Bowen Island

Discovering Bowen Island, British Columbia: A Blend of History and Natural Beauty

Bowen Island, originally known as Nex̱wlélex̱wm in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, is a charming island municipality nestled in British Columbia. Part of Metro Vancouver and under the jurisdiction of the Islands Trust, it is situated in Howe Sound. The island spans approximately 6 kilometres wide by 12 kilometres long and is about 3 kilometres west of the mainland at its closest point. Regular ferry service from Horseshoe Bay, provided by BC Ferries, and semi-regular water taxi services make it easily accessible. The island's population of 4,256 swells in the summer with about 1,500 visitors, drawn to its land area of 50.12 km2 (19.35 sq mi).

The Rich History of Bowen Island, British Columbia

Indigenous Peoples of Bowen Island, British Columbia

The Squamish people, who named Bowen Island Nex̱wlélex̱wm in their language, used and occupied the area around Howe Sound, including Bowen Island. Areas such as Snug Cove and other parts of the island served as campsites for hunting and gathering trips. The island's traditional Squamish name, Xwlíl’xhwm, translates to "Fast Drumming Ground", a reference to the sound made by the ocean as it passes through the tiny pass between the island's northern point and Finisterre Island. The name "Kwém̓shem" is used for Hood Point. Today, Bowen Island is still used by people from Squamish and Musqueam for deer hunting.

Post-colonization History of Bowen Island, British Columbia

When Spanish explorers arrived on the west coast of Canada, they named many of the features of what is now the Strait of Georgia. Bowen Island was called Isla de Apodaca by the Spanish Captain José María Narváez in July, 1791. In 1860, Cpt. George Henry Richards renamed the island after Rear Admiral James Bowen, master of HMS Queen Charlotte. In 1871, homesteaders began to build houses and started a brickworks, which supplied bricks to the expanding city of Vancouver. Over the years, local industry has included an explosives factory, logging, mining, and milling, but there is no heavy industry on the island at present.

Bowen Island, British Columbia in the 20th Century

In the first half of the 20th century, life on Bowen was dominated by a resort operated by the Terminal Steamship Company (1900-1920) and the Union Steamship Company (1920 - 1962). These companies provided steamer service to Vancouver, and the Horseshoe Bay - Bowen Island Ferry began in 1921. When the Union Steamship resort closed in the 1960s the island returned to a quiet period of slow growth. In the 1940s and 1950s, the artists' colony called Lieben was a retreat for many famous Canadian authors, artists, and intellectuals. In the 1980s, real estate pressures in Vancouver accelerated growth on Bowen and currently the local economy is largely dependent on commuters who work on the mainland in Greater Vancouver.

Transportation on Bowen Island, British Columbia

Marine Transportation on Bowen Island, British Columbia

Bowen Island is served by three scheduled water-transportation operators: BC Ferries, English Bay Launch, and Cormorant Marine. BC Ferries offers a ferry service using the Queen of Capilano car ferry, which travels between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Snug Cove on Bowen Island. English Bay Launch runs a passenger-only water taxi weekday commuter service between Snug Cove and Vancouver's Coal Harbour, and on summer weekends runs a tourist service between Snug Cove and Vancouver's Granville Island. Cormorant Marine runs a passenger-only water taxi service providing late-night sailings between the government docks in Horseshoe Bay and in Snug Cove.

Land Transportation on Bowen Island, British Columbia

Public roads on Bowen Island are maintained by the Bowen Island Municipality. The terrain is hilly and winding, with roadside walking trails in only a few places. Private vehicles are the primary form of transportation and hitchhiking is commonplace. Bowen Island has limited bus service on these TransLink bus routes, which are timed to meet some ferry sailings: Route 280 Bluewater/Snug Cove, Route 281 Eagle Cliff/Snug Cove, and Route 282 Mount Gardner/Snug Cove (weekends and holidays only).

Demographics of Bowen Island, British Columbia

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Bowen Island had a population of 4,256 living in 1,724 of its 2,036 total private dwellings, a change of 15.7% from its 2016 population of 3,680. With a land area of 50.12 km2 (19.35 sq mi), it had a population density of 84.9/km2 (219.9/sq mi) in 2021.

Bowen Island, British Columbia in Films and TV Series

Bowen Island has been the backdrop for numerous films and TV series, including "The Trap" (1966), "The Food of the Gods" (1976), "Clan of the Cave Bear" (1986), "People Across the Lake" (1988), "American Gothic" (1988), "Cousins" (1989), "Look Who's Talking" (1989), "Bird on a Wire" (1990), "The Russia House" (1990), "Another Stakeout" (1993), "Intersection" (1994), "Hideaway" (1995), "All the Winters That Have Been" (1997), "Disturbing Behavior" (1998), "Double Jeopardy" (1999), "Antitrust" (2001), "Rugged Rich and the Ona Ona" (2004), "The Fog" (2005), "Paper Moon Affair" (2005), "The Hitchhiker" (2006), "The Wicker Man" (2006), "Are We Still the Ugly American?" (2008), "River" (2008), "The Uninvited" (2009), "Harper's Island" (2009), and "Virgin River" (2019).