance around the house making great war whoops. Dad would just smile because he enjoyed to see her happy. No offense taken.

My sister Susan was born in Nelson in 1953. In 1954 mom had a fifth child – Robert Michael. He only lived for a day or so. This was a very sad day for the family and especially so for mom. Her health started to decline after that. She was not a strong person at the best of times and having so many babies in a short stretch then losing one seemed to drain her. There were some huge families in Nelson in the fifties and many of the kids went to St. Joseph’s school with Kath and me. There were the Miners who had eighteen. Leo and Art Miner were good friends who I saw often. The Miller’s of Silver King Road had twenty. I was friends with Dennis and Dick. Dick is famous for falling off the top of the Nelson Bridge when he was working on it in 1957.

How those mothers ever survived is a mystery to me but I do know that the kids did a lot of the work and even parenting of the younger siblings. Even so, it must have been hard and it sure was for mom.

In 1957, the higher grades at St. Josephs were shut down and all the catholic kids older than about 15 moved to L.V. Rogers High School which was much larger than our little school at St. Joseph’s. But LV had the right idea. They had sock hops at lunch time and the teachers seemed more worldly and informed than our dear nuns at St. Josephs. Many kids hung around the Green Door, a little store with a jukebox just down the hill. The catholic kids mostly hung around together but I made some good pals at LV such as Jimmy Rogers.

In the summer of 1958, it was back on the road again destination California. Mom was over the top. She belted out “California Here I Come” all the way to Spokane. We got a motel near a park and the river and mom drank a couple of quarts of beer and serenaded the Spokane Valley.

Dad and his friend Dick Green had a business plan: peddling light bulbs in the Golden State. They had a huge warehouse full of lighting products which still may be sitting in LA.

The first stop was Pacific Beach a fine suburb of San Diego. We spent the summer in an apartment by the beach. The beach ran for miles and had a pier where you could fish and watch the sea. I just had a little spinning rod and caught croakers and tom cod. But I also managed to hook a halibut and get him to the surface. Other anglers rushed over with a huge treble hook on a rope. They lowered it down and tried to snag the brute but it dove down and broke the line. One evening as the sun went down; a huge sting ray leaped into the air and flopped back into the sea.

We kids were among the first swimmers on the morning beach. Old guys with metal detectors were even earlier. They found rings, watches and change. We looked at houses in La Mesa and Lemon Grove but ended up heading north to the Bay Area where we settled in Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale was an agricultural town on the cusp of a huge population boom. It leaped from about 5,000 in the 50’s, 50,000 a few years later then 150,000 plus by the mid 60’s. Thousands of hectares of some of the most productive land on earth was attacked by development and covered over with housing, malls and parking lots. It was astounding but no one raised a hand. Wetlands, orchards and farms were swept away and replaced by huge subdivisions with names like Lake Wood Village and Oak Grove Estates.

We lived on West McKinley Avenue and I went to Sunnyvale High, a large prison like institution with thousands of students. I didn’t care for it but made some great fiends there. Dennis Pippin and Jim Baer were some of my closest friends ever along with Dennis David and Dick Anderson. I graduated from Sunnyvale in 1961 after a sabbatical working on the S Half Diamond Ranch at Skookumchuck, BC.

Mom was in her glory in Sunnyvale. The Cherry Chase neighbourhood of West McKinley was very friendly with squads of kids. The neighbours had lots of parties and coffee gatherings almost every morning. The ladies would migrate from house to house in their Hawaiian Mumus or bathrobes then camp in the kitchens and gossip about the neighbours who weren’t present – Mom loved it.

After a few years we moved to a nearby community called Los Altos. It was a bigger house with a nice backyard with oak trees and a seasonal creek. We even built a swimming pool which dad and Tom loved. Tom became very strong from swimming. I had worked at Ampex Audio after high school but mom and dad bugged me constantly to upgrade my education. Most of my friends from Sunnyvale High had moved on to Foothill College, a two year community college just a mile or so up in the hills from our house at 2041 Fallen Leaf Lane. It was a lovely campus and when I discovered that most of my old pals spent most of their time going to parties and drinking beer at the Roundtable Pizza Parlour in downtown Los Altos, I felt right at home. To my great surprise, I did not partake that much and got good grades. I worked at a good job at Bill Steffan’s Chevron on Stevens Creek Boulevard. The gas station and shop were part of a small mall with a pizza parlour called Pagliachi’s which became a major hang out for my friends and me. For awhile’ I moved into an old house on El Monte Avenue we called the Sugar Shack. It was great fun until mother caught me in bed with my girlfriend one early morning. The party was over. She insisted I move home and register for the draft. Like her parents, she was a patriotic republican and rather straight in some ways.

In 1964, I graduated from Foothill and moved up to Humboldt State University in the redwoods where I graduated in 1968. In 1965, the family again packed up and migrated back to Nelson. While we were living in Los Altos, mom’s health declined further. She started to have serious back issues( she had fallen out of a tree as a girl) and had to be hospitalized occasionally. I wonder if part of the reason we went back to BC was the Canadian Medical Plan. One weekend in a hospital near Los Altos cost mom way over one thousand dollars. While in Sunnyvale and Los Altos, dad worked as a car salesman which I don’t think he cared for much. Back in Nelson, he did the same for awhile then sold real estate. We lived in Grandpa and Grandma’s summer home across the lake from Nelson. The house was very old (it once served as a powder house for Fred Hume’s hardware business and dated back to the 1890’s.) There was neither central heat nor modern appliances so it must have been hard for mom. There wasn’t even a road until 1959. Of course everyone loved it when it had boat access only. Then it was truly a summer home and only a few people lived on the North Shore across from Nelson. Mom and dad built a new house in 1967 and things got much easier for mom. But with the kids gone, there wasn’t much for her to do. I was still at Humboldt then, and later down on the Island, Kath was at Gonzaga and Tom was at UBC. Sue was still mostly home but mom was used to gangs of kids in her face. They rented the old ranch house until Sue got married and a new place was constructed where the old house was. Several young couples like Steve and Gerry Ward rented the old place and they provided great friendship for mother. But gradually that started to fade. Dad was more and more occupied by his business and mom became very lonely and inside herself. Her dad had died when we were still in California and she lost a very strong anchor. At some point mom began to take what she termed a muscle relaxant. It was in fact Valium, a benzodiazepine that becomes addictive if taken for more than a week or two. Mom took it for years and no one had the heart to try and stop or reduce her intake. The docs just renewed her supply when she ran out. Dad tried to limit her intake and was slightly successful but hated being her jailer. She had no other interests and would rarely rise out of bed. The drug had become just about her only focus. The family became increasingly concerned for her welfare but she continued to claim she was fine. At one point in the winter of 1987 she came downstairs to visit me and when she saw I was drinking a beer, she got excited and said “oh boy, let’s have some beers”. She sipped one for about five minutes then retreated to her upstairs bedroom saying she was too tired to finish it. Mom wasn’t much of a drinker but occasionally went on a toot. Mixers at hockey games were a favourite format but there were others. One time Sue and her good pal Patty Troyan were coming home from the drive in at Ten Mile when they saw the RCMP had someone pulled over on The hill on Johnstone Road (this hill is gone now) – it was mom. They asked the cop what had happened and he said “look at my car”! Mom and dad had a scrap so she went over town to Mother McKim’s and had a few snorts with Ruth and Red. When the cops pulled her over she was searching for her drivers’ licence and popped the car out of gear. It rolled down the hill and crunched the cop car. Dad was furious but he had infinite patience with mom and ended up having a good chuckle. To top it all off, mom was wearing a wild looking wig at the time. The cops must have been wondering what kind of characters live along this road. Sister Sue ended up working for the RCMP not long after the incident.

Tom and Sue both reported querying her about her health later on that winter expecting to hear a litany of complaints but she was very positive and forward looking. They were both pleased. A few weeks later, she must have been suffering big time pain. She took a huge dose of ASA and died in the hospital – she was only 67 years old.

To this day we have no idea whether she was suffering from physical pain or withdrawal from the benzo. I think it was probably both and that leads me to wonder: Is it better to give deeply addicted people what they need or try to limit their intake? Of course individual circumstances will vary widely and the decision will always be very difficult but I will say that I have concluded that for older people with very limited will power and poor general health, I would favour just letting them continue at least until a clear window of opportunity for progress opened.

I think the doctors of Nelson, agreed with me and left things to dad to try and deal with. At one point years before her death, Dr. Carpenter took over her case for some reason and managed to wean her. He sent her to a rehab centre in Penticton for a month or more and she came home absolutely her old self. I think she lasted about a week or two then she was back in bed with the pills. Constant motivation and support were needed to keep her upright. I think Dr. Carpenter managed to scare her into submission but in the long view, that wasn’t enough to overcome her needs

She had been taking Valium for about 30 years. Her doctor in Los Altos had started her on them. At the time they were very popular and widely prescribed for various nervous afflictions and it was quite some time before “mothers little helpers” were discovered to be addictive. For our family it was a hard way to learn. Indeed.

The Gift Game

October 30th, 2020


For the longest time I had a strange notion about hockey. I believed that every so often, usually around Christmas, the players would go for it. Throw the game wide open and go end to end in firewagon hockey. The players would become kids again playing their joyous pond hockey in front of thousands of cheering fans. The fans would see and feel the joy and exclaim “old time hockey.”

The idea of a free, unfettered game was nourished in the 1960’s when games like this actually did occur now and again. The games then only featured the Leafs and Canadiens and their opponents so it may have been a bit easier to convince CBC to yank the shackles than it would have if US interests were involved. But perhaps not. Almost anyone would rather watch wild, free flowing hockey than the constricted pick and shovel games of today. The Stanley Cup playoffs of this year were pretty much a yawn. The first team to score would then clamp the game down as far as they could. This sucked the energy and excitement away. It reminded me of the stifling New Jersey Devils games of awhile back. Especially tedious was the Leafs-Columbus series. The Leafs are about the only team that tries play a go devil game now and it did not work against a choking, stifling defense. It is easier to play the pick and shovel game and safer for coaches to just board up the net than to try and create scoring chances.

What constitutes a good game to me? Speed and rapid puck movement with lots of shots on goal. Not loads of goals but lots of chances , a game like that of December 21, 1968 between the Bruins and Habs. The Bruins had been revived from their doldrums days and had some great talent. Phil Esposito was starting to fill the net and Bobby Orr was rapidly ramping up his game. Gerry Cheevers was in goal and Turk Sanderson was a coming a factor along with established stars like Johnny Bucyk. Montreal, as always had a very respectable club. Jean Beliveau was still strong and their great young defence was excellent. They had a young goalie they had just called up by the name of Tony Esposito who must have had a few butterflies about the prospect of facing his brother on the hallowed ice of the Forum. The game jumped into high gear right away and Phil got a good chance on Tony who snagged the shot

From then on it was non- stop racehorse hockey and the Forum crowd was wild. I watched the game from the old Queen’s Hotel beer parlour in Nelson, BC. I found a quiet corner beyond the range of George Jones and Tammy Wynette on the jukebox and marvelled at the spectacle on the old TV in front of me. Harry Sinden who was coaching Boston said he had never seen two teams go more all out for 60 minutes. Danny Galivan, the great Canadiens broadcaster called it the best all around contest he had seen at the forum in the last ten years.

