Old boots in Ocean Falls museum

Footsteps in Time

Today I’m revisiting a place I wrote about in a previous post, the ghost town of Ocean Falls (more photos below). Nestled against the mountains of Cousins Inlet on BC’s Central Coast, it’s a town that lives up to its name: with 172 inches/year of rain, it’s no wonder the 50 hardy year-round residents of Ocean Falls and adjacent Martin Valley call themselves The Rain People.

History is everywhere in Ocean Falls, covering the place like the fine dust on the boots in the photo above – one of hundreds of exhibits in the eclectic museum that one man has created above the old shipyard.

After the pulp and paper mill closed for the final time in 1980 and the town was written off by the government, a few determined residents managed to save part of the townsite from the wrecking crews. Among the “survivors” were the Martin Inn – once the largest hotel north of San Francisco – along with the firehall, ambulance station, high school, a large apartment building and a number of homes.

But they’re all pretty much in ruins. The paved roads of the townsite are travelled mainly by deer these days, who browse amid the deserted buildings and remnants of a once-thriving city of 5000 people. Each year brings the forest’s edge a bit closer.

But along the waterfront, however, there’s still life in Ocean Falls. The harbour authority provides sturdy and well-maintained docks for visiting boaters, and the lodge and the gift shop welcome tourists. The church and its garden are carefully tended by local volunteers. The post office is open for business, and the courthouse (complete with its old jail cells) has a new lease on life as home to the local improvement authority and public library.

And of course there’s the museum, occupying the top floor of the old shipyard. Curator “Nearly Normal” Norman Brown spent years sifting through the town’s ruins, unearthing a veritable treasure trove from the detritus of decades of everyday life: objects of work, play, commerce and household life. Collectively – and more eloquently than words could ever do – they illustrate the history of Ocean Falls and honour the thousands of people who lived here over the years.

More photos from Norman’s museum, Ocean Falls townsite & Martin Valley. (Click on any image to launch the gallery viewer with larger versions of the images.)

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About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer and writer focusing on nature and the environment

10 responses »

  1. […] Life Among the Ghosts – local photographer Laurie MacBride photographs a great series of images of a tiny town on the coast of Canada.  These images and the wonderful backstory that Laurie shares regarding the town combine to create a truly must-see post in this week’s list. […]

  2. A.Barlow says:

    Wonderful shot, has a nice rustic feel to it.

  3. Oh my goodness, Laurie! I can’t believe I didn’t have your blog in my RSS list… until now! I love your work and your backstories! Just wonderful! Thank you so much for visiting our blog today and leaving us your wonderful comments, and also I am so happy to have met you here! I will be following your posts regularly now, my friend. This is a GREAT post, love all the images and the story of the community echoes in my heart after reading about it. Just wonderful!!

    • Thanks so much, Toad, I’m delighted to hear that you like the post and images. And don’t feel bad about the RSS feed – Photocyberland is such a busy place that it’s very easy to miss people – the traffic can all be a bit overwhelming, I find! Glad to hear you’re now following and look forward to future conversations.

  4. Sherry Galey says:

    Thanks so much for introducing me to this part of Canada, Laurie. Your evocative images bring it to life and your words also paint a vivid picture. Kudos to those who work to preserve Ocean Falls.

  5. ehpem says:

    Great shots of one of those places I have wanted to visit for years now. Don’t think I could abide that much rain in a year though, I may be a wet-coaster, but I much prefer the drier douglas fir-arbutus-garry oak areas to the south for year round living

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