Howe Sound is a roughly triangular sound, or more precisely a network
of fjords situated immediately northwest of Vancouver.
3 Islands in Howe Sound
5 Industry and towns
6 See also
Howe Sound's mouth at the
Strait of Georgia
Strait of Georgia is situated between West
Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast. The sound is triangular shaped, open
on its southeast towards the Strait of Georgia, and extends 42
kilometres (26 mi) to its head at Squamish. There are several
islands in the sound, three of which are large and mountainous in
their own right. The steep-sided mainland shores funnel the breezes as
the daily thermals build the wind to 20 knots (37 km/h;
23 mph) plus at the northern end of the sound on a typical summer
day. A small outcrop of volcanic rock is located on the eastern shore
Howe Sound called the Watts Point volcanic centre.
The history of
Howe Sound begins with the Indigenous people, the
Squamish and Shishalh, who roamed this land and traveled on this body
of water for thousands of years, had village sites and camp sites
spread throughout the area. The land and islands are still used by
Shishalh for cultural practices. Both the Squamish and
Shishalh are a part of the Coast Salish linguistic and cultural
Spanish explorers observed the sound in 1791 and named it Boca del
Carmelo. Captain George
Vancouver entered the sound in 1792, and named
it after Admiral Earl Howe.
In 1888, copper was discovered in the mountains around Britannia
Creek, south of Squamish. Large scale mining began at Britannia Beach
in 1905, and by 1929, the largest copper mine in the British Empire
was located here, beside the shores of Howe Sound. The mine closed in
1974, but part of its historical legacy has been the large amounts of
toxic effluent it has deposited into Howe Sound.
Islands in Howe Sound
Passage Island marks the entrance to Howe Sound. It has a few
year-round residents and views of Downtown
Vancouver and Vancouver
Island. An unincorporated area, it is part of the Greater Vancouver
Electoral Area A which is a member of the Greater
Howe Sound will pass east or west of
Bowen Island is the most populous island and is nearest Vancouver,
being just opposite Horseshoe Bay. It is incorporated as an island
municipality and is a member municipality of Metro Vancouver.
Gambier Island is the largest of the
Howe Sound islands, to the
northwest of Bowen, near the
Langdale ferry landing. Gambier has a
small resident population, plus hundreds more who enjoy the SW
peninsula community in the summer months. This area has a year-round
foot ferry, Stormaway IV, run by BC Ferries, and a community centre.
Until recently, the only commercial location on the island, the
General Store, was located here, near New Brighton, where the ferry
lands. The store is now closed. This area of Gambier has landline
power and telephone. There also are numerous seasonal homes line the
shores of the southern bays (West Bay, Centre Bay, Port Graves, and
Halkett Bay) along with several local yacht club outstations in both
the southern and northern parts of the island. Beyond the SW
peninsula, seasonal visitors rely on solar, wind and generator power.
The northwestern shore of Gambier, with adjacent Thornborough Channel,
is still dominated by the forest industry. The "pond" at Andy's Bay is
one of North America's largest logsorts. A resident-operated woodlot
on provincial land (WL039) is located near Andy's Bay, with active
logging and reforestation. The northeast quadrant of Gambier also is
Crown land, with two more major woodlots proposed by the provincial
Ministry of Forests, but not pursued as yet due to the opposition of
many local residents, members of the Squamish Nation, whose territory
this includes, and concerned supporters of a less-industrial Howe
Sound. The island has excellent hiking in the provincial Crown land
that dominates its north sector.
A third, smaller but extremely steep and conical island to the
northeast of both is Anvil Island, also known as Hat Island. Anvil
Island has a summer church camp as well as a number of seasonal homes,
primarily in the southern bay formed by a prominent eastward
projecting peninsula. The north facing bay of this peninsula is
exposed to strong overnight and winter outflow northerly winds.
Howe Sound as seen from Cypress Mountain.