In 1972, Harry Sinden moved on to coach Team Canada 72 against the Soviet Union. That was a remarkable series fondly remembered by Sinden and most Canadians. However when he spoke with reporter George Vass thirty years later, he insisted that the 1968 game ” was probably the best game from the standpoint of exciting and skilful play, for goaltending, for the fans to see, that hockey’s ever had…. the greatest game I ever saw”.

Right on Harry and let’s see more of them. It’s only been 52 years since that one.

Ted Burns

October 26, 2020


Goodbye Lorenzo

October 26th, 2020

Remembering Larry Macknicky

It was a warm early summer night in June 1975 when I first encountered Lorenzo. We were having a party at the Beaver Mansion (1837 Fern Street, Victoria). I had invited Ken Lambertsen and his girlfriend Melanie. They showed up for awhile but were soon replaced by their friend Larry. A group of us were sitting on the porch when we saw him dancing down Fern Street with a case of beer. He danced up to the house, boogied up the stairs, placed his beer on the living room floor then danced until the party wound down about five AM. I don’t think he ever touched his beer nor had a dance partner. After that, we called him the Boogie King. Larry was a superb dancer and often attended dance performances like Martha Graham or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

He lived over on Vining Street and worked on construction jobs in those days and he and I became solid friends drinking in the wild bistros of Victoria, riding our bikes or walking the urban wilds and just hanging out.

I learned that he had a most interesting life but I was never too clear about the days of his youth. He came from the Edmonton area and had also lived in Wetaskawin. I think his dad had remarried an evangelical lady who was somewhat hard on Larry and he became child of the sixties living in a large hippie house he called “Westrold”. His friend Jim Slater called it “ a home for aging children”.

He and some members of the group went to London then pooled their funds to allow one member of their group to travel as far as they could into the Middle East and Asia. Larry was chosen so he took a bus to Lahore, Pakistan. He was a little short of the details of that trip except that it was really hot and dusty. On the way back to England, the bus pulled into a gas station in a little Iran town. Across the road on a similar bus was a friend from Edmonton that Larry hadn’t seen for years. He always marvelled over that.

At about that point, he came to the coast. He lived on Denman Island for awhile and then came to Victoria where he was to spend the rest of his days. This was about 1973. In Victoria, he took about any job he could get. One time, he worked for a logging outfit in the Queen Charlottes (Haida Gwi) as a choker man – one of the hardest jobs in the woods. He was up there for about a week and was unable to set even one choker. The block he was working on was composed of large Sitka spruce that was landing on soft, mossy ground. The crashing logs dug in and were hard to choke. After tossing the choker cables over the big logs, he had to dig under them to pull the choker through and hook it up. Larry was pretty big but was not in shape for that kind of work. After returning from the Charlottes, he worked mainly on construction jobs. I can’t remember even one of them even one of them but I know he didn’t care for construction work. But he sure loved to read and the ideal job for him came along in the 1990’s: the UVIC bookstore. It entitled him to a UVIC Library Card and liberal access to a wonderful expanse of fine reading material. The job also allowed him to buy a small apartment is the Shelbourne- Cedar Hill area.

I was living in Lake Cowichan then but occasionally visited. His apartment was stacked with books floor to ceiling. He favoured history and biographies and was fascinated with Russian history. He claimed that if Trotsky had prevailed instead of Stalin, we would all be drinking socialist beer now. His politics were left leaning but he was a careful student of capitalism. When he was at UVIC, he became the last hippie on the campus. The school had become quite conservative and many students looked like members of the Young Republican Club. Naturally Larry took the opportunity to make a statement with his long hair and old farmer coveralls.

He came up to Lake Cowichan fairly often in the 1980’s. He would ride the E&N dayliner to Duncan then I would take him up to the lake. We mostly drank beer but would sometimes drive the logging roads to Nitinat or Renfrew. After Barbara and I married in the early 90’s then moved to Chilliwack from 1998 until 2018, I didn’t see much of Lorenzo. His sister moved to Victoria and arranged for him to live in an assisted care home and his health started to wane. He didn’t often go out and I don’t think he had many friends besides those in the home. He passed away in May of 2020.

Goodbye old friend. I’ll miss you immensely.



Peden Lake in the Sooke Hills

Our Lovely Lakes – Priceless Gifts

October 26th, 2020


There is a disturbing trend underway along the shores of many BC lakes and its called urbanization. It wasn’t too long ago that people were content with low impact, small scale development: a small cottage and float with minimal clearing. If you had to access the property by boat, so much the better. Many people of today seem to require more. Much more. It seems that today’s shore dwellers have forgotten how to live in the country because they insist on dragging their city comforts along with them. Power, pavement and houses and lawns that would not look out of place in the Hollywood Hills.

The thought is, if the shore is swampy or brushy or if trees mar the view, bring in machines to create a beach and remove the offending vegetation so trucks can be driven to the water’s edge to haul away any driftwood that dares to land on the property.

If erosion occurs because the shore zones natural defenses have been stripped, bring back the machines to build retaining walls or line the shore with shot rock.

It’s a depressing scene that seems to occur almost everywhere people choose to live by lakes. The Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society, a stewardship group in Lake Cowichan recently found that nearly 70% of lake shore properties on Cowichan Lake had moderate to high impacts on the shores. In travelling around the province, I would say as much or more degradation has happened on numerous lakes like Christina, Okanagan, Shuswap, Kootenay Lake’s West Arm – the list goes on.

Shore zones are the most productive parts of our lakes, especially the larger lakes like those I have cited here. The same things that help provide production on natural shores, also attract human activity. Things like protection from wave attack and gentle slopes. These are among the first areas to go.

Is it possible to live on a lake shore without degrading its natural values too much?

I think it is but it requires a dedicated commitment to living light. First off there are parts of lakes that should simply never be developed. They need to remain as nature reserves, parks or rec sites. The portions of lakes that can be in the real estate market place should be subject to constraints like a protected setback from the high water level. Natural vegetation would be retained and a small dock for swimming or sunning would take the place of a beach or lawn. Access would be in the form of narrow gravelled paths.

Perhaps the most attractive feature of BC is its number and variety of lakes. Because of our glacial history and ample water, we have an abundance of beautiful, clean lakes that support excellent fish populations. These lakes are the envy of the world and a priceless gift that must be carefully stewarded . Indeed. The Riparian Areas Regulation was brought in in 2006 to provide a process to determine the protection needs of water bodies. A property owner that wants to build or otherwise develop an area closer than 30 metres to the high water mark of a lake, stream or wetland must have the area assessed by a qualified environmental professional to produce a kind of management report for the parts of the land near water. Keep in mind that following the assessment, it is unlikely that the SPEA or setback from high water will be as large as 30 m. RAR only applies to Regional Districts  and Municipalities where development is thought to be imminent: South Coast and Island , Fraser Valley, Okanagan -Thompson – Shuswap and Gulf Islands, somehow the Kootenays got off the hook but that won’t last long.

Can Nanaimo River Survive Nanaimo?

October 25th, 2020



Ted Burns

I’m standing at the tip of Jack Point. It’s a cool August night and the lights of Nanaimo are a lovely kaleidoscope to the west. To the east, a full moon is rising over Gabriola Island and the lights of houses are blinking above the bluffs that drop sharply into Northumberland Channel. The only sounds are waves, lapping on the rocks and muffled machinery at Doman’s Mill to the southeast at Duke Point.

Its a calm, peaceful scene but one that belies the reality of Nanaimo; the town with the beautiful name and lovely setting that has turned ugly with its cascading sprawl of suburbia as it rushes hard into the next century.

Nanaimo has long been known as a city without an environmental conscience. Nanaimo River estuary lies just south of Duke Point. In 1971, Nanaimo Harbour Commission wanted to turn it into an industrial port by dredging and paving it. Every biologist in Nanaimo, and there is an impressive number due to the presence of the Pacific Biological Station at Departure Bay, signed a petition that was published in the Nanaimo Free Press. This and public pressure thwarted the Commission and the facility was located at Duke Point. It was the first and last time that many of the scientists at the station came out of their closets.

For many years, Nanaimo was run by a mayor and council that favoured unfettered development. Their vision of prosperity consisted of a series of malls, gas stations and fast food outlets strung along the Island Highway and an endless parade of housing tracts rolling into the hinterlands. Some of them reached as far as the Nanaimo River which is well south of the city. Frank Ney was the Mayor and president of Nanaimo Realty. He was a loveable, good hearted man (Frank died in 1992) but his vision of Nanaimo was strongly coloured by his developer instincts. It wasn’t difficult to get the feeling that town planning was being done by Nanaimo Realty. The Nanaimo Regional District seemed to mirror Nanaimo City Council in terms of their vision of the future.

But Nanaimo is shedding its image as a developers paradise. Recent city councils have been far more sensitive to environmental concerns. They recently passed a stream protection bylaw an environmental protection officer is on staff . Plan Nanaimo, a comprehensive framework for a new community plan, is in the mid-stages of public input. The plan presents a number of scenarios for the future structure of the city. Most of these include an urban containment boundary which roughly coincides with the present limits of Nanaimo. That is superb news for Nanaimo River.

Nanaimo River is perhaps the most beautiful stream on the East Slope of Vancouver Island. It begins in high sub-alpine country near the centre of the Island just east of the Upper Nitinat River and heads west for some seventy kilometres to its estuary dropping some twelve hundred metres along the way. It gathers flow from a number of major tributaries such as Sadie Creek, Green River, Deadwood Creek, its South Fork and Haslam Creek as it tumbles east. Several good sized lakes buffer winter discharge and help warm its summer flow.

Nanaimo River supports chinook, coho and chum salmon in substantial numbers and a few pink salmon and an occasional sockeye. Prior to the mid-fifties, pinks were rather abundant, particularly in Lower Haslam Creek. Runoff from coal mining waste is said to have doomed the pink run. Steelhead are also abundant and sea-run and resident cutthroat trout are also present, particularly in small tributaries of the Lower River and estuary like Thatcher, Beck and Holden Creeks. Resident rainbow trout are present throughout the river and in the lakes and Dolly Varden are resident in headwater portions of the system.

The river is most noted for its chinook and steelhead runs. There is a rather unique spring run of chinooks that begins entering the river as early as March and a sometimes strong fall run that contains some very large fish. Steelhead are represented by a winter and spring run.

