Wow, folks, it’s been quite the week here as previously mentioned, and today’s post is going to be in-depth with an entire series of images.  Grab yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in for a story filled with beauty, secret talks, a wonderful scenic island and a whole lot of controversy.

To give you some background on Great Central Lake here on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, it is situated pretty much in the dead center of the island.  The lake and it’s surroundings are the gateway to Canada’s tallest waterfall, Della Falls.  This is a very remote lake with primary access being off of secondary roads.  Once you encounter the tip of the lake itself, there really is only boat and plane access.  We were very limited to the area we were able to actually get into and photograph.

This has to be one of the largest lakes on Vancouver Island.  On the map it’s absolutely massive.  We were in the bay at the tip of the lake, near a small resort with RV spots and a boat launch.  We were able to see only a smidgeon of the lake itself, pretty much 99% of it was not accessible to us via car at all.

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

This image shows us our first glimpse of the size of the issue at hand here.  This houseboat pictured is located on the shore of the lake.  No roads were evident at all to provide access to this home.  Travel by boat and plane are your only options here.  Many of the homes are very old, some dating back to the early 1920’s.  These are primarily folks who love lake living and are quite used to getting around by boat to go to the store and the mainland for provisions and such.

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

We understand that somewhere around 50 of these houseboats are unauthorized.   This is where the controversy comes into play.  Details are rather murky on this story, but it seems that somehow the provincial government and the local Hupacasath First Nation group have been entered into a court ordered mediation process since 2008.

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

 CBC News in Canada reports:

The Supreme Court found the provincial government failed to consult the Hupacasath First Nation before removing about 70,000 hectares of privately owned land from an area tree farm licence in the area. Much of the land is part of the Hupacasath’s traditional territory and includes spiritually significant sites.

We’re rather used to stories emerging periodically that show the government repeatedly is engaged in back-door negotiations with local development groups and land-owners to transfer land in and out of crown possession.  This typically doesn’t sit well with island dwellers.

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Our limited information on this situation reveals that even the local resort that appears to have been there for quite some time, and has a direct involvement in the area and these talks underway, has not even fully been notified of the situation.  A spokesperson for the resort wasn’t even aware the top-secret talks were happening, and had been happening for several years now.

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

The current rumors have it that the talks could result in one of two things happening, in terms of the current residents of the lake.  One scenario would be no real change at all for the folks.  The other scenario sees them all being evicted, and undoubtedly the homes destroyed as these are VERY difficult to move, especially the old ones.  In this end result, a new resort would be built on the lake.

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

For any long-term residents this would probably cause hardship.  This would be the only place they’ve known for most of their lives.  Well used and suited to harsh living conditions in the interior of BC, especially in the winter, these hardy people would be forced to move somewhere.  Where, we have no idea.

We don’t mind progress or development, per se, it’s the way that the developers and government seem to constantly work behind the scenes to keep us all ill-informed, only to eventually hand over large swathes of pristine land to developers, that really bothers us.

Given that nature of the recent news, we felt compelled to get out there and take as many photographs as we could to document this place before it changes forever.  One of Mother Nature’s prime secret locations is about to be uncovered and turned into a playground for wealthy and privileged people.

We really, really tried to go further around the lake, using the gravel logging roads.  These roads are very dangerous, you have logging trucks fully loaded running at break-neck speed up and down these roads.  But, even with being on the logging roads, the actual lake itself was too far away to see from our vantage-points.  When we scrutinized the map and our GPS system, we realized there was no way we’d get to see the lake proper without hiring a plane.  But, at least we did manage to get this series of images to share with everyone.

