The Barkley region includes the municipalities of Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Bamfield as well as several small villages along the shores of Barkley Sound. It is home to 6 First Nations including the Tseshaht, Hupacasath, Ucluelet, Toquaht, Uchucklesaht and Huu-ay-aht. At one time in the history of Vancouver Island, Barkley Sound was home to the highest population of aboriginal peoples. This is likely due to the aquatic riches of Barkley Sound, including large populations of salmon, herring, shrimp, prawns, crabs, rockfish, and other species, and to its geography.
Barkley Sound is a maze of islands, bays and inlets. It is divided into 3 channels by 2 major island groups, the Broken Group and the Deer Islands. One of the reasons this region is so popular is that it provides a true west coast experience in sheltered water. The area supports a wide variety of bird species and is one of the major bald eagle habitats on the coast.
Port Alberni lies at the head of the Alberni Inlet, which is one of the finest deep sea ports in North America. Port Alberni has always been linked to fishing, but became a major forestry center in 1947. Through the 60's and 70's the city's population grew steadily, bringing businesses and residents to this scenic area. At one point in the 1970s Port Alberni is reputed to have had the highest per capita income of any municipality in Canada due to forest and fishing related jobs. Since the 1980's the community has had to respond to a downturn in the forestry industry and a resulting decline in the local economy.
Two First Nations currently reside in Port Alberni - the Tseshat and Hupacasath peoples. It is also the home of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council office - one of the first modern Councils of different First Nations formed in Canada - and the office of the WCVI Aquatic Management Board. With its many lakes and rivers, and its beautiful valley setting, Port Alberni is known as the scenic gateway to Vancouver Island's awe-inspiring Pacific Rim region.
Ucluelet and Itatsoo are small communities located on either side of a deep harbour at the entrance to Barkley Sound. Ucluelet, with a population of approximately 1700 people, has its roots as a commercial fishing town, though logging became a major activity from the 1970s through the early 1990s. Tourism has became a major industry since the creation of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, as Ucluelet sits conveniently between Long Beach (part of a 20 km stretch of sandy shore between Tofino and Ucluelet) and the Broken Islands (in Barkley Sound). With close access to both Barkley and Clayoquot, Ucluelet is a centre for whale watching, sport fishing, kayaking, surfing, and other recreational activities.
The area is the traditional territory of the Ucluth First Nation, whose name comes from "Yo-Clutl-Ahts", meaning "the people with good landing place for canoes." The Itatsoo community is home to 310 people with another 169 living off the reserve and is accessible by road, air and water. There are 9 reserve areas in total, comprising 199 hectares. The Uclulth people are neighbours to the Toquaht First Nation, who have a small community further up Barkley Sound at the site that many people use to access the Broken Islands. The Toquaht have 7 reserves on 196 hectares. Their name is derived from a Nuu-chah-nulth word meaning "people of the narrow channel."
On the south side of Barkley Sound lies the village of Bamfield. Nestled quietly in a protected inlet the community is accessible by gravel road from Port Alberni or by float plane or boat. Bamfield was originally a Huu-ay-aht settlement, but the Huu-ay-aht mainly now live in the neighbouring village of Anacla. They Huu-ay-aht have 13 reserve areas totalling 816 hectares. In 1902 Bamfield became the terminus for the trans-Pacific underwater telegraph cable, linking countries of the British Commonwealth. It is also home to the famous Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, which consists of 75 hectares of land and approximately 3.0 kilometers of waterfront.
Several small villages and camps exist in the heart of Barkley Sound. The Uchucklesaht First Nation, who have 2 reserves on 232 hectares, live at Henderson Lake. This unique area is home to the highest annual rainfall in North America.
For tourism information about this region, visit ucluelet.travel.