Salt Spring Island

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Salt Spring Island
Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring island
Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring island
The Southern Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island
The Southern Gulf Islands, including Salt Spring Island
ProvinceBritish Columbia
Regional DistrictCapital
 • MPElizabeth May (Green)
 • MLAAdam Olsen (GRN)
 • Land182.7 km2 (70.5 sq mi)
 (2016 Census)
 • Total10,557
 • Density57.78/km2 (149.74/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC−8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
Forward sortation area

Salt Spring Island (also known as Saltspring Island) is one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between mainland British Columbia, Canada and Vancouver Island.[1]

The island was initially inhabited by various Salishan peoples before being settled by pioneers in 1859, at which time it was officially called Admiral Island. It was the first of the Gulf Islands to be settled and the first agricultural settlement on the islands in the Colony of Vancouver Island, as well as the first island in the region to permit settlers to acquire land through pre-emption. The island was retitled to its current name in 1910.[2]

Salt Spring Island is the largest, most populous, and the most frequently visited of the Southern Gulf Islands.

Fulford Harbour and Skeena Queen


Salt Spring Island, or xʷənen̕əč, was initially inhabited by Salishan peoples of various tribes.[3][4] Other Saanich placenames on the island include: t̕θəsnaʔəŋ̕ (Beaver Point), čəw̕een (Cape Keppel), xʷən̕en̕əč (Fulford Harbour), and syaxʷt (Ganges Harbour).[4]

The island became a refuge from racism for African Americans who had resided in California.[3] They left California in 1858 after the state passed discriminatory legislation against blacks. Several of the families settled on this island; others on Vancouver Island. Before the emigration, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs traveled with two other men up to the colony to interview Governor James Douglas about what kind of treatment they could expect there. The Governor was a Guyanese man of multi-ethnic birth, and assured them that people of African descent in Canada would be fairly treated and that the colony had abolished slavery more than 20 years before.

The island was the first of the Gulf Islands to be settled by non-First Nations people. According to 1988's A Victorian Missionary and Canadian Indian Policy, it was the first agricultural settlement established anywhere in the Colony of Vancouver Island that was not owned by the Hudson's Bay Company or its subsidiary the Pugets Sound Agricultural Company.[5][6]

Salt Spring Island was the first in the Colony of Vancouver Island and British Columbia to allow settlers to acquire land through pre-emption: settlers could occupy and improve the land before purchase, being permitted to buy it at a cost per acre of one dollar after proving they had done so.[7] Before 1871 (when the merged Colony of British Columbia joined Canada), all property acquired on Salt Spring Island was purchased in this way; between 1871 and 1881, it was still by far the primary method of land acquisition, accounting for 96% of purchases.[7] As a result, the history of early settlers on Salt Spring Island is unusually detailed.[8]

Demographically, early settlers of the island included not only African Americans, but also (largely) English and British Isles settlers, including Irish and Scottish, as well as aboriginal and Hawaiian.[9] The method of land purchase helped to ensure that the land was used for agricultural purposes and that the settlers were mostly families.[10] Ruth Wells Sandwell in Beyond the City Limit indicates that few of the island's early residents were commercial farmers, with most families maintaining subsistence plots and supplementing through other activities, including fishing, logging and working for the colony's government.[11] Some families later abandoned their land as a result of lack of civic services on the island or other factors, such as the livestock-killing cold of the winter of 1862.[12]

During the 1960s, the island became a political refuge for United States citizens, this time for draft evaders during the Vietnam War.[13]

The island's name[edit]

