A to Z West Coast TrailThe Cape Beale Lighthouse was built in 1873 and lit up the southern tip of the entrance to Barkley Sound. Barkley Sound is the huge gap in Vancouver Island filled with islands, with Ucluelet at the north end of the gap and Bamfield and Cape Beale at the south end. The West Coast Trail's Pachena Bay trailhead begins just south of Bamfield and 6 kilometres east of Cape Beale.

West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailAlaskan at 4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSoquel at 5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSarah at 7k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailBecherdass-Ambiadass at 8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailMichigan at 12k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUzbekistan at 13.8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVarsity at 17.6k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailValencia at 18.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJanet Cowan at 19k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRobert Lewers at 20k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWoodside at 20.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUncle John at 26.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVesta at 29k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRaita at 33k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSkagit at 34.2k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSanta Rita at 37k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDare at 39k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailLizzie Marshall at 47k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPuritan at 48.5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWempe Brothers at 49.4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDuchess of Argyle at 58k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJohn Marshall at 62.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWilliam Tell at 64.2 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailRevere at 69k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailCyrus at 75k

West Coast Trail Campsites

Pachena Bay Campground West Coast Trail CampsitesMichigan Creek at 12k West Coast Trail CampsitesDarling River at 14k West Coast Trail CampsitesOrange Juice Creek at 15k West Coast Trail CampsitesTsocowis Creek at 16.5k West Coast Trail CampsitesKlanawa River at 23k West Coast Trail CampsitesTsusiat Falls at 25k West Coast Trail CampsitesCribs Creek at 42k West Coast Trail CampsitesCarmanah Creek at 46k West Coast Trail CampsitesBonilla Creek at 48k West Coast Trail CampsitesWalbran Creek at 53k West Coast Trail CampsitesCullite Cove at 58k West Coast Trail CampsitesCamper Bay at 62k Thrasher Cove - West Coast Trail CampsitesThrasher Cove at 70k Pacheedaht Campground

The Cape Flattery Lighthouse, built sixteen years earlier, sits at the northwest tip of Washington State and marks the south end of the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. Cape Beale is 65 kilometres northwest of Cape Flattery and about 39 kilometres northwest of the Vancouver Island side of the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. It wasn’t until 1891 that this northern entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait was lit up by the Carmanah Point Lighthouse. In the 1850’s Juan de Fuca Strait rapidly become a major shipping route to and from ports in Puget Sound, Vancouver and Victoria. Cape Flattery Lighthouse provided a much needed aid to navigation to Juan de Fuca Strait, which was often hidden by fog, in the midst of stormy seas and with unfamiliar currents causing a horrific number of ships to wreck in what was becoming notoriously known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. When Cape Flattery was the only lighthouse marking the entrance to the 24.5km mouth of Juan de Fuca Strait and none on the Vancouver Island side, Cape Flattery was to be the first. The obvious question is, why there? Why not directly across the strait from Cape Flattery where the Carmanah Point Lighthouse would eventually be built? The answer comes out of the chaos in the decades prior to the construction of the Cape Beale Lighthouse in 1873.

The Cape Beale Lighthouse in 1917

Cape Beale Lighthouse in 1917

From Colonies to Confederation

Just a few decades earlier the British and Americans were scrambling to lay claim to territory along the west coast of North America. The Americans were rapidly pushing north claiming what is now Washington State. In an attempt to halt their expansion northward, Fort Victoria was established by the British on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in 1844. Two years later, in 1846 the Oregon Boundary Treaty defined the border along the 49th parallel which exists today as the border between Canada and the Unites States. In 1846, what would become British Columbia was a recently established British colony and the establishment of Canada as an independent country wouldn’t happen until 1867 and British Columbia wouldn’t join the Confederation of Canada until 1871. In 1871 British Columbia largely unexplored by the newly arrived Europeans, now called Canadians and probably only consisted of 11,000. The Rocky Mountains were a serious impediment to expansion into British Columbia. As the CanadaHistoryProject.ca wonderfully describes the situation in 1871. “When British Columbia joined Confederation it was so remote from the rest of Canada that mail going east had to carry an American stamp and go through San Francisco.” A transcontinental railway across Canada, through the Rocky Mountains and to the west coast of British Columbia was being constructed to connect the newly formed country.

Vancouver Island’s First West Coast Lighthouse

Now we return to the planning stage for the new lighthouse on the west coast of Vancouver Island to mitigate the huge number of shipwrecks in and out of Juan de Fuca Strait. The western terminus to the new railroad was still undecided and one strong contender was in Port Alberni located partway up Vancouver Island at the end of Alberni Inlet that almost cuts through the width of the island. Alberni Inlet connects to Barkley Sound and the Pacific Ocean. From a shipping perspective Port Alberni would reduce shipping times dramatically as compared to sailing into the treacherous Juan de Fuca Strait, around the bottom of Vancouver Island and into a Vancouver port. Largely with this in mind the planners in 1872 chose Cape Beale as the location for the new lighthouse. If shipping lanes diverted away from Juan de Fuca Strait and into Barkley Sound, a lighthouse at the entrance would be of vital importance. A year later the lighthouse was built and operational, though the terminus would be in Port Moody near Vancouver when the railroad was finally completed in 1886.