And just to show you the level of dedication your Toads have when it comes to breaking stories like this, when we were on the logging roads Mrs. Toad had to make a quick rest-stop.  After a bit, we found a nice little place right alongside a tributary that looked quiet and peaceful.  After Mrs. Toad was done here, we hopped back into our car and went further along.  5 minutes later we decided at that point this was fruitless in terms of lake access, and we should turn around…

When we drove past the spot where Mrs. Toad had just been moments before, we saw a black bear.  I actually couldn’t believe it.  I turned around to show Mrs. Toad that I wasn’t seeing things, and lo-and-behold…  this rather large black bear was sitting RIGHT IN THE SPOT we were not 5 minutes previous, and boy oh boy was he curious as to what we were up to!  Bears don’t get to see too many people up here, so they can be very unpredictable.  Needless, to say, we haven’t been able to stop talking about that since it happened; yours truly, the Toads, were almost bear meat.

And finally, we have a couple of bonus shots to share here on our blog with everyone, just because they are somewhat interesting…

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

On our way out, we found this tree.  Right in the middle of a VERY dangerous road with no pull-offs whatsoever sits this exhibit.  I literally had to park on the road, jump out, grab these shots, and climb back in and take off before a fast approaching logging truck performed some extensive body work on us and our car.  This tree is complete with shoes, parking cones, flags, long johns, undergarments, and even…  a calculator.  Not sure what the purpose of this was, but it was certainly interesting enough to grab a picture of it!

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Great Central Lake - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

And finally, we saw this very old wooden trestle on our way out.  Probably not in active use anymore, these sorts of really fascinating structures pepper the landscape of Vancouver Island.  In fact, we’ve got another story coming your way soon that is wonderful and astonishing, and is loosely related to this.  If you’re enjoying our running blog posts here, please do stay tuned!!

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit us today, and for spending the time to read this pretty extensive post.  It really means so very much to us here at The Hollow.  As always, we encourage you to leave us some comments if you have time as we truly love to hear from all our visitors.

  1. avatar jimdenham says:

    Wow, great insight in the lake politics, but, more importantly, what great images of the houseboats and their surroundings! The romance of living on the lake, especially this beautiful one, sure gets the blood boiling, and the fact that it has limited access, just makes it that much better! Glad you’re not bear food! Keep the posts a-comin!

  2. avatar Dave DiCello says:

    This is an outstanding series Toad, and really an excellent write up! Throuoghly enjoyed this for sure!

  3. First what a great read. You guys document your adventures so well. I do well to remember my name at the end of the day. Second the 4th pic down is spot on. I love the color and subtle reflections in the water.

    • You give us far too much credit Chris, I have my name printed in 72 point font and stuck to the wall here for reference… LOL Thank you ever so kindly for your visit and most wonderful comments my friend, it really means a lot to us here!

  4. avatar Kristi Hines says:

    Glad you guys got out of there before the bear came by. Any photos of the big guy? 🙂

    These are gorgeous photos – I hope the people will be able to keep their homes. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to leave such a perfect place that you’ve known for so long. Plus I’m sure the residents protect the natural beauty of the land more than a resort and its tourists would.

    • Hiya Kristi, I can honestly say that we’re pretty happy not to have become bear fodder ourselves, that’s for sure! Nope, I did not get any pictures of that guy, I was RUNNING TOO FAST! LOL Indeed, the area up there was pretty much pristine, as you see it in the photos here. I agree that the locals take great pride in their area, probably better so than the tourists would. No stopping progress, though, I guess. I think the hardest part for everyone is more the government and their shady handling of the situation. Regardless, thanks so kindly for your visit & comments here today, much appreciated!

  5. avatar Viveca Koh says:

    Great shots Toad, what a beautiful tranquil place this looks – those watery reflections are wonderful. However, I am very glad that neither of you ended up as bear meat or squashed by a logging truck during your photographic quest!

    • Survival is key if you want to share your photos, I find! LOL Thank you so very much for your kind comments and the visit today Viveca, it’s always such a highlight for us when you pop by!

  6. avatar Jim Nix says:

    great shots Toad, lovely color and scenery, and glad you all got to take some photos before it is gone (if that happens) – and glad to hear the bear missed you all!!

