PRINCESS LOUISA INLET: THE ONLY TRUE
FJORD ON BC'S COAST
Article reprinted with permission from BC Parks and the Princess Louisa International Society.
Photo courtesy of Sunshine Coast Tours - book now for daily tours of Princess Louisa Inlet
Princess Louisa Inlet, a royal fjord like so many of its kind and yet unlike any other in the world, has a charm and scenic beauty that no words can adequately describe. It must be seen and experienced to be known.
Far inland, approached from the Strait of Georgia, by way of Jervis Inlet, this magnificent granite-walled gorge was cut by an ice-glacier of millenniums past through the snow-tipped mountains that rise sharply from the water's edge to heights in excess of 2100 metres (7000 feet). As placid as a mountain lake, the ocean waters of Princess Louisa Inlet move constantly with the tides, but currents are practically non-existent except for the seven-to-ten-knot Malibu Rapids at the entrance. The inlet, almost completely enclosed, is 300 metres (1000 feet) deep and never over 800 metres (1/2 mile) wide in its eight-kilometre (five-mile) length.
Until mid-June the warm sun melting the snows of the mountains creates more than sixty waterfalls that cascade and spume down precipitous sides to mingle with the water of this finger of the sea. Beautiful Chatterbox Falls at the head of the inlet tumbles 40 metres (120 feet) into the water to shatter the stillness that is otherwise disturbed only by the murmur of boat motors or the lap of water against hulls and pontoons. During July and August the waters a short distance from Chatterbox Falls are in the comfortable 20 degree Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) range.
Princess Louisa Inlet, called by First Nations as Suivoolot, meaning sunny and warm, has beckoned sea travellers since it was first seen by man. Except for aircraft, the sea is the only way there. No public road is closer than 68 kilometres (40 miles) away, and four-wheeled vehicles are, and probably always will be, unknown.
The privilege of enjoying this bit of paradise comes through the generosity and foresight of James F. (Mac) MacDonald who first saw Princess Louisa Inlet in 1919. He learned of the inlet from an uncle who had sailed it in 1907. Mr. MacDonald remembered the spectacular beauty of the inlet as he travelled over the world. In 1926, after years of prospecting in Nevada, Mac struck it rich. With his new found riches, he was able to attain his real Eldorado: Princess Louisa Inlet. He obtained the land surrounding Chatterbox Falls in 1927 and build a log cabin that was tragically destroyed by fire in 1940.
Image courtesy of Talaysay Tours, offering First Nations Cultural EcoTours by Kayak to Princess Louisa Inlet
For years, Mac acted as host to visiting yachtsmen and sailors. "This beautiful, peaceful haven should never belong to one individual," he said. "I don't ever want it to be commercialized. Indians, trappers, loggers, fishermen and yachtsmen have always been welcome to any hospitality I had to offer. I have felt that I was only the custodian of the property for Nature and it has been my duty to extend every courtesy."
In 1953, Mac made the decision to turn the property over to the yachtsmen of the Northwest. "In giving it to the boating public I feel as if I am completing a trust. It is one of the most spectacular beauty spots in the world," he stated. "I am turning it over in perpetuity as an international project so that you, your children, and your children' children, ad infinitum, all may enjoy its peace and beauty as God created it, unspoiled by the hand of man."
To maintain the perpetual trust, the non-profit Princess Louisa International Society was formed with an equal number of Canadian and American trustees. The formation of this society ensured the preservation of this enchantingly beautiful place for all future generations.
It was stipulated that Mr. MacDonald would always have a place near Chatterbox Falls to moor his houseboat. In 1972, his 83rd year, Mac spent his last summer at the Inlet. He died in 1978.
Mac's annual guest register contained the names and appreciative comments of visitors, many of them famous and well known, from all over the world. It would be impossible to mention all of the visitors, and unfair to mention only a few.
Mr. MacDonald had always enjoyed telling the stories of historical lore of his beloved Princess Louisa Inlet.
There was one story of why Suivoolot was taboo for the Sechelt Nation for generations, and the great tale of Chieftain's Rock rising perpendicularly from the water to a shelf 50 metres (150 feet) overhead. Young natives had to climb it with a heavy rock strapped to their backs to prove their manhood. Echo Rock and the ledge where dwells Old Man Echo was another of Mac's memorable stories, and there were many others. Also there was his demonstration of the fire ceremony and dance, an illustration of how young Natives showed their stamina in the face of severe pain.
Image courtesy of Talaysay First Nations Cultural Eco-Tours
After ten years of careful guardianship, the Princess Louisa International Society, with the blessing of Mr. MacDonald, decided that for greater public benefit, administration of the property should pass to the Government of the Province of British Columbia. With the understanding that all previous stipulations would remain in effect, the property became Princess Louisa Provincial Marine Park in 1965. The Princess Louisa International Society continues to play an active role in the conservation and management of the park.
It is your park now, for you to enjoy. We are all its custodians. Your help and cooperation in helping to preserve and maintain it is earnestly sought. Please observe the courtesies of the sea whether afloat or ashore. It is our responsibility to make sure that this magnificent park remains as beautiful as it always has been.
Photo courtesy of Sunshine Coast Tours - daily tours of Princess Louisa Inlet
Perhaps Erle Stanley Gardner's description of Princess Louisa Inlet in his Log of a Landlubber will help us in our efforts to keep this park in its state of serene natural beauty. Mr. Gardner wrote:
"There is no use describing that inlet. Perhaps an atheist could view it and remain an atheist, but I doubt it. There is a calm tranquility which stretches from the smooth surface of the reflecting water straight up into infinity. The deep calm of eternal silence is disturbed only by the muffled roar of throbbing waterfalls as they plunge down from sheer cliffs. There is no scenery in the world that can beat it. Not that I've seen the rest of the world. I don't need to, I've seen Princess Louisa Inlet.
Every day showed some new glimpse of nature. Constantly changing clouds clung to the sheer cliffs for companionship, drifting lightly from crag to crag, lazily floating along above their swimming reflections giving ever new light combinations, ever new contours. Clouds, water, trees, mountains, snow and sky all seem to be perpetually the same through the countless ages of eternal time, and yet to be changing hourly. One views the scenery with bared head and choking feeling of the throat. It is more than beautiful. It is sacred."
And so today, over half a century after Mac first saw this unique and lovely fjord, people still come, many of them again and again, to thrill to its beauty which is ever new and always changing, yet still the same, a place where, as Mac said, "a person can find the peace that passeth understanding."
- Princess Louisa International Society
- Sightseeing Tours with Sunshine Coast Resort
- Tour Princess Louisa Inlet with Sunshine Coast Tours
- Kayak Princess Louisa Inlet with Talaysay Tours
- BC Parks: Princess Louisa Inlet Marine Park
- 1st person account visiting the park