Steelhead are the main target of anglers. The river is one of the best steelhead streams on Vancouver Island, usually ranking in or near the top five in terms of catch and effort. Although steelhead can penetrate well into the upper river (some 55 km on the mainstem), most angling occurs in the lower 12.5 km between the Bore Hole and the estuary. In that area, the majority of angling takes place in a 5 km section between the Bore Hole and the Haslam Run near the mouth of Haslam Creek.

Fishing is not the only Nanaimo River recreational attraction; far from it. On warm summer weekend days, as many as five thousand people may be swimming and sunbathing along the river all the way from Cedar Bridge up to the Glade Pool not far below First Lake. Because of the lakes and perhaps because of the large amount of heat absorbing bedrock canyon between First Lake and the highway bridge, Nanaimo River is Vancouver Islands’ warmest. Summer temperatures sometimes reach 25 degrees much to the delight of its’ legion of swimmers.

Although a large percentage of swimmers frequent the Highway Bridge Pool, Pumphouse Pool and Cedar Bridge Pool, many others seek more secluded upstream havens in the rivers’ lovely canyon section. River Terrace, the Old Comox Logging Railroad Trestle area, White Rapids, the Gunbarrel and Staircase, Top Shelf and Bottom Shelf near the old White Rapids mine, Kinnikinnick Canyon, the Goat Trail Pool, Boulder Garden, Golden Fields and White Rocks, Long Rope Pool, South Fork Pool, Quarry Pool, Ocean Spray Pools, Big Bend, Ninebark Pool and the Glade Pool attract an earthy clientele along with a strong showing of the muscle, beer and bikini crowd.

This section of Nanaimo River is its finest and the one that sets it somewhat apart from many other Island streams in terms of beauty. Most of it is reached via Nanaimo River Road and numerous side roads and trails. Some side roads lead to traditional camping areas as well as swimming and fishing spots. All these roads are on private property owned by TimberWest or Island Timberlands. Vehicle access has been cut off due to vandalism and garbage dumping. This is no great loss to swimmers and anglers because the walks are not far but RV campers bemoan the loss of some world class riverside camping spots.

There is a need for much closer management of the Nanaimo River Corridor which extends from the estuary to First Lake. In all that distance (33 kms) through all that beauty and areas of intense use, there is not a single park or recreation area (the closest thing is the Cassidy Rest Stop at the highway bridge). Not a single square millimetre of ground protected from development and managed for outdoor recreation; this seems inconceivable. The corridor cries out for attention and management.

A number of old right of ways parallel the River Corridor. Of particular importance is the Comox Logging and Railroad Grade which is owned by Timberwest. It runs along the north side of the river from the trestle 1.4 km above the Bore Hole to First Lake and, for much of its length, it forms the north boundary of Nanaimo River Corridor. Park dedication of the right of way and the corridor lands south of it including lands on the south side of the river, would be a major step toward giving the river the attention it deserves. A number of smaller parks or recreation sites could be established downstream at places like the Bore Hole, Forestry Run, Haslam Run and Thatcher Creek – Morden Park Area and a special zoning status should be applied to the corridor outside the parklands to insure that no more development invades land that rightly belongs to the river not the real estate market place



October 9th, 2020

Early Days of the Burns Family in Canada

In the early autumn of the year 1878, three young Scottish tradesmen born and reared in the City of Glasgow encouraged by glowing descriptions about opportunities in North America and discouraged by the lack of opportunity in their native land, decided to emigrate to Canada. They sailed from Glasgow to Quebec. The steamboats of that day took about three weeks to make the trip from the River Clyde to the St Lawrence.

The three youngsters were all in their early twenties. They were:

  • John Burns
  • Walter Leitch
  • James Macalister

The first two were Master Joiners and Foremen Carpenters and Maca

lister was a Master Stone Mason. Each has served apprenticeships of seven years.

Burns and MacAlister were married and each had three small children, the youngest a babe in arms. Walter Leitch was single but hoped to have a future wife join him in Canada.

Winnipeg was booming and was much advertised in Scotland. It was the proposed destination of the boys. You travelled by rail to St Paul, Minnesota then by stage to a landing on the Red River. There a small steamer went on to Winnipeg and Fort Garry. This was a long, hard trip through unsettled lands where hostile natives were sometimes present.

The first leg of the trip was from Quebec to Toronto where the young men were persuaded to drop Winnipeg and go on to the Parry Sound District about 200 miles north of Toronto. Settlers could obtain a grant of 160 acres there. At that time Gravenhurst was the end of the Grand Trunk Railroad. A stage ran from there to Parry Sound on the shore of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. At Parry Sound they were directed to take another stage to a small hamlet called Dunchurch some 27 miles to the north and located on a narrows between two lakes called Whitestone. They eventually took up lands on the Whitestone River 12 miles from Dunchurch. The land was heavily timbered and filled with game and the river had good edible fish. The Scots were all good riflemen and after they built a cabin for the winter managed to get by with what they could purchase, shoot or hook. The grant lands were taken up in the winter when there was considerable snow. It wasn’t until the spring melt that Burns and Macalister found that they had located on stony land not suitable for growing things. Agriculture was essential to the new settlers in a land where food supplies could be difficult to come by and expensive to buy. Leitch had better luck and his land became a productive farm.

In April of 1879, the wives and children of Burns and MacAlister arrived in Canada. John and Anne Burns had three boys:

  • Robert b March 1875
  • Harry b December 1876
  • John b August 1878

They took the train to Gravenhurst where they were met by the husbands and fathers who took them to the rough quarters at the pre-emption.

John Burns went back to his trade as a carpenter. He built a small hotel at Dunchurch. He and his wife operated it for a few years. The old country tradesmen of that period came prepared so Burns had brought a fair stock of tools. There was no woodworking factories near so most of the wood work had to be made by hand. Lumber was whip sawed and finishing was done by hand plane.

About two years after his arrival, John Burns built a small sawmill. It was steam powered and consisted chiefly of a circular head rig and a carriage. Logs were brought in by sleigh in the winter and by water in the summer where they were stored in a boomed off pond. The mill only operated when lumber was needed. Both lathe and shingles were made but there were no planers to dress the lumber. Good clay and lime were available so bricks could be made. Most buildings were log with stone foundations.

Macalister with an increasing family found it hard to make expenses so after a few years he moved to Parry Sound where he worked as a stone mason. He then moved on to Edmonton when the railway reached there and I lost track of him. His oldest daughter moved to Moyie where her husband was the superintendent of the St Eugene Mine until it closed down. This lady used to visit my mother in Nelson regularly before she left Moyie.

Walter Leitch who had the only good land managed to get a fair acreage under production. The logging camps provided a good market for his produce. He carried on until he got too old then moved to Toronto,

Parry Sound was well timbered with White ad Norway pine and fair stands of hardwood like maple, oak, birch, beech and ash and elm. There were numerous lakes connected by creeks and driveable rivers and this was very helpful getting the wood to market. In my very young days, white Pine was taken out as square timbers for shipment to Britain. Later on, the logs were floated down to Lake Huron then towed to mills on Georgian Bay or across the lake to Michigan mills.

Very few settlers in this district were able to make a living from their farming operations. Some add to their income by trapping. There is an abundance of fur in the region. Others work in the logging camps and on the river drives. Good mink, marten and Red Fox skins sold for a dollar and muskrats for 10-12 cents each. Beaver and otter are worth more but a lot of skill is required.

The three Burns boys all grew up in these surroundings. All had Scottish accents and wore clothes from the home country. Life was rather tough because of their speech and kilts. They soon lost their accents and clothes. Their parents never lost their accent. The boys attended a public school which also served as the church and recreation hall. The flooring, doors, windows and desks were all made of whip sawn White Pine smoothed with a jack plane. Volunteers built it all. The teacher was an old fashioned English school master (Thomas Butler) who taught the basics. He was good teacher and many of his students owe their start in life to his solid grounding taught in that little log school house. The majority of his students never got the opportunity to go further because there was no high school. But when Mr. Butler was through with them, they were well equipped to take their places in business life.

Boys of that era grew up early and had to learn to do things for themselves and assist their parents. Times were hard ad money was scarce. A boy of twelve was supposed to be able to do most of the work around the farm as well as attending school. The Burns were no exception. There were farm duties along with the sawmill and a livery and freighting business. At an early age the boys learned to be all around loggers, river drivers and sawmill men. They could drive a two or four horse team and handle any kind of boat in almost any kind of water. They could shoot, trap, hunt and snowshoe as well as any of their young Indian friends.

Summer recreation was canoeing, fishing, swimming and riding with some sports thrown in. In the winter, there was sleigh riding, snowshoeing and tobogganing. Our father had brought a pair of skates from Scotland so we were able to skate on the lakes. The skates consisted of a wooden base that the shoe fitted on. It had a screw on the rear that fitted into the end of a regular shoe and a skate blade fitted on to the shoe. There was just the one pair of skates for the three boys. Later on, cast iron skates were available but these were easily broken and not very popular. Finally, spring steel skates were made that clamped on to the sole of the shoe and tightened with a spring. These were much more convenient. The Indians wore deerskin moccasins so they clamped the skates to pieces of wood shaped like foot soles and cinched them tight with deer hide thongs called babiche. The natives could race with these skates but the white boys needed more ankle support especially on rough ice. (Uncle Harry was an avid hockey fan so perhaps this is why he goes into such detail on the skates of the day. I’m thinking that hockey wasn’t yet played in this part of Ontario. The time period he is speaking about would have been about 1885, Hockey historians seem to have agreed that the first games were played in Montreal around 1875. It is interesting that a similar game called shinty was played well before that in Scotland. When I was a boy, our pickup games on the ponds or on the street with tennis balls was called shinny)

There were plenty of square dances with sleigh parties. Music was supplied by accordions or fiddles.

The boys were all good swimmers, canoe men and riders. Their Indian friends made them bows and arrows, sleighs and toboggans from local hardwoods as well as birch bark canoes and snowshoes. They also supplied pants and gloves. Almost nothing was imported or made in a factory. The guns were mostly muzzle loaders from the old country.

The Burns boys were lucky to live near an English family with a library and a liberal lending policy. Grimm Fairy tales Robinson Crusoe, Rip Van Winkle and Arabian Nights were among the titles. Mark Twain had just published Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. These were greatly enjoyed on stormy winter evenings. The local boys were good campers and tried to imitate the Twain characters by floating on rafts and living off the land. Fish and berries were the main staples. Fish were cooked by rolling them in wet clay and baking them in campfire coals. Bass and pickerel were common and little equipment was needed to survive in the summer.

This was a way of life for youthful Canadians of the countryside. It made them resourceful, self reliant and healthy. When their time came for them to go out on their own, most were ready.