  7. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Interesting story man. You amaze me at how adept you are at finding all the drama around you. Good work.

  8. A very interesting post Toad! I really enjoy the stories that go with your photos. That is so funny about the bear. Reminds me a bit of dog behaviour when one dog has to go exactly where the other dog went. Wonderful shots to go with the story too.

  9. avatar Cathy Ross says:

    Amidst the beauty, you have your fair share of drama there on your Island Toad! Inspite of it all, the photos are absolutely stunning!

  10. avatar Jose Vazquez says:

    Wow…these are absolutely beautiful. I love the scale in that first shot with the house and the awesome forest backdrop. You live in a truly magnificent place. It was fun reading about your little adventure.

  11. Wow that is a fascinating story and the pictures are outstanding. As a fellow Canadian living out east…in Ontario we don’t here too much about local issues in the west. I’ve been to BC and it is a beautiful province and your pictures prove it. Thanks for sharing.

  12. avatar Heather says:

    Gotta love government that acts like they are not accountable to the people…

    What a beautiful area, I would fight to stay there if I were a resident!

  13. avatar Mike says:

    This is a great story to open the eyes of the people. Governments regularly do back door deals and keep the people out of the loop in order to get things done. Ever wonder why gasoline is so expensive??

    You photographs are beautiful. I love the clarity of the lake and how it not only reflects but enhances the color of its surroundings. Were I a lake dweller here, there would likely be a small civil war occurring to take my place!!

    • Awesome, awesome comments here tonight, Mike, thank you so much! We hope to both document history and to perhaps also provide a little insight into active issues around us here. Your great comments here tonight really mean an awful lot to us!

  14. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Wow Toad, great story. After spending a short time in Victoria last week, this hits home. Hopefully this series not only documents the lake but also helps in stopping it from being changed for the worse. All the images are fabulous and I agree with Chris that the 4th one is just outstanding. Keep up the great work.

  15. avatar Jerry Denham says:

    It’s a shame how “progress” can get in the way of some of the most beautiful places on earth huh. These are some of my favorite images from you Toad. Unbelievable colors and reflections to go along with a fantastic post.

  16. avatar Andy Gimino says:

    Great post Toad….Love the images! Your always so descriptive! Love your posts my friend!

  17. avatar Scott Wood says:

    First of all, great post, I really enjoyed reading it. The images really do a great job of putting me there. I would love to visit sometime.

  18. Very beautiful pictures Toad! I hope everything turns out well for the residents there. That’s an “interesting” tree to say the least! Glad you guys weren’t bear meat!

  19. avatar Sheila Warren says:

    I happened to grow up at Great Central Lake when it was a logging camp. My Dad worked for MacmIllan Blodel. All those pictures brought back many happy memories! We used to have great fun in the summer, swimming in the lake, water skiing and hiking. It was quite a community with an elementary school and a couple of halls where community functions were held. I’ve never seen Della Falls but I have been to the very end of the lake where the river runs out from the falls, That community was closed down, all the houses either demolished or moved to other sites in 1965. I still drive out there occasionally to have a look around.

    • Now, how wonderful is this. Thank you SO much for taking the time to leave your thoughtful and insightful comments here today Sheila, it really means a lot to us! Really great to hear about stories from around the lake from someone else you has actually been there. Thank you so much!

    • avatar Marilee Wein says:

      I actually played with Sheila’s older sisters as I too, spent several years living at Great Central Lake. It was a unique and wonderful life experience of the early to mid 1950’s. We wandered the bluffs eating wild berries we picked from the bushes as we ambled about. We gorged ourselves to tummy aches from hidden cherry trees that were part of an orchard planted years before. And of course, the wharf, rolling logs and everything water. I remember significant snow one winter and the tunnels and forts my brother built, and the long school bus rides into Port Alberni. Most of all, Great Central’s green beauty and enchanting noises of the woods.