The island was known as "Chuan" or "Chouan" Island in 1854, but it was also called "Salt Spring" as early as 1855, because of the island's salt springs.[14] In 1859, it was officially named "Admiralty Island" in honour of Rear-Admiral Robert Lambert Baynes by surveyor Captain Richards, who named various points of the island in honour of the Rear-Admiral and his flagship, HMS Ganges.[14] Even while named "Admiralty Island", it was referred to popularly as Salt Spring, as in James Richardson's report for the Geological Survey of Canada in 1872.[5][15] According to records of the Geographic Board of Canada, the island was officially retitled Saltspring on March 1, 1910,[14] though the year 1905 is given by unofficial sources.[5] According to the Integrated Land Management Bureau of British Columbia, locals incline equally to Salt Spring and Saltspring for current use.[14] The official chamber of commerce website for the island, which gives a date of 1906 for the renaming, adopts the two word title, stating that the Geographic Board of Canada, in choosing the one word name, "cared nothing for local opinion or Island tradition."[16]

Geography and locale[edit]

Located between Mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island is the most frequently visited of the Gulf Islands as well as the most populous, with a 2016 census population of 10,557 inhabitants.[17] The largest village on the island is Ganges. The island is known for its artists.[13][18] In addition to Canadian dollars, island banks and most island businesses accept Salt Spring's own local currency, the Salt Spring dollar.[16][19]

The island is part of the Southern Gulf Islands, (Salt Spring Island, Galiano Island, Pender Island, Saturna Island, Mayne Island), which are all part of the Capital Regional District, along with the municipalities of Greater Victoria. Salt Spring Island's highest point of elevation is Bruce Peak, which according to topographic data from Natural Resources Canada is just over 700 m (2,300 ft) above sea level.

Panorama of Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island
Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island, from Musgrave Road


Climate data for Saltspring Island (St. Mary's Lake) 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.0
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.3
Average low °C (°F) 2.0
Record low °C (°F) −10.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 162.1
Source: Environment Canada[20]

Hiking trails[edit]

Salt Spring Island has many hiking trails. Two of these trails are rough and windy trails that lead to the summit regions of both Bruce Peak 709 m (2,326 ft) above sea level, and Mount Tuam 602 meters (1,975 feet) above sea level. These two mountain peaks are the tallest points of land on the Southern Gulf Islands. Many short hikes can also be found on the island. One of these is the 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long trek to the summit of Mount Erskine, which is 441 m (1,447 ft) above sea level.[citation needed]

Notable residents[edit]

View of Fulford Harbour from Mount Maxwell


Salt Spring Elementary
  • Gulf Islands Secondary School
  • Salt Spring Island Middle School
  • Fulford Elementary School
  • Salt Spring Elementary School
  • Salt Spring Centre School
  • Phoenix School
  • Fernwood Elementary School


Local bus transit on the island is provided by BC Transit.

BC Ferries operates three routes to Salt Spring: between Tsawwassen (on the BC mainland) and Long Harbour (on the east side of Salt Spring), between Swartz Bay (at the north end of Vancouver Island's Saanich Penninsula) and Fulford Harbour (at the south end of Salt Spring), and between Crofton (on the east side of Vancouver Island) and Vesuvius (on the west side of Salt Spring).

Salt Spring Air, Seair Seaplanes and Harbour Air Seaplanes operate floatplane services from Ganges Water Aerodrome to Vancouver Harbour Water Airport and Vancouver International Water Airport. Kenmore Air operates between Ganges and Lake Union, Seattle, United States.

Salt Spring Island Library[edit]

Library facilities have existed on Salt Spring in one form or another since the early 1930s. The demand for books and resources has only grown since then, requiring constant expansions over the years to accommodate the needs of the island residents. In December of 2012, the new Salt Spring Island Public Library was opened. The library is staffed by two librarians and close to 200 volunteers.[21]

Books on Salt Spring[edit]

Salt Spring Island has a rich history of artists, creatives and authors. Below lists just a few of the books written about Salt Spring or by local authors.