Logging Camps

Accommodations and food were very rudimentary for loggers and drivers in the late 80’s and 90’s. Conditions today are simply not comparable ( Uncle Harry was a logger all his life and owned and operated camps in Ontario and BC so he knows of what he speaks). Very little time was spent trying to provide comfort for the workers. Building walls were made with sometimes flattened insides and bark on the outside. The cracks were chinked and moss and often with a mixture of clay and a small amount of lime. Roofs were covered with logs of a uniform size flattened on one side scooped on the other in alternating fashion. The scoop roofs were designed to carry away water. The floors made of poles flattened on the top side with an adze to make them easier to walk on and sweep with the brush brooms of the day. They were seldom washed. The large building was heated by an open fire in the centre. There was a large opening in the roof which carried off the smoke and provided ventilation. The sky was visible in daylight. This fire was called a Camboose and all wet clothes were hung around it to dry on pole racks,

The bunks were made of small poles and were called Muzzle Loaders. They were all two bunks high and were entered from the foot because they were so packed together there was no room on the sides. Wool blankets were supplied but there were no springs or mattresses. The bottom of the bed was covered with cedar, spruce or balsam boughs or, if you were lucky, hay. As many as 50 men slept in a building and it was lighted by candles or coal oil lamps. The cookhouse was constructed the same way and was usually next to the bunkhouse. The space between them was sometimes covered to provide a covered walkway and storage space. The early camps had no stoves and cooking was done with bake kettles covered with coals or sand and assisted by a reflector or Dutch oven where pastry was sometimes prepared, an experienced cook was needed. But I have had first class meals cooked by the simple method.

Game was plentiful in the Parry Sound and Nippising area and in the 1880’s and early 90’s, it was customary for a camp to have a designated hunter on staff. He shot deer and used their tanned hides for mitts and clothes. He was paid 3 cents per pound for the meat and sold the other items to the camp. He was carried only in the cold weather between October and April so the meat would stay safe. The other supplies provided by the camps were flour, white beans, dried apples, mess pork and corned beef. There was also long, clear bacon called sow belly. No butter, milk, sugar or vegetables were supplied after freeze – up. Syrup was handy however and supplied in barrels.

In my early days in the camps, White and Norway pine were the only trees taken. They were logged with axes and the fallers were called Choppers. The pines were cut 10 feet above the butt. The butts were left to provide Shake. The White Pine was made into square or Waney timber for the British market and the Norway pine went to local mills.


About this time, cross cut saws came into use and trees were notched and felled

As they are now. This got rid of the system called Long Butting and saved a lot of clear wood.

Timber from the Baltic countries became popular in the British market and could be delivered for less so Canada had to look for other markets. A large portion of the cut went as saw logs then they were hauled by horse and sleigh to the lakes and rivers to wait for break up. They could then be floated to Lake Huron and find their way to the large mills in Michigan in places like Saginaw, Bay City and Alpena.

Logging was about the only industry in our district and about the only thing the boys could look forward to was a foreman or superintendent’ job. Or perhaps a manager if they picked up some education. Before they were too old.

Robert and Harry Burns were, like other boys loggers and river drivers when they were fifteen. Both became straw bosses or deputy foremen when they were very young.

Robert Burns, after a short time in BC with his father and brother John decided on a mercantile career and bought a small country store near Orilla. He later moved to Manitoba and Saskatchewan winding up with a general store in Humboldt where he died in 1928.

John was interested in building, and , after a few winters in the woods he worked with his father eventually going with him to Nelson, BC where they constructed several important buildings. John Burns Senior died in Nelson in 1916. His son carried on with the building business for many years building many outstanding buildings in the Kootenay Region. Among them is the Nelson Post Office later City Hall then Touchstones, Court House Canadian Bank of Commerce, Central and Hume Schools and Government Buildings at Rossland, Trail, Greenwood and Grand Forks as well as Court Houses at Vernon and Kaslo and the Greenwood Post Office.

. Also the Nelson Brewery, Mara and Bernard Block, St. Josephs School, a number of private homes: 411, 415 and 413 Carbonate, the old hospital on Front St and The Malone House at 1102 Front St. He also built the old fire hall. In about 1920, he constructed the hotel and pool at Ainsworth. He bought much of the township of Ainsworth and built the cabin at Loon Lake. In 1928, his firm had 80 employees, owned a sash and door factory, lumber yard, the gravel pit behind the high school and several marble and rock quarries. His last job was construction of Nelson’s Civic Centre a multi use public building with an area, recreation hall, theatre and library. It was built in the midst of the depression. He was a Nelson alderman in 1918-19.

Harry Burns stayed with the logging and lumber business. He took a course at Ontario Business College and parlayed that and his experience as logger, river driver and timber cruiser into management positions at Georgian Bay Lumber Company and Blind River Transportation Company where he was involved in both logging and railroad construction.

By 1906 however, Harry got an itch for new country. His parents and brothers had moved to nelson in the 90’s going in by Spokane and the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway. (later called the Great Northern and Burlington Northern)

The CPR Crowsnest Line was still under construction.

Harry was immediately offered a job with Western Canada Timber Co. at Gerrard, BC as assistant superintendent in charge of all logging. The timber was thick and easy to get out. The Gerrard town site was cleared and a new mills with a capacity of 110,000 feet a shift. A few very nice dwellings were constructed. Logging was done around the Gerrard Town site, at Poplar Creek and American Point Four Miles up Trout Lake. CPR ran a steamer from Nelson to Lardo three times a week and a train ran up the Lardeau Valley to Gerrard where a steamer (SS Proctor) continued to Trout Lake City. He also served as post master for Gerrard.








The First John Burns with wife  Annie at 423 Silica Nelson about 1900

After this operation Uncle Harry worked in Vancouver for North Vancouver Sawmills and Cascade Wood and Coal. On the coast he also helped survey the boundaries of Strathcona Park, and owned part of West Vancouver. Back in the Interior, he had a mill and logged near Taghum then operated Tree Farm Licence #3 at Passmore in the Slocan Valley with his son Gordon. They also had a building supply store at 602 Baker Street in Nelson where his other son Bill was employed. He was a life member of the Kootenay Lake Hospital Board and the Nelson Chamber of Commerce.

Written By Harry Burns

Edited by Ted Burns (August 12/20) and supplemented by John Burns No. 4




Harry Burns Nelson house at Carbonate and Ward. Later owned by Littlewood then Bruce Ramsay

Coastal Cutts

October 9th, 2020

Coastal Cutthroat Trout in BC

The coastal cutthroat trout is often termed the “native “trout of the northwest coast because it is so well adapted to the wide range of aquatic environments in this region. Cutthroats occur in nearly all coastal streams from Southeast Alaska to Northern California, from tiny pastoral creeks to large, turbulent rivers. They also occur in the big lakes and most of the little lakes and ponds and they are no strangers to estuaries, beaches and bays along the coast. Wherever they are found, coastal cutthroats are among our most interesting and popular sport fish.

They are handsome fish and are usually not difficult to find or catch in lakes, streams or the sea provided anglers know something about their habits in the area they are fishing, Complex tackle and large boats are seldom required. Just a light rod, some waders and a handful of flies or small spoons and perhaps a small boat.


A Big Qualicum sea – run.


Size and coloration depend largely on the home environment. Sea run cutthroat may attain weights of 2 – 2.5 kilograms with the average being closer to .5. Larger sea runs occur but I have never seen one and they are said to be rather rare. Immature fish are green to metallic blue on the dorsal surface and upper flanks. In one area I fish a lot which is well inside a large estuary protected by a barrier beach, fish that stay mostly in the estuary and lower river, are highly colored while outside fish that patrol the beach are silver bright.

As spawning season approaches, they start to take on a lemon yellow to brownish tinge and the characteristic paired slash marks on their lower jaw become a vivid orange or red. Maturing sea runs are often called yellow bellies. Coastal cutthroats are usually more heavily spotted than steelhead, resident rainbows or the Westslope Cutthroat of the Kootenays.

Lake residents vary considerably in size. In large lakes which contain other fish like rainbows, kokanee or sockeye and forage fishes like sticklebacks and sculpins, they grow quite large. Lakes like Cowichan, Sproat, Buttle, Powell and Owikeno can produce some giants. A seventeen pounder was caught in Sproat in 1957. But the cutthroats in the many smaller lakes and ponds seldom attain much size and often over populate the lakes. Like sea runs. Cutthroats in coastal lakes are usually silvery as immature fish but coloration increases with maturity. They often have a pink rainbow like tinge on their flanks. The two species sometimes interbreed in lake tributaries and it is often difficult to tell their offspring apart.

Many coastal streams have cutthroat populations that live out their lives in a few pools in headwater reaches. Conditions are often harsh there and the little trout are hard pressed to attain sizes of 15 – 20 cm. However, the little stream dwellers are among the most beautiful and interesting members of the trout and salmon family.



Sea run cutthroat are found in nearly all BC coastal rivers but they do best in the small streams. Young cutthroats are shy and non aggressive. When they compete with young steelhead and coho, they avoid conflict by living in less favorable living spaces. Fortunately, there are substantial coastal lowlands laced with small streams ideally suited for cutthroat. These little brooks are often more diverse in habitat and richer in food organisms than the lager creeks frequented by the more territorial salmonids.

A few sea runs begin entering some of the larger rivers with the early pink and sockeye which can start in July. These are not true spawning fish, they are just tagging along to feed on loose eggs or insects stirred up by salmon spawners. A few weeks later, some cutthroats begin to head upstream for their spawning. In many of the smaller creeks, the cuts will not enter until the persistent fall-winter rain fires up which can be as late as December. The spawning period therefore usually last from December to March. These fish are notorious for their lack of attention to calendars. I have seen them in spawning behaviour from November to May.

Most sea run cutthroat spawn after one or two summers in salt water and one to three years in freshwater as juveniles, as spawners they range from two to five years in total age. Smaller streams are usually preferred and the fish seek out a gravel riffle near cover where the female excavates a red with strong tail flexes and males settle in and deposit sperm. Spawning rigours are less than those of steelhead so some cutts survive to spawn again. The fish drift back to the estuary later in the spring to regain their strength.

For the product of their effort, life begins as a pocket of eggs buried in the gravel. Only a small portion survives the perils of winter. Sometime between April and July, the fry begin wiggling up to begin stream life as 25mm fish. They seek out gentle current by the stream margins. Quiet vulnerable now, they have to dodge a host of predators like birds, snakes and larger fish that eagerly wait to dine on small trout. AS the water warms and the food supply increases the little fish gain growth and move into mid stream and try to defend a territory. They prefer to live in pools but if the larger and more aggressive steelhead and coho are present in sufficiently large numbers, they are pushed into less favourable riffle habitat to live, If there is no riffle habitat because of poor stream structure or extremely low summer flows, most young cutthroat are fated to die. In the fall of their first year of stream life, the remaining young cutthroats are from 5-8 cm long.

