August 25, 2023

R. Bruce Scott & Outer Shores Lodge – Part II

Expanding the lodge in 1947. Credit: S. Scott Collection

Welcome to Part II of our ongoing “The Lookout” series exploring the stories and history behind Outer Shores Lodge, and the site on which the lodge sits. If you missed our first entry in the series, ‘R. Bruce Scott & Outer Shores Lodge – Part I,’ which tells the story of Bruce Scott’s arrival in Bamfield, his days at the cable station, and the first cabin built on the site where Outer Shores Lodge sits today, be sure to read it here.

As we mentioned in Part I, the site on which Scott built his home had been the former site of two Huu-ay-aht long houses, and he and his wife Pauline Head, whom he met when she came to Bamfield as a tourist via the Princess Norah cruise ship, never felt that they were the owners of the property, but rather caretakers of a truly special location. And with support from the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, that’s an approach we maintain today. We’re fortunate to be able to share this awe-inspiring location with visitors from around the world, and we don’t take that for granted. 

A Voice in the Wilderness

From his earliest days in Bamfield, Scott recognized that this cabin’s location, looking out into the open Pacific Ocean, on the edge of what is now known as Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, had the potential to change the way people think and feel about their connection to the natural world, and he was devoutly committed to both protecting the region and bringing its splendour to people’s attention. 

Thanks to the dogged work of The Bamfield Historical Society, we know that Scott began writing about and promoting the area in earnest as early as the 1930s, as Scott wrote an article for the Victoria Daily Times dated Saturday, April 3, 1937 and titled ‘Coastline Scenery—Our Undeveloped Asset,’ in which he argued that Bamfield, with its access to so many beaches and so much wildlife, was eminently suited for tourism. 

But very few others saw it that way. “I was a voice crying in the wilderness,” The Bamfield Historical Society noted Scott as having said of his attempts to have people appreciate the region. There wasn’t a government parks branch to lobby at the time, still, Scott began his efforts to get the region recognized as such wherever and whenever he could. Unfortunately, time was not on his side at that moment as he quickly found himself in a race against development, as many of the beaches in the area were set to go up for sale. 

However, after Scott urged the British Columbia government to come visit the region for themselves and see what he was so emphatic about, the visiting government officials found themselves rather convinced of the incredible park potential, and a freeze was placed on the region. 

Still, that proved to be far from his final hurdle as he would spend the decades ahead leading the charge for the creation of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. He presented his idea, complete with promotional slideshows,  to seemingly every fish & game club, community group, natural historical society, or chamber of commerce that would have him; a long list of organizations that even included the Boy Scouts. He also took on letter writing campaigns to the many municipalities, asking that they endorse his vision and he wrote to the Provincial and Federal Governments across decades of correspondence. 

However, it took leaving his Bamfield home and then returning to it before he would realize he could take a much more active role in the act of hosting people in his little corner of Western Vancouver Island, and helping them to experience everything it had in store for them. 

Bamfield’s New Tourism Resort

Bruce and Pauline Scott as they appeared on their Christmas card in 1942, the year they were married. Credit: The Bamfield Historical Society

While Scott was ferociously campaigning for the creation of a park, the Scotts had to relocate to Victoria for a few years so that their daughter Susan could attend school, leaving the now expanded cabin vacant out on the point. When Susan requested to return to Bamfield two years later, the Scotts returned to find, unsurprisingly, that nothing in the house worked and it would take Scott a few weeks of hard labour to get their original family home back into shape.

It was while working determinedly, sleeves rolled up in the sun, that Scott had a moment of inspiration that would guide the future of the home he was restoring for the Scott family, as well many more people for decades to come. 

In his book ‘Bamfield Recollections,’ (which you can find in our Outer Shores Lodge library) he remembered his visionary moment like this:

“And while there one day waiting for lunch, I suddenly got a brain wave, it just hit me out of the blue – why not run the place as a tourist resort? I’d been trying to sell it to other people for that purpose but it had never occurred to me to do the same, myself.”

With that, the Scotts started operating one of the the first tourist spots in Bamfield, and the first true ecotourism resort on Canada’s Pacific Coast, one where guests could enjoy, learn, and were inspired from their experience in the region. Many thought Scott was crazy for following the siren call of his wilderness tourism operation dream, but just like his ambitions for the park, he believed he was in a special place, one that people wouldn’t be able to deny if he could just make enough people aware of what was in store for them. 

Pauline Scott on the beach in front of Outer Shores Lodge in 1942. Credit: S. Scott Collection

So while Outer Shores Lodge, then called Aguilar House, was now welcoming guests to share in the richness of Bamfield and beyond, Scott’s decades long push to create Pacific Rim National Park Reserve still had some distance to go, and future Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien would factor prominently into what happened next. More on that in our future “The Lookout” entries. 

Stay tuned to “The Lookout” and across our social media channels as we continue to share the story of R. Bruce Scott and the many other people whose stories intersected and connected with this incredible place over thousands of years. 

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