For many years, there was a small first peoples village at the mouth of the Salmon River, where it flows into Kelsey Bay, it was inhabited by the Komox people. But by the beginning of the 20th century the inhabitants had left and today the village is gone. The first settlers to the area settled over across the river at Port H’kusum in the 1890s, Port H’kusam is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, just south of Kelsey Bay, it is below the snow capped peat of mount H’kusam. In the beginning, the port was accessed by water or by traveling a 7.5 km long trail that wound up and over a 350 meter ridge, this trail ran from the Sayward Valley.
T. Peterson, a settler who moved into the area at the end on the 1800’s built a store at Port H’kusam and in 1899, a government post office was opened in his store. There was a dock at the store where supplies were brought in by boat, the other settlers in the Sayward Valley would walk or ride horseback to Peterson’s store to purchase supplies and pick up mail.
Next to Peterson’s store, a hotel was built to accommodate travelers in the area, it was called the ruby hotel, the store is mostly gone now but you can see the hotel still, although it has fallen in and the land is claiming the site back. On July 1st, 1903, Peterson sold his store to Otto Sacht, who had immigrated from Germany, Mr Sacht became the new postmaster. Otto also built another store at the mouth of the Salmon River. By 1911, a road had been built into Kelsey bay and Otto closed down his store at Port K’husam and moved the post office to his new store in Kelsey Bay. Otto was still the post master.
From the time l was a lad of about 10 years old, I have spend a fair bit of time up in Sayward, my brother in law was the head chef in the mac/blo logging camp that was right on the bay. This was a big camp, the cook shack was like a hotel. The food was better than any hotel though. Several of my other brothers logged here as well. I began my logging career across the straight on Hardwick Island for the Bendickson Bros..
Sayward was at one time, the terminus for the B.C. Ferries Inside Passage route, but long before that, it was the terminus for the beaver cove ferry. I rode this ferry many times as it was the only route to reach the upper north island in those early days before the new hwy was opened in 1978, that was when hwy 19 was completed as far as port hardy. In those days, you could take a logging road from Gold River to the north island, but is was a long, dusty drive.
During the WW l years, a gravel road was constructed that connected Campbell River with Sayward and by the time l moved to Campbell River in 1961, the road was paved. My family would take drives up to valley in an old 1937 Plymouth that my dad had and us boys would fish at every spot my dad would stop at. These were good times, the fishing was awesome.
The Kelsey Bay Harbor at the ocean side of the valley is the only government harbor located between Campbell River and Port McNeil, it offers a wharf with freight derrick, a boat launch, plenty of space for boats, all protected with a well constructed break water system. The views visible from the wharf are incredible, from here you can see Mount H’Kusum with its foggy top, you can look up and down the straight for many km and across the straight is Hardwicke Island, beyond Hardwicke, you can see the coast mountains.
Just up from the wharf is the town-site of Sayward, Its a small, well laid out village with a post office, recreation center with pool, library, police station, ambulance and fire service. Up the valley are various hotels. motels, stores and cafes, the food is great, the service is awesome and the people are very friendly
This is a great place to live, we often sit on the old pier and watch for passing whales and dolphins. It also a great spot to watch the cruise boats go by. There are also many trails to hike up and down the valley and lots of community events that take place year round, all in all, its a wonderful place to spend some time exploring. My family and I moved here in 2016 and just love being part of this friendly valley.