As fall advances, streams cool and flows begin to rise, the young fish move back to quiet water to seek winter sanctuary. Favoured resting places are side channels, deep pools, log jams, adjacent riparian ponds or wetlands and the undercut roots of streamside vegetation. The small fish do little feeding or even moving around in winter. There is little food to be had and the cold water makes the fish very lethargic. When spring finally arrives the survivors are thin, dark and weak.

Spring is a time of revival in streams and the young trout are quick to regain their strength and vitality in the warming, energy rich water. Fish that seemed barely alive in March are now healthy and active. Some of the more vigorous are able to double their size in the spring and early summer months. In some of the more productive South Coast streams, some fish are now large enough to smolt and head for sea. Most will remain for another year or two.

The larger young trout that remain in the stream, can seek out pools now as their summer habitat. They are now larger than young coho and are free to choose their living space without interference. In many small streams, the riffles are too shallow to support the fish. Some streams even become intermittent in the summer and early fall and the pools provide the only water. The cover and shade provided by streamside vegetation, logs and boulders become important survival factors. When winter returns, the fish again seek out shelter and with the onset of spring, the fish begin to feed ravenously and up their size to 12 – 20 cm. Then, late in April or early in May under the cover of darkness and the murky water of spring freshets, the fish move down to begin a new life in the sea.

When the trout reach saltwater, the trout do not adapt the wanderlust of steelhead and salmon.

Far from it. Hey are content with the bounty of estuaries and the shoals of nearby beaches and bays. They seldom stray far from their home stream – to the delight of anglers – and are happy to dine on the local smorgasbord of small fishes, shrimp, sand worms and larval forms of marine life.

Cutthroats grow rapidly in the ocean environment and at the end of their first ocean summer many have added 8 – 12 cm of length and have grown from 55 to 270 grams. In the fall and early winter, all cutthroats return to their home stream though not all spawn. Some males are sexually mature after their first summer of ocean life but most fish spawn after their second saltwater summer. The reason cutthroats do not grow as large as steelhead and salmon is that most spend only three to five months at sea each year. While they may live longer and spawn more often than steelhead and salmon, they spend a much larger portion of their lives in streams spawning and overwintering – tough times They seem to have a keener instinct for getting on with the job of survival and an ability to make the best of what nature offers them. This has gained them loads of respect among anglers and biologists. Indeed.

Coastal cutthroat in lakes exhibit a somewhat similar life pattern to sea runs. Spawning and early development occur in the tributary streams before the trout move to the lake for faster growth, mature and return to the streams to spawn. Major differences are most young migrate to the lake as yearlings and in larger lakes with a good food supply they may grow much larger. They live longer in the lakes before returning to the streams to spawn.

Surprisingly, cutthroats in lakes have been shown to make lifestyle adjustments when competing salmonids are present, much the same way they do in streams. When rainbows are present in roughly equal numbers, the more aggressive rainbows dominate the surface and upper zone of the lake where they feed on zooplankton and insects and do not grow large a three or four pounder is a prize. Cutthroats are more oriented to the bottom where the food supply is generally much richer and the cutthroats make better growth than their upstairs neighbours. Rainbows are usually only naturally present in the larger lakes. The rainbows that are present in many of the small lakes in populated areas are stocked hatchery fish. Cutthroats are better suited for all lakes but hatcheries have a hard time finding reliable brood stock. Because they key on fish when they grow bigger, some become quite large.

When cutthroats share lakes with Dolly Varden, it’s the Dollies that take the bottom. Dollies are not common in south coast lakes. They are a very cold water fish and the southern lakes may be getting too warm. They are more numerous in north and central coast lakes where glacial runoff keeps waters cold.

When cutthroats have lakes to themselves and good spawning streams are present, they tend to overpopulate and seldom become large.


In some ways, cutthroats have become the forgotten fish of the coast. There has been bursts of hope with the implementation of the Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) and its public involvement initiative. Fish biologists have long known of the manageability of the small stream environments of the fish. These small streams are often easily improved by such measures as headwater storage, structural improvement of habitat features such as cover and spawning gravel. Because the fish stay close to home in their ocean phase instead of wandering the sea subject to commercial fisheries, cutthroats are more manageable than steelhead or salmon. The SEP public involvement program has spawned a multitude of stewardship groups that have taken on a lot of the management and protection tasks for the small streams.

But the little creeks are also easily subject to harm and as quick as they may be to respond to a helping hand, they can just as soon suffer from careless land use practices. A lot of effort has been spent trying to educate people on the sensitivities of small streams but there are still significant issues where private land development brushes up against a common property resource and people may actually own the stream bottom. The regional stewardship groups are working hard in their communities to make sure people know about the cutthroat creeks and respect their needs.

In the 1970s, I worked for the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch on Vancouver Island out of Nanaimo. One of my colleagues was Gordon Smith, a wildlife technician and Nanaimo native. He often told me about his grandfather who fished the local streams often for “trout” and usually made great catches. This must have been in the 1920s or 30s. Steelhead fishing was practically unheard of. The streams Mr. Smith fished were still in Nanaimo but there were few or no trout left. Cutthroats are disturbingly susceptible to over fishing because they are so easily caught. I have heard of early days anglers catching dozens in a few hours of fishing. Regulations must be extremely conservative. I think only barbless flies should be used and all fish carefully released. It is only by protecting and improving habitat and not killing any, that cutthroats will return to their honoured position as the Native trout of the BC coast.


A selection of sea-run cutthroat flies that imitate small fish. Note that they are not barbless.

Ted Burns

August 11, 2020

Original version published by the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch in 1981 with art work by Jack Grundle and photos by Ron Ptolemy and the BC Provincial Museum.

Remembering Muggs

October 9th, 2020

Remembering Muggsy Holmes

Monral Boyd Holmes died on November 10, 2018 – he was 75. My old Nelson gang is getting very sparse these days -not many left. Like many of us, Mugs hadn’t lived in Nelson for years. He was living in Olalla, a conglomeration of trailer parks and small farms near Keremeos, when he passed away. Before that he had been on the coast mainly working in sawmills. Tahsis, Victoria, Shawnigan Lake, Port Alberni and Ladysmith. He tired of the rain and went to Olalla to get away from it.

It must have been around 1953 when Mugs and I first met as Nelson boys. Fishing was what interested us the most and we spent lots of time prowling the local spots like the City Wharf, the City and Walton’s boathouses and the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. I can especially recall the good days we had at Cottonwood. It’s so different now that the dump, landfill and air strip have overtaken it and messed up the area around it where there was once Chinese Gardens, a sawmill, skating ponds and a hobo jungle.

We started fishing at low water in the early spring where the drop off to deep water was right at the creek mouth. We used worms or stonefly nymphs that we carefully threaded on small bait hooks. We attached one or two small split shot sinkers and fished “ Muggsy style” letting the bait out as natural as possible. Mugs was truly an expert in thinking like a fish. He imagined that the Cottonwood rainbows were poised just over the drop off waiting to sample any thing that came along in the creek outwash. But it had to look right or they would pass up. So we cast upstream a few meters into the creek and let our bait kind of roll down the drop off in a most natural way. Mugs was right. We caught fish and some real good ones – hard charging rainbows to four pounds. But boy were they fussy. We would feel frequent electric taps as the bait worked down the drop off face. The temptation to set the hook was strong but by the time you jerked, the fish was gone. You had to wait until the fish hooked themselves or swallowed the bait. It was hard to resist the bites but eventually we landed a few.

Later on in the spring and summer, we fished from my granddad’s little boat around the Nelson waterfront and caught lots of silvers in June when the water was up. I remember how Mugs used to piss me off by repeatedly spitting in the boat. “You have the whole lake to spit in so why spit in the boat”? Grandpa Burns was a stickler for cleanliness and I was sure we would lose the use of the boat. But he helped me wash it out and no one was the wiser.

The other thing Mugs and I shared was music. I had just been given a guitar and was taking lessons. Mugs was a natural musician and scoffed at my lessons. He had an older guitar and could play it well. He knew all the popular songs of the day: Elvis, Bill Haley, Eddy Cochrane and could imitate Elvis to the tee. In later years he performed as an Elvis imitator and played in a band that did all the old tunes. I used to have an LP of Mugs and his band but lost it.

Mugs dad died in 1954. He was hit by lightning near Kaslo. So his Mom was left with Mugs and his older brother Don – two lively and rambunctious boys to feed and nurture. She worked two jobs to keep the lads going and it must have been tough. She was a maid at the Hume Hotel and a ticket agent at the Civic Arena. She was very protective of her boys and if Mugs and I were late getting home she was on the phone immediately “Burns, where’s my boy”? Mugs could look after himself and if he ran into something or someone he could not handle there was his brother Don who was feared around Nelson.

I left Nelson in 1958 and Mugs and Don left not long after – Mugs to work and Don to play hockey. It was quite a few years before I saw Mugs again. I had written a fishing story for BC Outdoors. Mugs saw it and called the magazine to get my address in Lake Cowichan. From then on we resumed our adventures but this time on t he Island. We fished at Cheewhat and Sprise Lakes and the Nitinat River where we dodged black bears to land some big Chinooks. We also fished some lakes around Port Alberni when you could still get into the woods around there. We were looking forward to fishing some of the productive small lakes in the Okanagan Hills but left it too late.


Mugs at Cheewhat Lake.


Mugs at Toy Lake


October 9th, 2020



There was a time back before the wars when there was an effort to start fruit ranches on the hills around suitable spots on Kootenay Lake. Even before the Okanagan orchards began, Kootenay pioneers started to propagate fruit

The first white settlement on the North Shore across from Nelson began around 1890. Newlin Hoover owned all the property between the bluffs across from the mouth of Cottonwood Creek up to the James Johnstone Ranch. In 1903 he swapped five acres to J. Fred Hume so he could construct two lovely houses on it along with tennis courts and grape vines. Hume called this property Killarny on the Lake. Hoover lived in a brick powder house on what came to be called the Hoover Ranch then Burns Point.


In 1926, John Burns bought the ranch from Hoover or Captain McClian who may have owned the property ranch after Hoover.

The house had to be upgraded by adding two bedrooms, a bathroom and a porch. Access was by boat only. A road was far in the future. Grandpa Burns refurbished an old house on the Nelson side to park vehicles and store equipment. He maintained good boathouses on either side so crossing over was relatively easy. The family usually crossed over sometime in late April or early May as soon as things were thawed out. There were four kids now: Robert, J.W.(Jack), Jean Marie and James Edward (my father). They also had two dogs, a cow and chickens. Some of the crossings were not so easy.


Auntie Jean recalls trying to get Daisy the cow over on a barge. She refused so they had to herd her down from the ferry landing –e rough hike of two miles. Another time they were towing Mutt and Jeff (their two water spaniels over on a rough day when the towed rowboat flipped. Grandpa cut it loose and got the kids to shore. When he went back for the dogs the kids were wailing thinking they had drowned. There was a pocket of air in the over turned boat and the dogs were fine.