General interest[edit]

  • Brunt, R.M. The Salt Spring Chronicles, Talus Publishers, 2008. ISBN 0978169026
  • Hamilton, Bea. Salt Spring Island, Mitchell Press, 1969.
  • Khan, Charles. Hiking the Gulf Islands: An Outdoor Guide to BC’s Enchanted Isles, Harbour Publishers, 2004. ISBN 1550173154
  • Khan, Charles. Hiking the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Harbour Publishers, 2011. ISBN 9781550175110
  • Lindholm, Vicky. Facts & Folklore: Salt Spring Island, Hidden Lighthouse Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0978336739
  • Nye, Louise. Salt Spring Cinema Pix, First Choice Books, 2010. ISBN 9781770840065
  • Sweet, Arthur. Islands in Trust, Oolichan Books, 1988. ISBN 088982083X
  • Thorburn, E. & Gray, P. Salt Spring Island, A Place To Be, Heritage House Publishing, 2010. ISBN 1895811279

Local histories[edit]

  • Bazzard, Charles. The magic of Maracaibo : stories of the Athol Peninsula, Salt Spring Island, Maracaibo Estates Ltd, 1998.
  • Japanese Garden Society of Salt Spring Island. Island Forest Embers, Japanese Garden Society of Salt Spring Island, 2018. ISBN 9780973781410
  • Kahn, Charles. Lady Minto Gulf Islands Hospital, Salt Spring Island: a history, Salt Spring Press, 2007. ISBN 9780973999020
  • Kahn, Charles. Salt Spring: The Story of An Island, Harbour Publishers, 1998. ISBN 155017262X
  • Kahn, C. & Hatfield, C. Forgotten Cusheon Cove: Salt Spring Island, Salt Spring Press, 2007. ASIN 0973999012
  • Spalding, David. Enchanted Isles: the Southern Gulf Islands, Harbour Publishing, 2007. ISBN 9781550174229
  • Sandwell, R.N. Contesting rural space : land policy and practices of resettlement on Saltspring Island, 1859-1891, McGill-Queens' University press, 2005. ISBN 9780773529526
  • Toynbee, Richard M. Snapshots of early Salt Spring and other favoured islands, Mouat's Trading Co., 1978.
  • Wilson, E. Salt Spring Island, British Columbia: 1895, Andesite Press, 2017. ISBN 1376131021


  • Arnett, Chris. The Terror of the Coast: Land Alienation and Colonial War on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, 1849 – 1863, Talon Books, 1999. ISBN 0889223181
  • Freeman, Peter. Cape Horn Birthday, Seaworthy Publications Inc, 2018. ISBN 9781948494045
  • Murray, Peter. Homesteads & Snug Harbours, Horsdal & Schubart, 1991. ISBN 9780920663134
  • White, E.C. & Bealy, J. Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone, Dancing Crow Press, 2009. ISBN 0973251913


  • Akerman, B. & Sherwood, L. The Akerman Family: Growing Up With Salt Spring Island, Bob Akerman, 2005. ISBN 0973982608
  • Barman, Jean. Maria Mahoi of the Islands, New Star Books, 2004. ISBN 9781554200078
  • Conover, David. Sitting a Salt Spring, PaperJacks Limited, 1978. ISBN 0770100619
  • Conover, David. Once Upon an Island, San Juan Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0970739915
  • Conover, David. One Man’s Island, Crown, 1971. ISBN 0773600167
  • Davidson, Mary. Alexander Stewart McLennan 1845-1932 : a biography, Salt Spring Island, BC, 2008. ISBN 9780978450311
  • Grain, John. Mod n' Lavender: Salt Spring Island in the 60's, Tadpole Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9780973863413
  • Khan, Charles. Mouat’s: The First Hundred Years, Mouat’s Trading Company, 2006. ISBN 0973999004
  • Murakami, Rose. Ganbaru: the Murakami Family of Salt Spring Island, Japanese Garden Society of Salt Spring Island, 2005. ISBN 9780973781403
  • Saracuse, Taylor. Island Kids, Brindle & Glass, 2010. ISBN 9781897142431

Children's literature[edit]

  • Nye, Louise. Fritz the Cinema Cat, Trafford, 2007. ISBN 1425105130
  • Nye, Louise. Fritz the Cinema Cat Gets His Wings, Trafford, 2007. ISBN 1425151930
  • Shapiro, Roberta. In From the Cold: Hank's Story, Trafford, 2007. ISBN 9781425122621


