Up until the 1930s, Refuge Cove was one of the most remote places on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Tucked into Clayoquot Sound, it sheltered boats from Pacific storms and its hot springs provided welcome relief for anyone waiting for bad weather to pass. In spite of its natural wonders, the cove was undeveloped and transiently populated. But everything changed in 1933, when supply boat operator Ivan Clarke saw a business opportunity.
At the age of thirty, Clarke pre-empted land in Refuge Cove and started a general store/trading post out of a large canvas tent. In only its first morning of business, the store sold almost half its merchandise—250 dollars’ worth—to weather-bound fishermen and to a small group of Hesquiaht First Nation families. Clarke was quickly able to expand his operation and started a fish-buying camp, a marine fuel business and a post office. When enough of his eight children became school age, he repurposed a former floating bunkhouse into a one-room schoolhouse. By 1950, over sixty people lived in Refuge Cove, by then renamed Hot Springs Cove, and it was a popular destination for tourists.
Clarke originally had plans to develop the hot springs into a health resort, but in the end decided to donate part of his land to the people of British Columbia. Thirty-one acres of land beside the hot springs became Maquinna Provincial Park in 1955. Today, the park and the hot springs draw tens of thousands of people each year, making them one of the top tourist attractions out of Tofino.
Meticulously researched and complete with historical photos and ephemera, The Hot Springs Cove Story is the story of Ivan Clarke and his family’s lives, the story of a community and the story of a geographical wonder.