There was lots of fruit on the ranch – apples, plums, peaches several types of cherries, strawberries, currants and gooseberries. Grandma had a good flower garden and a vegetable garden. Fishing was very good before the dams, especially Corrra Lin. The boys set out night lines when they wanted a nice trout or two. Grandpa taught the kids to swim and was a stickler for water safety, Swimmers and boaters had to be aware of currants which were stronger then and the water was full of driftwood from sometime in early June to July. One time dad lost a good boat because he failed to pull it up high enough. The water came up and took it ‘down the rapids”. The rapids began less than a mile downstream near the mouth of Grohman Creek.


The 45 acre property extended up the mountain almost to Pulpit Rock so there was lots of hiking and exploring the woods and shores. The kids often hiked up to the reservoir(the spring that supplied water) and Pulpit Rock or sometimes over to Grohman or to the top of Elephant Mountain. An old timer called Coal Oil Johnny had a cabin by the reservoir. He sold coal oil in Nelson and worked a claim between the reservoir and Pulpit Rock where he had sunk a couple of shafts in the granitic bedrock. He never found anything, he bought the coal oil wholesale

When he died, Uncle Jack inherited the cabin. He and some pals went up there to smoke and unfortunately burned the place down

As the kids got older, they started to go their own way . Grandpa retired in 1929 and he and Gram spent more time in Ainsworth. The kids went to school in the states. Bob to Santa Clara then Colorado School of Mines, Jack to Mines, Jean to nursing school in Denver and Ted to Santa Clara. Bob was killed while prospecting on Lake Athabasca in 1933. He and two school mates cut across an open stretch of water in a canoe and were caught by a storm . Jack lived in Kimberley then Ainsworth, Jean married a newspaper man named Dinty Moore and spent most of the rest of her days in Sacramento, CA. Ted moved between Nelson, Ainsworth and California but ended up living at the ranch until his death in 1990

The ranch is no more. People live there including my sister Sue but there are only a few neglected apple trees and houses cover much of the orchard. Grandpa slowly started to let a few lots go in 1943 when Danny and Dee McKay bought a lot with Bob’s old cabin on it which they fixed up and lived in for the summers. More lots were sold but none from the ranch proper. That didn’t happen until the 1980’s. In a decade or so, all the lots were gone and the North Shore was just about unrecognizable. A bridge replaced the old Nelson Ferry in 1967 and a road was punched all the way down to the ranch in 1959. There was even talk of punching it though to Grohman because people were starting to live over there. If the job was easy, the road would likely be there now but there is lots of steep rock in the way.

When the bridge engineers were narrowing down locations, they looked at a crossing from about the lower end of Kootenay Street to Burns Point but the foundation materials were not suitable. We dodged a bullet there. The urbanization of the shore continues. People are not happy with the old summer camp environment any more. They want a big palace, lots of paved access and all the electronic toys. They live there year round and trash the peace of mind with roaring power boats, jet boats and the like. Many people are degrading the shores by trying to create the idealized beach. Building bulkheads and groynes paving backshores and nuking anything green that dares to grow where they wish the land to be manicured or bare. It seems like it could be worse because Johnstone Road has now become a favored real estate address and old seasonal cabins (if there are any left) will likely soon be replaced by New Age Taj Mahals



October 8th, 2020



Ted Burns

There is nothing unusual about dry summers on the South Coast and particularly on Southern Vancouver Island but his year has been extreme so far. The prolonged spell of hot, dry weather is taking a large toll of young trout and salmon.

The drying began in late winter – a winter with very little mountain snow. February and March precipitation was far below normal. There was bit of a recovery in April but May and June were very dry. By early June, it was hot. The temperature climbed above 30 degrees on June 4 and there have been many days since then where temperatures soared into the upper thirties baking the creeks and warming Cowichan Lake and river to record levels. There was even a July night where the temperature only fell to 27 degrees

The lower ends of many Cowichan Lake tributaries dry in most summers but drying began much earlier this year, and if the drought holds, drying will be much more extensive. The Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society and Cowichan Tribes salvage young trout and salmon from drying streams but they have been hard pressed to keep up this year and the CLSES fry salvage budget ran out the last week in July.

Temperatures in the lake and river have been much higher than normal. When they exceed about 21 degrees, which they began to do in mid – June, young fish seek out cooler water. Young trout and salmon (a large percentage of coho fry born in lake tributaries migrate down to the lake to complete the freshwater phase of their life) are forced to move out of the shore zone of the lake where they are better off because rearing conditions are the most favourable and spend the summer in deeper water. In summers like this one, cool water in Cowichan Lake is deeper than 20 metres (60 feet plus). Living conditions are not the best in the lake depths. There is no food and no place to escape when predators like big trout arrive. Cowichan Lake surface temperature has ranged around 23 – 27 degrees since July. In summers like this, the lake usually doesn’t cool enough for the fish to move back into the shallows until mid – October. CLSES has been trapping coho smolts near the outlet of Cowichan Lake for several years. In summers when the young coho can stay near shore, smolt numbers the following spring approach 300,000. After summers when the fish have to tough it out offshore, fry to smolt survival is far less.

In the Cowichan River, coho fry vacate large areas when the water warms. No one is sure where they go but they can be found where there are up welling springs of cool water or where groundwater fed side channels enter. There are not many of these places.

What can be done to moderate the effects of these increasing common California summers (and winters)? We need to be much more proactive about storing winter runoff in wetland basins for summer release. There are a large number of headwater wetlands on Cowichan Lake tributaries where low weirs could retain winter water that could slowly be released in the summer months. This would provide year round flow in many creeks that now dry early. A deep water discharge of cool water from the depths of Cowichan Lake could possibly provide enough cool water to the river so that young salmonids could stay in their home territories instead of concentrating in cool water refuges where competition lessens their survival. Measures like these are very difficult to accomplish because of competing interests and bureaucratic resistance. In the meantime, pray for rain this summer and hope for cold rainy winters with lots of mountain snow but don’t count on it.


This part of the Robertson River was dry by May this year – 1998.

Fish Town

October 7th, 2020



Ted Burns

Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society

It’s a sunny early May day. I’m standing on the car bridge watching a pair of rainbow trout holding above a gravel bed where they recently spawned. A few months before, coho and chinook salmon spawned on this same gravel bed. I’m also seeing a steady stream of silver bright coho smolts moving downstream toward the estuary and coho fry are heavy in a weedy backwater below the bridge. Every so often a large brown trout shoots out from under a log to chase the fry or smolts. It occurs to me that there is probably no other place on earth where one can witness such a spectacle of trout and salmon abundance in the center of a town.

I’ve lived most of my life in trout and salmon country from Northern California to Northern BC and seen much more than my share of their abundance – the still impressive summer chinook migration into the Columbia River, the huge pink salmon runs of the Lower Fraser between Chilliwack and Hope, the great interior sockeye runs to rivers like the Adams and Horsefly and the massive returns of kokanee to Kootenay Lake tributaries like Meadow Creek and the Lardeau River. However, in all my travels I’ve never seen a town that has so much productive fish habitat within or close to its boundaries as Lake Cowichan.

This town is truly unique in terms of trout and salmon habitat. We not only have the Cowichan River and lake within our borders and nearby environs, we also have twelve smaller streams, ten Cowichan River side channels, three small lakes and several productive wetlands.

The Upper Cowichan River with its abundance of superb chinook, steelhead, coho and rainbow spawning at Hatter’s Run and Little Beach, would be enough on its own to set the community apart from others that claim fame as special places for trout and salmon. Major chinook spawning occurs right in the front yards of several Greendale Road residences. But that’s just the beginning of Lake Cowichan’s trout and salmon bounty.

Greendale Brook (Tiny Creek) is a little spring fed stream less than a metre wide and five hundred metres long. It’s located in the backyards of the same Greendale Road residences adjacent to the prime chinook spawning area. A few weeks after the chinook are finished; coho spawners jam this amazing little brook. As many as 150 return in good years along with a few cutthroat and brown trout. This year, even a few chums were present. Stanley Creek is another backyard stream a few hundred metres up the road. It supports small runs of coho and has resident populations of rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout along with a few Dolly Varden. In some years, it gets a slug of chum salmon in its lower end.

Moving west into the downtown area we encounter a pair of springs near the home center that do not support fish on their own but the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society (CLSES) makes use of their clean, cold water to incubate coho eggs and rear some fry. The next stream is Beadnell Creek, formerly a very strong producer but it has been compromised by a concrete flume west of MacDonald Road that is difficult for trout and salmon to pass. It still supports runs of coho, cutthroats and brown trout and CLSES is working to make it easier for fish to navigate. Just a stone’s throw to the west of Beadnell is Oliver (Hatchery) Creek and Friendship Park. Oliver Creek is a beautiful little stream that has supported truly impressive runs of coho. As many as 1000 have ascended in good years. Of late, it hasn’t done so well but CLSES is working on the few factors that can be improved and it is hoped that it will soon regain its glory. It also supports strong runs of brown trout and both rainbows and cutthroats use it as migrant spawners from the river and lake and as residents. There is one more little brook on the north side of town. Tern Creek enters the river across from Gillespie Park (the little green beside the Co – Op). Unfortunately, much of its area is buried in culverts but a few coho and trout mange to hang on.

The south side of town is not quite as blessed but it does have one of the better coho – cutthroat streams in the Cowichan watershed: Beaver Creek. This creek was on its last legs before CLSES started working on it in 1983. It is now producing at very high levels with greatly improved summer flow and an improved channel and bed. As many as 600 coho have returned to Beaver after restoration.

Money’s Creek is the other stream on the south side and it was a good one. It starts in Kwassin and Grant Lakes and enters the Cowichan through the wetland on the north side of Cowichan Avenue by the new tennis courts. Not much is left after it was diverted to the Cowichan River via a blasted ditch in 1971 but some of the wetland is still present and is utilized by young coho and trout when water is present.

More excellent fish habitat is located just to the east along Hudgrove Road where a number of rich Cowichan River sidechannels are present along with Fairservice Creek and its myriad of tributary wetlands. This area will likely be included in the town in the future.

This is probably a good thing because the people of Lake Cowichan are beginning to realize that they have something very special when it comes to trout and salmon.

For those that want to learn more about Lake Cowichan fish habitat, visit my web site at

Now is the time to see the spawning glory of salmon in the Cowichan River. Try Little Beach for spring salmon or check above the weir on the south side where half a dozen are spawning. Coho will arrive in the upper river later this month and, if we ever get some rain, will enter the lake tributaries in late November or early December. Beaver Creek is one of the best places to see spawning coho. Take the Leo Nelson Trail which starts behind the South Shore Motel.