Cape Beale Lighthouse Map v2

Construction of the Cape Beale Lighthouse

The construction of the Cape Beale Lighthouse illustrates wonderfully the challenges of the west coast of Vancouver Island. In the fall of 1872 the Canadian government sent surveyors and engineers to Cape Beale on the steamer Sir James Douglas. Several attempts were made to land boats on the rocky shore of Cape Beale, however the rough seas made it impossible.

Cape Beale Lighthouse Shore View

The Sir James Douglas steamed five miles into Bamfield Inlet to the nearest location where they could get boats to shore. Once on shore they now had to hike 5 miles through the rainforest to Cape Beale. The forest was an almost impenetrable tangle of fallen trees and thick undergrowth. With limited time they were forced to abandon their efforts and return to Victoria after covering only about two thirds the distance. A few months later another attempt was made in the summer when seas are calmer. This time boats were successfully landed on the shore of Cape Beale and it was decided to go ahead with construction as soon as possible.

Sir James Douglas Supply Ship

Cape Beale Lighthouse Construction Begins

Hayward and Jenkinson was awarded the government contract and construction began in the summer of 1873. The construction crew and materials arrived in the schooner Surprise and they immediately set about overcoming the logistical difficulties of building in such a wild and inaccessible place. The ship anchored in Dodger Cove, three miles north of Cape Beale. Here they were able to offload materials, ferry them across to Cape Beale and haul them up the steep slope to the construction site. A trail was constructed down to the sheltered lagoon behind the lighthouse and through the forest to the head of Bamfield Inlet three miles away. Finally the construction site was accessible by land and construction went ahead at a frantic pace. The following summer, in June 1874 the new Cape Beale Lighthouse was completed.

Cape Beale Lighthouse

Carmanah Point Lighthouse Plans

In R. Bruce Scott’s wonderful book Barkley Sound A History of the Pacific Rim National Park Area, he found a newspaper article from 18 March 1873 which outlined plans to begin construction of another lighthouse on Bonilla Point in May. Bonilla Point and Carmanah Point are right next to each other and the names were often confused. To add to the confusion, Carmanah Point was previously named Bonilla Point. Scott was unable to discover the reason why this lighthouse was not started as reported and was built 17 years later in 1890, and operational in 1891.

Similar to Barkley's Ship Imperial Eagle

History of Cape Beale

Cape Beale at the southern entrance to Barkley Sound was named by Captain Charles Barkley in 1787 after John Beale, a member of the crew of Barkley’s ship, the Imperial Eagle. John Beale was killed, along with four other crewmembers by Indians near Destruction Island later that year. 

Cape Beale Lighthouse Modern View

Cape Beale Lighthouse in Print

Vancouver Island's West CoastBarkley Sound BookVancouver Island’s West Coast 1762-1962 by George Nicholson is a fantastic history that gives you a window to a staggering array of events that occurred during those two eventful centuries. The amount of research that went into this book must have been colossal. Dozens and dozens of beautiful illustrations bring the people and places to life. Published in 1965 after decades of living in the area, Nicholson is able to write about events he was part of. Other events that happened before his time, he is able to describe in detail only possible by living in the area and knowing every feature of the land. His sources are from the written journals of the many explorers in the area. All the other well-known West Coast Trail shipwrecks are mentioned in one chapter titled, “Forty Wrecks, One for Every Mile”.  Tsusiat Falls has a chapter devoted to it as well as the Carmanah Point Lighthouse and the Cape Flattery LighthouseVancouver Island’s West Coast 1762-1962 can be found online on Amazon and many other online book stores. Vancouver Island’s West Coast 1762-1962 continued here... R. Bruce Scott's second book, Barkley Sound A History of the Pacific Rim National Park Area is yet another incredible book by Scott and the second in his trilogy of books on the history of the west coast of Vancouver Island. This amazing book published in 1972 has a chapter on Pacific Rim National Park, a few chapters on some of the first European explorers. He then has chapters covering some of the trading posts and early settlements along the islands West Coast. He has an interesting chapter on the Cape Beale Lighthouse, the Carmanah Point Lighthouse and the Pachena Point LighthouseBarkley Sound A History of Pacific Rim Park continued here...

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More West Coast Trail Glossary A to Z

West Coast Trail A to Z

Cape Flattery Lighthouse is located on the United States side of the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. Began operation in 1857, the lighthouse tower is 20 metres tall and standing on a cliff the tower’s light stands 50 metres above the water. Cape Flattery ...
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Owen Point, at about the 67km mark on the West Coast Trail is home to a stunningly colourful and well hidden area of sandstone caves carved out by the ocean. Centuries of crashing waves have gouged out huge, circular openings in the cliffs jutting out into the ...
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Darling Falls has to be the most overlooked and underrated feature of the West Coast Trail. It never even appeared in West Coast Trail guidebooks until recently and hardly any websites or blogs give it a mention. There are some good reasons for this. First, the ...
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Juan de Fuca Strait is the 154km long and 16km to 32km wide stretch of ocean that separates Vancouver Island from the northwest corner of Washington State. The international boundary between Canada and the United State runs down the centre of the strait. It was named ...
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