      • Hi Marilee, it’s a pleasure to meet you here on our blog, thank you for visiting and commenting! These are terrific memories that we are quite sure all our readers will enjoy. Thanks for your visit and for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment, we hope to see you here at The Hollow again soon! 🙂

  20. avatar star says:

    Hi there. I happened across this today and thought you might like some truth about this so called resort. I live there. All of these float-homes are privately owned and pay a lease to the private land owner of this area. The illegal homes your referred to are much further up the 45 km long lake.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to visit us in our corner of the internet here! We always appreciate it when folks like you pop by with great insights into the stories we share. Best wishes for your upcoming summer and thanks again for popping by!

  21. Your site is new to me. Loved reading this. Loved the photographs, the text… very informative for someone who lives in England but is interested in BC. Thanks very much.

    • Thank YOU James, that means a lot to us here! We really appreciate you taking the time to visit and for leaving these great comments today. We hope to see you here again at The Hollow in the future!!

  22. avatar T says:

    I’m from port alberni and u could have accessed the lake via logging road at what is referred to as ‘boy scout camp’. the tree essentially was started as a ‘rest your old sole tree’ and was shoes only now it’s got a few interesting items. I have a shoe up the tree. we were fishing on the lake in a boat and at a beac for a pit stop I stepped in feces my runner ruined I came in from fishing with one shoe on the way home i made them stop and donated my remaining clean (new) shoe and came home shoeless

  23. avatar aka_6 says:

    I’m sure if you’d gone down to the dock someone would have been more than willing to give you a tour, too bad you didn’t get hatchery shots or the lagoon w/ it’s air strip

    • We are hoping to return at some point in the future, we’ll try and find someone to talk to and dig a little deeper into the story. I am sure our readers would love an update, this post was written some 3 years ago now after we discovered the story in the news. Thanks for taking the time to visit, and many thanks for your comments!

  24. avatar Irene says:

    Hi – I am a local. Very disappointed with your story. You should have taken the time to talk to more people than make assumptions. First off these are not house boats – they are float houses/cabins. House boats can be seen all over Sproat lake. The gravel roads also are not as dangerous as you are leading people to believe. There are many campsites off of them that you can travel too which people camp at every year. You would need a 4×4 to be on the safe side however it can be traveled by car but not ideal for your car. There are also different ways to the lake besides the one you took with the tree full of clothing items that are not as windy but they are gravel. Your pictures are beautiful but I am so disappointed with your article.

    • Hi Irene, thanks for visiting us and for taking the time to leave your thoughts, we truly appreciate it. As I mentioned in another comment, we are hoping to return at some point to do a follow-up story on this post which was originally written in the summer of 2011. Perhaps we could meet you there and learn more about the area and your experience. Thank you so much once again for your visit.

  25. avatar Erin says:

    Thank you for this lovely piece! I grew up in Port Alberni and often visited, camped and picnicked at Great Central Lake. It would be a pity to see it fall into the hands of the government as you’ve described. Keep up the great work and please keep sharing challenges like this.

    • Thank you so much Erin, we really appreciate your visit and you taking the time to leave these great comments!! Stay tuned, my friend, we’ve got more feature stories from Vancouver Island in the works here!

  26. avatar Jordan says:

    Just wanted to inform you all, though all you report is true, sneaky and underhanded, this Lake and Ark resort marina were once open to the public, but now you can barely use the gravel beach just after the float homes, as the people there make you feel very unwelcome, like they are the only people allowed access to this HUGE lake. Also just to be very clear, these people may be residents, unauthorized residents, in other words SQUATTERS! And have been very informed as to their precarious standing as far as their length of staying in these spots are concerned. Also not to mention they do not have proper septic systems in place, rather they do it right in the water itself, now, how fair is that to the rest of us, who would also love to use this lake, without having to buy our way into using it, via through their ARK resort ? Sorry, I for one do NOT feel sorry for these pretentious dwellers, I do however feel sorry that this has turned into a fiasco, where only the well to do get access and usage of this lake, I have lived in Port Alberni my entire life and most of these people have built and taken up residence without permits and such since I can remember way back when, –when they first weren’t allowed to build there in the first place!