Little Beach, an important Cowichan River spawning area

The Real Salmon Capital

October 5th, 2020


Many BC towns are located on or near lakes and streams but none are as fortunate as Lake Cowichan when it comes to the number of waterways and the quality of fish habitat they provide. Towns like Port Alberni and Campbell River call themselves the salmon capital of BC but they are talking more about salmon fishing than salmon production. Residents of the Town of Lake Cowichan and its immediate area (some 3000) not only have Cowichan Lake and the Upper Cowichan River at their doorsteps; they also have twelve smaller creeks, ten Cowichan River side channels, three small lakes and several productive wetlands. Many of these are very important producers of trout and salmon.

Greendale Road is on the eastern edge of Lake Cowichan. A number of its residents have salmon spawning in both their front and backyards. In their front yards is the Cowichan River and Hatter’s Run, the most important section of chinook spawning habitat on the river. In late October and early November, hundreds of chinook salmon spawn in a two hundred metre stretch of high quality gravel. Rainbows. coho, chums and steelhead also spawn at Hatter’s. In their backyards, the fortunate residents of this part of Greendale have Tiny Creek, an amazingly productive little coho stream which is less than a metre wide for it’s less than five hundred metres length. Hardly a month after the chinooks have finished their rage of reproduction in their front yard, coho are digging up their backyard creek along with a few cutthroats and brown trout and even a few chums. How many residents of BC or anywhere else can claim seven species of trout and salmon spawning in view of their kitchen windows?

Further along Greendale Road toward downtown Lake Cowichan is Stanley Creek, a mountain runoff stream that dries below the highway in the summer months but supports runs of coho and brown trout and, on occasion, chum salmon, along with resident populations of rainbow, cutthroat and Dolly Varden. Two Cowichan River side channels are located along Greendale. Both Trevor Green’s and Tony Green’s side channels support spawning and rearing trout and salmon.

Moving west into the heart of Lake Cowichan on the north side of the river we pass two springs, Bird Cage and Atchison, before reaching Beadnell Creek, a small stream some three kilometres long that supports coho, cutthroats and brown trout. Fish have a hard time reaching the best habitat in the creek because of a five hundred metre long concrete flume built in the 1950’s to help prevent property erosion. The Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society constructed baffles in the flume between 1995 and 1998 to assist the fish in their upstream migration and they now have an easier time of it. Numbers are not up to where they should be yet but recovery is well underway.

Just a stone’s toss west of Beadnell is Oliver Creek, another small stream that Lake Cowichan people are justifiably proud of. Only one kilometre of Oliver Creek (sometimes called Hatchery Creek after a fish hatchery that operated on the lower creek from 1910 to the 1950’s) is normally accessible to salmon but as many as 1000 coho make their way up this beautiful stream in late November and December. Rainbow and cutthroat trout are also present and a large percentage of Cowichan River’s brown trout spawn in this little groundwater fed creek which originates in springs and wetlands near the Teleglobe Canada station just northwest of the town. Only the first 65 metres of the creek flow through an urban landscape, the rest is almost entirely forested including the section within the town which is located in Friendship Park, a greenway corridor along the stream which features an interpretive trail. The trail and park celebrate the creek and the relationship between Lake Cowichan and Ohtaki, a town in northern Japan. It is a joint project of the school district, the town and the BC Ministry of Environment.

Just beyond Oliver Creek are the downtown core and a bridge over the Cowichan River. Local kids fish from it in the spring and fall months and salmon and trout can sometimes be seen spawning on gravel beds just above and below it and on other beds upstream in front of Gillespie Park and near the little swimming beach Lake Cowichan people call the Duck Pond. In years of high coho escapement when water in the creeks tributary to the lake and Upper River is low, coho hold in the Big Pool and Upper Pool near the downtown core in substantial numbers and can be seen leaping and rolling as they wait for runoff to raise the creeks.

Tern Creek, another little backyard brook enters the river from the north some 200 metres above the bridge. Unfortunately, much of its productive area is buried in culverts but a few trout and coho continue to hang on in spite of it.

Just west of the town on the south side of the valley is Beaver Lake and creek. The creek enters Cowichan Lake just above the weir. This little system had become over mature by the late 1970’s and the creek had almost no trout and salmon capability left. It dried by May in most years and the poorly defined channel was mainly muck and detritus supporting a lush growth of hardhack and skunk cabbage but few fish. Realizing the creek’s limitations but recognizing its potential, Leo Nelson, founder of the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society began lobbying the Department of Fisheries and Ocean for permission to rebuild the creek. It was finally given in the summer of 1983. Leo excavated some 2000 m of channel removing the muck-detritus overburden and replacing it with gravel, boulders and large woody debris. The creek’s ability to support fish was vastly improved. It improved even more when Leo constructed a low dam at the outlet of the lake and buried a discharge pipe underneath it. Beavers took the opportunity to raise the dam to a point where it stored about one metre of water. The creek now had a reasonable habitat base and year round flow; the fish loved it. Coho returns since 1986 have averaged 182 and have reached as high as 600. Cutthroat numbers are also increasing. Both Beaver Lake and Cowichan Lake cutthroats spawn in the creek which also supports a few brown trout along with resident cutthroats. The Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society continues to improve the creek. A new dam at the lake outlet was added in 1996 and habitat features are added to the creek on a more or less continuous basis.

Continuing around the circle on the south side of town, the next waterway is Money’s Creek. This little stream originates in Kwassin and Grant Lakes, two small lakes in the southeast portion of Lake Cowichan and discharges into the Cowichan River through Money’s Wetland after picking up flow from three even smaller streams known as South Money’s, Greenwell and Ravine Creeks. This creek has been highly abused to suit the needs of urban development. A diversion channel blasted between Kwassin Lake and the Cowichan River in 1971 robbed it of most of its flow then subsequent residential construction has covered almost all of it. Surprisingly though, coho returned to what was left of the creek until 1994 when a trash rack was installed at a culvert near its lower end. Although it only covers some 14% of its former area, Money’s Wetland still supports young trout and coho for a large part of the year. Money’s Creek could be restored but it would require the cooperation of the Town and every landowner on the creek, a formidable task but not impossible because many people in this community are very proud that salmon streams are important parts of their neighborhoods. The wetland portion of the  creek was excavated in the 1990’s nd now provides excellent winter habitat,

The town boundary is located near the headwaters of Money’s Creek but there is more excellent fish habitat just to the east along Hudgrove Road where a number of productive Cowichan River sidechannels are present. One of these channels is known as Inner Joginder’s or Gides Creek. It is spring fed and supports as many as 600 coho and 100 chum salmon along with cutthroat and brown trout. Other side  in the 1990channels in this area are Block 28, Lucky’s, Lamb’s, Lowry’s, Lowe’s, Art Watson’s, Outer Joginder’s and Fariservice. Fairservice Creek with its myriad of tributary wetlands is also located in this area which will likely be incorporated into the town in the near future.

This bodes well for the fish and their habitat because the respect and pride the people of Lake Cowichan have for their unique natural heritage should insure that the resource will survive and prosper well into the future.


April, 2002

The Lake Cowichan Gazette

Canyon Heart

October 5th, 2020



Ted Burns

The Chemainus is probably the least known river on Vancouver Island that is close to major population centres. The river is only a half hour drive from Nanaimo and a matter of minutes from Duncan and Chemainus but few people are aware of its great beauty and recreational opportunities. This is unfortunate because the river has much to offer including a relatively pristine estuary, canyonlands of spectacular beauty and a fine spring run of steelhead. If the Chemainus wasn’t located in a land blessed by an abundance of lovely rivers, it would be very well known. Indeed. Move it to Texas and it would be a national park before you could say Sam Houston.

For ease of description, the Chemainus can be divided into four general areas: the lowlands, canyonlands mid reaches and upper river. Each has its own character and special features.

There is considerable settlement and several farms on the Chemainus lowlands in Westholme. This area is part of the combined Chemainus River – Bonsall Creek floodplain and estuarine lands. Despite a number of flood control threats and development proposals over the years, the river remains relatively undisturbed from adjacent development here and the estuary, despite the proximity of Crofton Pulp Mill to the south which discharges effluent into its outer portion and highly industrialized Chemainus Bay to the north, remains surprisingly pristine.

There are two very important fish habitat features in this zone: Miller Creek Wetland and Westholme Sidechannel. Because the river is so unstable in terms of flow and bedload, off channel habitat is very important for juvenile trout and salmon overwintering and adult spawning. Miller Creek Wetland is a winter haven for young coho, steelhead and cutthroat trout while the Westholme Channel provides spawning, rearing and overwintering. The channel is on the Halalt Reserve and the band, in cooperation with Fisheries and Oceans, has done much to improve it. Unfortunately, it is at risk from river instability.

The Chemainus Canyonlands begin not far above the Island Highway and extend upstream some eleven kilometres. This area is not all canyon in the strict sense of the word but most of it is well‑incised ravine and in its heart is the truly awesome Copper Canyon where towering walls produce a feeling of insignificance in those that venture into it. Other sections of the canyonlands feature dark cliffs of crumbling shale hung with large Douglas fir veterans sometimes leaning precariously over two hundred metre vertical drops.

Chemainus Potholes or Little Hells Gate. A once very popular place cut off by a highway upgrade.


In my opinion, the best time to visit the canyonlands is in the spring just about the time the dogwoods are blooming in late April and May. This is when the spring run of steelhead enters the river and moves rather quickly into the canyons. These fish, which consist of late winter and summer runs, are not large but they are clean and fast. Neither are they abundant. If there are more than one hundred, I’d be surprised and pleased. It’s the very fortunate angler who catches more than one or two of these lovely fish in a season. The fish usually move above Copper Canyon Falls ( a series of small falls and cascades that stop salmon except a very occasional coho) by late May. Beyond the falls, the steelhead are difficult to find and seldom bothered by anglers.

The Chemainus supports a few spring and fall chinook salmon, a small coho run, a sometimes large run of early chums along with a few typical run winter steelhead ( December to March) and cutthroat trout but is only noted for its spring steelhead run. Because of its instability, the Chemainus is not very productive.

From time to time, there are proposals to dam the Chemainus in the canyon to provide water for the fast growing municipality of North Cowichan. Plans have fizzled out so far but the threat remains.

The mid reaches of the river extend from Copper Canyon to Ten Cascades and Boulder (Chipman) Creek, a distance of some fourteen kilometres. The river is still well contained with short stretches of canyon and is largely inaccessible. A noteworthy aspect of this section is its popularity with kayakers. They put in at the bridge below Ten Cascades then paddle and drift downstream to a take out point near Holyoak Creek some twelve kilometres downstream.

Above Boulder Creek, the valley opens into a broader basin of lower river gradient. Gone are the high walls, giant boulders and bottomless pools of the canyons. They are replaced by more gentle terrain, gravel bars and log jams. This section of the river was ravaged by logging. Many stretches were yarded across with logs dragged through the river and up the banks. Few trees were retained along the stream and large sections of riverbank have eroded. Where alders returned to heal the wounds, they were killed with herbicides. Most of the logging happened in the fifties and sixties.