  • Lloyd, J., Young, E., Lloyd, L. & Hart. H. Seven Seasons on Stowel Lake Farm: Stories and Recipes that Nourish Community, Page Two, 2018. ISBN 1989025080
  • Polden, R., Thornley, P. & Salt Spring Centre for the Creative and Healing Arts. Salt Spring Island Cooking: Vegetarian Recipes from the Salt Spring Centre, Macmillan Canada, 1993. ISBN 0771591942
  • The Salt Spring Centre. The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind, and Spirit, Wiley, 2003. ISBN 155335009X
  • Roerick, Jana. Flour Power – Recipes from Jana’s Bake Shop, Take Cover Press, 2010. ISBN 1926635310
  • Roerick, Jana. The Little Island Bake Shop: Heirloom Recipes Made for Sharing, Figure 1 Publishing, 2019. ISBN 177327063X
  • Wood, David. David Wood Dessert Book, Whitecap Books, 1989. ISBN 092139618X
  • Wood, David. David Wood Food Book, Whitecap Books, 1988. ISBN 092139604X
  • Wood, D. & Proctor, G. Cooking for Friends, Whitecap Books, 2018. ISBN 1770503005


Telecommunications service providers include Telus and Shaw, with most wireless carriers providing coverage. The Island is served by the Ganges and Fulford Harbour exchanges.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Natural Resources Canada-Canadian Geographical Names (Saltspring Island)". Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  2. ^ "The Province of British Columbia GeoBC (Saltspring Island)". Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  3. ^ a b Schulte-Peevers, Andrea (2005). Canada (9 ed.). Lonely Planet. p. 729. ISBN 1-74059-773-7. Originally settled by the Salish First Nation over a thousand years ago, it became a place where African Americans fled to escape racial tensions in the USA
  4. ^ a b "Saanich Place Names". Saanich Classified Word List. Retrieved 2012-07-16.
  5. ^ a b c Hill and Hill, 241.
  6. ^ Nock, David A.; Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion (1988). A Victorian Missionary and Canadian Indian Policy: Cultural Synthesis vs. Cultural Replacement. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. pp. 159–160. ISBN 0-88920-153-6.
  7. ^ a b Sandwell, Ruth Wells (1999). Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia. UBC Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-7748-0694-X.
  8. ^ Sandwell, Ruth Wells (2005). Contesting Rural Space: Land Policy and Practices of Resettlement on Salt Spring Island, 1859-1891. McGill-Queen's Press -MQUP. p. 3. ISBN 0-7735-2859-8.
  9. ^ Sandwell, Contesting, 4.
  10. ^ Sandwell, 89-90.
  11. ^ Sandwell, Beyond, 90-91.
  12. ^ Sandwell, Beyond, 93.
  13. ^ a b Hill, Kathleen Thompson; Gerald N. Hill (2005). Victoria and Vancouver Island: A Personal Tour of an Almost Perfect Eden (5 ed.). Globe Pequot. p. 242. ISBN 0-7627-3875-8.
  14. ^ a b c d "Origin Notes and History". Integrated Land Management Bureau of British Columbia. Archived from the original on May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ Richardson, James (1872-05-01). "Report on the coal fields of the East Coast of Vancouver Island". Report of Progress - Geological Survey of Canada. Geological Survey of Canada. Southward of Salt Spring Island, or, as it is named upon the chart, Admiralty Island, are situated
  16. ^ a b "Visitors: About Salt Spring Island". Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2009-03-09. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ Statcan: 2016 Census
  18. ^ Thompson, Wayne C.; Jacqueline Grekin (2003). Canada (5 ed.). Hunter Publishing, Inc. p. 633. ISBN 2-89464-476-0.
  19. ^ Official Salt Spring Currency Website
  20. ^ Environment CanadaCanadian Climate Normals 1981-2010, accessed 11 September 2017
  21. ^ "History of the Library | Salt Spring Island Public Library". Retrieved 2019-05-30.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°50′N 123°30′W / 48.833°N 123.500°W / 48.833; -123.500