Keats Island, near Gibson's Landing, has numerous summer homes lining
its shores, in addition to a large church camp for children, a large
retreat resort and Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park. The island is
serviced by water taxi from Langdale. There is a small core of
permanent residents living in Eastbourne.
Between Keats and Bowen Islands lie the Pasley group, a cluster of
privately owned islands, each with a scattering of seasonal homes.
Further southeast lies Worlcombe Island, also seasonally inhabited.
Just north of Horseshoe Bay lies Bowyer Island, another steep sided
island with seasonal homes along its south and west shores. Like
Bowyer Island is also an unincorporated area and part
of the Greater
Vancouver Electoral Area A which is a member of the
Vancouver Regional District.
Uninhabited islands in the northern section of
Howe Sound include the
Defence Islands, a pair of rocky islands that comprise the Defence
Islands Indian Reserves 28 and 28A.
Christie Islet and Pam Rocks just south of
Anvil Island are recognized
bird breeding sites and a great place to view seals sunning
themselves. Pam Rocks is a reporting weather station for the marine
weather system. Winter northerly gales can reach close to hurricane
force here (see squamish wind).
Gambier Island and the Port Mellon mill lies Woolridge Island,
privately owned with a single residence.
British Columbia Highway 99
British Columbia Highway 99 (the Sea-to-Sky Highway, also known as the
Squamish Highway) runs along the east shore of Howe Sound, linking the
Lower Mainland to Lions Bay, Britannia Beach, Squamish, where it then
proceeds inland to Whistler and beyond. From 2007 to 2010, this
highway was upgraded to what would ultimately become a mixture of
four-lane divided sections, three lane sections with alternating
passing lanes, and some improved two lane sections. The first section
of Olympics-related improvements, between Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay,
opened in December 2005. Also following the east shore, and built
before and below the highway, is the former
British Columbia Railway
which was recently sold by the provincial government to the Canadian
National Railway Company. The
Pacific Great Eastern Railway
Pacific Great Eastern Railway between
Squamish and Lillooet was constructed 1912-16, and Squamish became a
busy place as a rail-port for freight and also burgeoning passenger
traffic as lodges up the rail line became popular with weekenders from
the city, who reached the railway via the MV Britannia. Railway
connections to North
Vancouver were completed in the 1950s, with a
highway built in the later 1960s that was the precursor to today's
BC Ferries runs regularly scheduled ferry service between Horseshoe
Langdale and between Horseshoe Bay and Snug Cove on Bowen
Island. They also run a foot-passenger-only ferry that serves New
Gambier Island and
Keats Landing and Eastbourne
settlements on Keats Island from the
Langdale ferry terminal near
Gibsons, an easy transfer from the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to
Langdale.There is also private water taxi service from Horseshoe Bay
Langdale to Bowen Island,
Gambier Island and Keats Island.
Industry and towns
Howe Sound from Mount Roderick. Woodfibre on near (west) shore in
Britannia Beach on far shore
Squamish is a minor deepwater port. It was the original southern
terminus of the BCR in the days when it was the Pacific Great Eastern,
and had a busy ferry terminal where travellers would disembark from
ferries and steamers bringing them in from
Vancouver harbour. In the
1960s what was then called the Squamish Highway was finally pushed
through from Vancouver. This made the former steamer service
unnecessary. Once a thriving forestry town, with recent cutbacks in
logging along with the closure and dismantling of a major sawmill in
2004, Squamish has become a tourist destination and a commuter
community for workers in nearby Whistler and Vancouver. The recent
closure of the Woodfibre pulp mill in 2006 signals an end to the
resource based economy here. Squamish is a world centre for rock
climbing, with the 1500' bulk of the Stawamus Chief, a huge rock
formation always busy with climbers, along with other formations
overlooking downtown and the head of Howe Sound. In addition,the
strong winds and flat waters at the upper end of
Howe Sound have made
Squamish a mecca for windsurfers, kite boarders and keelboat sailors.