Except for some high, steep country and a few scattered parcels elsewhere, the entire watershed has been logged, some of it twice. Due to the rough terrain, the river turned it away for much of its length. The upper river was not as fortunate and it almost seemed as if the loggers gave it extra punishment to make up for the damage they couldn’t do elsewhere. Nobody logs this way anymore, even on private forest land of which most of the Chemainus is.

Unfortunately, the new era of awareness is too late for the Chemainus. This is a watershed that needed to be logged slowly and carefully. Its long narrow shape and lack of lakes or wetlands to buffer runoff was designed to shed water quickly. Add rapid clearcutting and an extensive road network to the picture and be prepared for some hard times especially if you are a fish. The river fluctuates widely between runoff events and a few heavy showers can turn it from gin clear to coffee coloured in an afternoon. A day’s hard rain can get its bedload moving.

Fortunately, the watershed is in a recovery mode and things can only get better. More people are becoming aware of the river’s great beauty and recreational potential and there is talk of a park in the Copper Canyon area. This is a wonderful idea for this highly deserving river and its canyon heartland.





Turn east off the Island Highway at the Westholme stoplight by the Red Rooster Cafe then go left at Westholme Rd. at 0.55 km. Turn left again at 1.0 km for the Halalt Campsite. The gate is often closed but its only a 600 m walk to the river and the Claybanks Pool and the Eagle Run downstream. This area can also be reached from the E+N tracks 0.6 km past the campsite turnoff.

At the Old Island Highway (Crofton Rd.) at 1.3 km from the light, turn left for .3 km to a tote road on the left which leads under the bridge. From this road, you can reach the Bridge Pool or follow the south side of the river downstream for 500 m to Log Jam Corner. You can wade the river here and hike the north side of the river downstream to the Swimming Hole.

Some people fish and swim around the Island Highway bridge.




Turn west off the Island Highway 1.8 km north of the bridge onto a rough road that backtracks for 0.3 km to a parking area. Its a 180 m hike down to the Potholes, a favoured summer swimming area and a place to try for the elusive spring run steelhead. Access to the Potholes has been cutoff by a highway upgade, A line of No Posts and lack of safe parking prevents people from using the area. One could remove some No Posts and clear a parking area but cars now travel at very high speeds here and getting on and off the road could be difficult and dangerous


Turn west from the highway onto Mt. Sicker Rd. at the Westholme light. Keep right at 3.8 km then turn right on Cranko Rd. at 5.0 km. Keep left at a junction at 5.9 km, drive thorough a gate past the gas pipeline to a parking area at the Black Cliff Pool. Walk upstream for the best water and a fine view of Banon Creek foaming into the river over a beautiful two stage falls.


Turn west off the highway at the flashing yellow light or River Rd. just north and drive west on Copper Canyon Mainline to Banon Creek Rd. at 2.8 km just past a small bridge. A right turn at 1 km just above a small gravel pit leads to a path to the Slot just 50 m before the end of this 2 km long road. By keeping straight at the junction by the pit, you come to the rod and gun club range. Park here and walk south on the rough road to where it branches. Bear left for the Gold Mine and right for the Sandy Pool and upstream water at the Swingrope and Backeddy Pool.


Stay on the logging road for 2.85 km beyond Banon Creek Rd. and look for a small rock quarry, lookout point and guard rocks. Park here and backtrack 100 m on the logging road. There is no path but its easy going through bedrock – arbutus openings and second growth for about 500 m to the river. The main falls is 150 m downstream from where you reach the river.


Some people proceed up the logging road to fish near the mouth of Boulder Creek or in Spartan Lake high in the headwater zone of the river or to hunt and hike throughout the area. There is a gate at Copper Canyon Camp well up river but its open during non working hours except hazardous periods (fire season or heavy snow).

The river’s mid reaches can also be reached Highway 18 (Lake Cowichan Highway) via Hillcrest Road. There is a little scout park in this area. Keep right at 3.9 km for the park. A left will take you up the South Side Logging Road known as HC 1000. Look for a road on the left 4.2 km in and 1.4 km beyond the powerline. This rough road leads 1.4 km down to a lovely stretch of canyon called ” The Gate .” Its much better to walk this road than to drive it.

The author in the canyon circa 1975

Times Colonist

The Islander

December 29, 1996

Loggers or Pool Boys?

October 5th, 2020


I once had a neighbor in Cowichan who refused to believe that logging companies could lock the gates at will. He was convinced that they were in the wrong and would suffer some serious consequences if people complained. I explained that for much of The Island the companies owned the land and could care less about public access. “That’s crazy” he said and ranted on .

July 30 003.jpg

Locked gates are everywhere on Vancouver Island private land logging roads

I wish it were so. A huge swath of The Island was handed over to the Dunsmuir family to construct the E and N railroad back in the 1880’s.Some two million acres and 750,000 dollars were doled out to their company. The swath is twenty miles wide and runs from Goldstream to the 50th parallel near Campbell River. I guess the plan was to jump start the Island economy and that happened as coal mining began in a big way. Dunsmuir was even more interested in the land value and began selling off parcels not suitable for mining as soon he could. The CPR bought the railroad and other lands and forest companies purchased large blocks. Dunsmuir reaped a fortune and built himself castles – Craigdarroch and Hatley Park – along with saving some prime land for himself such as a lovely block on the Upper Cowichan River in what would become Lake Cowichan. On this place he had his Chinese servants wrestle big boulders into the river to provide fishing platforms where you didn’t need to get your feet wet.


The E&N Land Grant

The companies started logging early in the twentieth century. It was slow at first when it might take all day to fall one large tree hauled off with oxen or horses. But it soon picked up with steam donkeys and railroads then power saws and trucks. The timber supply must have once seemed endless. I often imagine being with an explorer standing on an Island mountain like Heather where one could look east down the Cowichan Valley, then west down the Nitinat. I would try to tell him that almost all that timber would be cut in less than 100 years and the hills would be laced with roads. There had been camps the size of small towns and the woods had roared with noise: snorts, whistles engines and the crash of falling trees. Streams had been trashed and side hills washed to sea in the wild rage to cut down what was often considered the greatest softwood forest on earth


A Conservation Officer examines a small stream that logs were dragged through

I am certain my explorer friend would not believe my tale -. But it’s true. Yes, a form of the forest is still there and logging methods have improved dramatically since the “Glory Days”, especially on public forest land. The companies made billions and left the people of southeast Vancouver Island with a few scraps of old growth and an endless legacy of locked gates on private land.

There was a time not so long ago when the gates were open for a decade or more. It is interesting how it happened. Outdoors people had become very frustrated in the 1960’s. Led b y the Nanaimo and Victoria Fish and Game Clubs, they arranged a meeting between the clubs, the companies and the forest minister – Ray Williston. The year was 1962. I don’t think the companies were sweating it much. Williston was a member of W. A. C. Bennett’s Social Credit government – a government that was friendly to industry. In those days, the Forest Service was a different animal than today – much more industry friendly. Some would say an almost de facto employee of the forest industry – a branch plant of MacMillan Bloedel.

So when Williston challenged the clubs to show him some evidence that they were being locked out, they produced a letter from a company official that stated we are sorry but there is just enough fish and game in our claim for our employees so you guys are out of luck. Williston hit the roof and said that’s the end of this nonsense, you guys work out a solution or the government will pass an access or industrial roads act that will end it for you.

It wasn’t long before the gates were open. The deal was that they would be closed if logging crews were working somewhere behind them or there were hazards like fire or flood. Some companies even created small parks and campsites and had people man the main gates and collect information on use. Who can forget Lawrence Houghton at Nanaimo Lakes and Al Dyer at Nanaimo River Camp? Things were good. But it did not last. As the 1980’s dawned, things started to go backward. It wasn’t that noticeable at first. Roads got dug up here and there but companies were deactivating and putting roads to bed on a fairly large scale then which was a good thing. Then came more dug out trenches then locked gates. The companies cited garbage dumping, theft, and bush parties etc. as reasons. There is truth in these assertions and I would like to strangle the boneheads that gave the companies excuses to close their fiefdoms to legitimate users but the era would have ended sooner or later any way because a new factor was returning to the woods – big time greed.

The price of land was rocketing upward at a torrid pace and the companies recognized an opportunity to convert some of their private forest resource lands into real estate. TimberWest (once BC Forest Products) owns 804,000 acres of fee simple lands and have even created a real estate company to flog them. It won’t take much flogging. Imagine having a place on Cowichan Lake or Nanaimo River? How much would you pay? A West Vancouver developer told me he could easily make one hundred million dollars if he could get hold of the Cowichan Lake land between Honey moon Bay and the Caycuse Log sort and could get it rezoned to five acre lots. The Cowichan Valley Regional District has been holding the minimum lot size to 80 acres for a long time despite some hard charges by developers and their lawyers

So my own worst nightmares are coming true: housing tracts covering resource lands and preventing access to some of my favorite angling water. Far fetched?

A few weeks ago, some friends and I headed for Money’s Pool where the Ash River comes into the Stamp near Port Alberni. I hadn’t been since 1972 but this pool is very well known having been popularized by the writing of Roderick Haig – Brown who fished it with his friend General Noel Money. Money was a decorated military man and owned the Qualicum Beach Hotel. Sure enough, the trail was blocked by a big house with spike fencing. This area was supposed to be protected by a Recreational Fishing Corridor but when I checked with the Ministry of Environment, I was told they did not feel comfortable trying to apply the corridor to private land. My take is they were told to forget it by the government of the day.

TimberWest is trying to sell some superb resource land at Shaw Creek. High fish and forest values and an elk herd that has hung on for decades and may have supplied most of the elk that have re-populated large areas of the south In the early 1970’s, a survey revealed only ONE bull elk on the south end of the Island south of the Parksville – Alberni Highway (Highway 4). Through careful management and luck the herd has grown quite large but elk are not too compatible with suburbia

I guess I’m not either but maybe I will have to be as the companies become real estate developers. But my days are waning and I have had the best of what this spectacular province has to offer. What about the youth and theirs? How about the loggers, some of the hardest workers I know. Are they to be pool boys and lawn cutters? What about the mill workers and the mechanics, truck drivers and tree planters?

And what about the natives? Their land was taken away so someone from far away could build castles in Victoria and fill gold bathtubs with gin? How must they feel?

The fair thing would be to give the land back to the government so it could give reasonable amounts back to the natives. The rest would be retained as working forest, parks and lake and stream corridors. I doubt that will happen but what could occur is a return of the Forest Land Reserve. A program similar to the ALR where the high value forest lands cannot be sold for real estate.

It is beyond my comprehension that the Great Island Forest so productive and forgiving after all the years of abuse could be finally doomed by exploding suburbia and the loggers of Lake Cowichan and Port Alberni will be working as pool boys or firewood providers. The railroad is long gone so give the land back and take away the damn gates