I walked down the ramp of the jade silt colored Bella Coola Harbour and stepped on board the Zodiac boat courtesy of Kynoch Adventures. My guides Fraser Koroluk and Holly Willgress were going to take me to Tallheo Cannery. On the way there, we stopped by a breathtaking area called the eagle wall. I spotted eagles perched high in the trees, saw waterfalls that were flowing down rock faces and marveled at the magnificent scenery of the fjord.
As we pulled up to the cannery, I saw how it was left in its natural state of disrepair but it had this beauty and nostalgia to it. A part of the original cannery building had collapsed and was left on the pier, as though making a statement. The other side of the building had 2 levels that visitors can still walk through. The first level had all the machinery and tools and the second level stored lots of colorful gill nets that hung from the wooden rafters. There were also piles of nets lying on the sturdy wooden planks. I could have stayed in this cannery the whole day taking artistic pictures with my camera. The lighting was beautiful, and the vintage items and machinery left in the cannery are worth a thousand pictures. This truly is a photographer’s heaven. It’s as though the workers simply vanished into thin air, leaving everything the way it was. It felt surreal as though I stepped back into the early 1940’s.
In the late 1890’s, Tallheo Cannery was a thriving and prosperous canning industry and community. The Norwegians and the Nuxalk caught Spring and Sockeye salmon with their gill nets and canned the fish for storage and export. But shortly after the improvement of refrigeration, the need for canning decreased.
Jim Newkirk, the current owner of the cannery and the property, admitted that the cannery’s restoration is a huge endeavor not just financially but physically for just one man. But on the flip side, he is proud to showcase the original state of the cannery to the public, as it is a rare and unique opportunity. Jim is a big-hearted man who has a passion for people, for Bella Coola and the historic significance of the cannery.
Jim turned the 1920 worker’s bunkhouse into a bed and breakfast inn. I still haven’t figured out how this “one man and one dog show” can manage the whole property but it looks great. I noticed he always makes time to have coffee or conversation with all of his guests. There are 15 quaint rooms furnished with either a double or twin bed. The rooms are decorated with mirrors, candles, vanity area and pictures. There are also family and group apartments available. It’s simple, bright, and clean and has a lot of warm hospitality from Jim. He even runs a cozy restaurant that offers home cooked meals.
One of the highlights for me was to explore the original general store and cannery back office. Jim admitted he did not touch anything, rearrange it or clean anything up; and I believe him! Everything is in its exact same place and condition as it was when it closed down. That’s what makes this cannery so unique! There is so much to see, explore and do on the property; from hiking the trails, to strolling on the beach or enjoying the majestic surroundings of the fjord.
Jim shared with me about a spirit who lives on the property. Not a spooky spirit but a friendly “keep you company” spirit. Jim “inherited” Tom, a former cannery worker, when he bought the cannery. Tom called it his home even after the cannery shut its doors. Jim allowed him to live there, but when Tom’s health started to deteriorate, he had to be hospitalized. Somehow Tom always managed to hitchhike back to his home in the cannery. This happened until he died. And so his friendly spirit peacefully rests in the Tallheo Cannery Inn. Enjoy your vist. The Tallheo Cannery and inn is open from June till September.
PO Box 100, Bella Coola
BC, Canada V0T 1C0
Telephone: (250) 982-2344
1900 Hwy 20, Bella Coola Valley, BC
Tel. 250-982-2298 / Toll Free 1-866-982-2298