Ucluelet's population lives 'Life on the Edge', and visitors get to experience it. Ucluelet is on the rugged west edge of Vancouver Island, the beautiful west edge of British Columbia, the beckoning west edge of Canada.
Since early days, 'Life on the Edge' has been tied to both land and sea. This was true for the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations who have stories and legends about living in the Ucluelet area since the world began. (Archaeological evidence documents their presence as far back as 4,300 years.)
Ucluelet is a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation word meaning 'safe harbour' or 'safe landing place.'
Fishing, forestry, and mining were the main economic drivers in the past and, at least in the case of the first two, are still mainstay. The discovery of gold around 1900 at nearby Florencia Bay brought settlers to the area. But pursuing the gold commercially eventually proved impractical.
The turn of the 20th century also brought development of a fishing industry and with it more people settled in Ucluelet. The predominant species were salmon, halibut, cod, and herring. As a result of the increasing catch, canneries, fish buying stations, reduction plants, and processing facilities were added to the area's infrastructure. The introduction of their salmon trolling method also helped the fishing industry grow. Historically, and still today, commercial fishing in Ucluelet has its high and low cycles.
Forestry figures prominently in much of Ucluelet's history and lifestyle, but logging really started to dominate in the 1950s. For close to 40 years forestry provided families in Ucluelet with a reliable and relatively prosperous income. Like fishing, however, forestry has its ups and downs; dependent on market conditions and dependent on environmental concerns.
The gradual establishment of road access to and from the Ucluelet area greatly influenced the community's history. During World War II a road was built connecting Ucluelet with Tofino principally to provide access to the military airport near Long Beach. In 1959 the road to Port Alberni opened but was not paved until 1972.
Since that time tourism has taken off here and shows no sign of letting up.
Tourism has added to Ucluelet's economic profile in the last twenty years.
Tourists enjoy numerous sandy beaches and trails in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve as well as the ever popular Wild Pacific Trail. Sport fishing, whale watching, zipline tours, cultural tours, nature cruises, hiking, kayaking, and eco-tourism opportunities abound in Ucluelet. We boast a wide variety of accommodations, eating establishments, and stores for everything you need to make a memorable and enjoyable holiday. Come and experience life on the edge; you won't be disappointed.
Compiled November 2000: Lisa Stewart
Photo Credit: Mary Christmas