    • This seems to be an issue with opinions on both sides of the argument. Thanks for taking the time to visit us, Jordan, and for these comments. We certainly have no idea what’s in store for the lake or the residents there as it seems the next chapter continues to unfold. We certainly appreciate your visit and comments here, thanks.

    • avatar star says:

      FYI…The Ark Resort, now called Great Central Resort, and the long stretch of land towards the back of the bay, is privately owned property. The owner, to whom we pay a yearly lease, has very strict rules and regulations regarding the homes on his land. We all have composting toilets, and are NOT “doing it in the water”. The beach you mention is on private land in the campsite, and is for use by the campers at the resort. Yes, there are other float homes further up the lake, and they too pay to be there, and are closely regulated. One of our local First Nations is presently in the process of developing a plan to bring these homes in to a new community which they will then be responsible for.

  27. avatar Dean Stewart says:

    I’m sorry unless something has changed since I retired on April 4, 2014 you have not got your facts correct on the story about float homes on Great Central Lake. There are float homes located on private land owned by TimberWest and these homes have systems in place to manage their black and gray water. There are newer float homes down the lake that are illegally anchored and located on provincial crown lands. These float homes are trespassing and are the ones that either must be removed from the Lake or relocated to a site specifically designed to manage them. Great Central Lake is a beautiful and relatively pristine. The Lake is very important to spawning sockeye salmon and as a future water supply to the city of Port Alberni. To get the correct messaging out there I suggest contacting your local Natural Resource Office and speak with the Lands Officer, 4885 Cherry Creek Road.

    • Thanks for taking the time to visit us and for leaving these comments Dean, we really appreciate it. Thanks for the fresh lead on this story, we’ll try and follow up on this.

  28. avatar M.Fix says:

    Interesting how people come up with these off the wall stories about how it works on Great Central Lake. There is like 14 cabins that are on private land that includes the resort that is not owned by a forest company .There is also about 25 or so on private forest land, these ones on private forest land have not payed anything to the forest company to date. There is 43 on crown land and these cabin owners pay $1000 a year to the provincial government, and have been doing so for the last 5 years while a deal is put together with the natives. Woren Lauder a member of the band council that is in these nagotions has stated in the local paper that they intend to increase the number of float cabin on the lake by 50 to 100 more if it is feasalble. The geverement has a no construction order in place that is strictly inforced until they have reached a agreement with the local native band. I’ve been told by the reaganal district that the cabins on the private forest will likely fallow siute with the cabins on the crown land after a deal is done. I have also been told by provincial government that the natives have applied for 3 marina sites on the lake 2 of which will be for float homes and the other boats. So far no additional information has come foreword on these matters. I will be in contact with provincial government in the next 2 weeks looking for a update on these proceedings. As for septic, composting toilets are used as well as some out houses up on the land. No one is dumping it in the lake , we drink the water. It’s always interesting when we get these arm chair jackasses going off about things they know nothing about but have some twisted deep desiear to see there option posted on the net for all to see. There squatters , they pay nothing to be there, there all dumping septic in the lake. Give me a break ,stick your head back into the sand and dream up some more stores.
    M. Fix President of the float home assissation.

    • This topic has certainly turned out to be quite active here on our blog with many different perspectives expressed by various visitors over time. Thank you for taking the time to visit us, and for leaving your thoughts here, we appreciate hearing from everyone.

  29. avatar lary luchinski says:

    great story and Photo’s. Any updates on what’s happening on this lake?

    • Hi Lary! No, I am sorry to say, we haven’t been back in a few years so we’re not sure what has become of this story. Thanks for your kind visit, we really appreciate it!