Just south of town along Highway 99 is Shannon Falls, a tourist
attraction and provincial park, and Darrell Bay, which is the ferry
dock for service to the former pulp mill at Woodfibre, across the
sound. Woodfibre has no road access. From the early 1900s until 1973
there was a small company town surrounding the mill where most
employees lived. By 1975 all employees had relocated, mostly to
Squamish, and the town was dismantled. Over the next 30 years the mill
slowly expanded into the former townsite, but it closed in early
Porteau Cove is a provincial campsite and also a location for scuba
diving, as artificial reefs have been sunk in the area. The bluffs
above the highway in this area are one of the main avalanche hazards
to both the highway and the rail line, which are squeezed together
between the foot of the bluffs and the shoreline.
Furry Creek is the location of a new upscale golf course and resort
development. Proposals have called for a new highway from Vancouver
Capilano River watershed would emerge on Highway 99 at Furry
Creek. However, the fact that this route traverses the Lower
Mainland's Capilano watershed creates nearly insurmountable political
obstacles to its construction.
Lions Bay is a small residential community, incorporated as a village,
climbing the mountainside from
Howe Sound up to the west peak of the
pair of summits known as The Lions, which overlook
Vancouver on the
Near Squamish is Britannia Beach, the former gold and copper mining
town and port with some highway-based eateries and stores. Its name
does not come directly from associations with Britain, but from the MV
Britannia, the old Vancouver-Squamish steamer (A new MV Britannia
built in 1983 is in use as a tourboat based in Coal Harbour,
Vancouver). Today the mine mill site is the Britannia Mine Museum,
with mine shaft tours, gold panning etc. The prominent multi-story
mine building underwent a restoration with the replacement of hundreds
of window panes. The former mine site is also frequently used as a
shooting site for a variety of TV and movie productions, including for
the X-Files TV series.
Horseshoe Bay is a residential and commercial district of
the southern edge of the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The highway clings to the
cliffside above the BC
Ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay. Restaurants,
tourist shops and galleries, a pub or two and recreational marinas are
also situated in the community. Ferries from Horseshoe Bay, West
Vancouver go to Departure Bay in
Vancouver Island, Bowen
Langdale on the Sunshine Coast, which is the ferry
terminal for the southern Sunshine Coast.
The peninsula southwest of Horseshoe Bay, West
Vancouver terminates at
Whytecliffe, an upscale residential area and public park, which is the
southern point of Howe Sound's east shore. South of here is the
entrance of English Bay and Burrard Inlet. Also in the vicinity of
Howe Sound's mouth, at Point Atkinson is Lighthouse Park.
Just north of
Langdale is Port Mellon, another pulp and paper mill
somewhat larger than Woodfibre. Port Mellon, which, unlike Woodfibre,
produces paper and pulp (and is serviced by road from
Gibsons/Langdale) is one of the oldest operating mills in B.C.
Woodfibre's closure included measures securing the fibre supply for
Port Mellon, making its future considerably more secure.
At the southwest "corner" of Howe Sound, just a few kilometres south
Ferry terminal is the town of Gibsons.
perhaps best known as the locale for the former
CBC Television series
The Beachcombers. The restaurant featured in the series, "Molly's
Reach", remains open for business today.
^ "Howe Sound". Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Harbour Publishing,
^ "Britannia Mines". Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Harbour
^ a b "Metro
Vancouver > Services > Electoral Area A".
metrovancouver.org. Metro Vancouver. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
^ Sea to Sky Project overview - Ministry of Transportation
^ Procaccini, Marco (December 29, 2005). "Squamish Closure Latest in
Grim Trend — Amidst 'BC boom', Pulp and Saw Mill Jobs Vanishing".
thetyee.ca. The Tyee. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
^ Notes from the
Howe Sound Community Forum (p.7). November, 2000.
Coordinates: 49°33′N 123°16′W / 49.550°N 123.267°W /
Hydrography of British Columbia
Gulf of Georgia
Queen Charlotte Sound
Strait of Georgia