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Part 3: The Founders’ Story

Craig and Deborah Murray

Waterfall in Sight (Sort of) – No Business Plan Needed

Niagara Falls makes a huge impression on anyone who grows up in the surrounding area. Whether learning about the terrifying barrel descents or taking that first Maid of the Mist journey “under” the falls with out-of-town relatives, the power of the cataract never leaves a local kid’s memory. The mighty Niagara also serves a pragmatic function, producing enough kilowatts every day to power 3.8 million homes. This may explain why Ontario native Craig Murray knew he needed to locate a waterfall if he was going to fulfill his dream and build a wilderness lodge 4,674 kilometers away in remote British Columbia.  

“I asked a lot of old-time loggers if they knew where there was a waterfall to be found and they said, ‘go to Nimmo Bay,’ ” recalls Craig. “So, in June of 1980, we set out in a boat to Nimmo Bay from Port Hardy. I had no idea where I was as the bay was enshrouded in low fog and we could hardly see to the bow. But when we cut the engines, we heard the waterfall tumbling down.”

Craig nosed the vessel onto the shore, jumped out, and discovered a breathtaking cascade coming off the 2667-meter tall Mt. Stevens.

“The water was just exploding into the ocean,” he says. “There were definitely fish in the area and, best of all, nobody else around.”

Craig also knew that, though there were fishing lodges to the south, the area encompassing Nimmo Bay had never become a popular destination. He was thrilled to be all alone to develop his business. He admits today he hadn’t really thought through the potential complications that might arise in establishing a destination from the ground up without any support in sight.

“My parents had left me a small amount of money and I finagled a small loan, but a business plan never entered my head. I just wanted to create a place for my family. I figured whatever happened would come about from shithouse luck. I was determined to open a fishing resort with four boats and raise my family in the wilderness. That was my only plan, if you could call it that.”

Even today Craig can’t quite explain why he felt compelled to pioneer with his young family in the middle of the bush, believing it had more to do with “something magical between the waterfall and Mt. Stevens” than any ambitious commercial vision.

I knew I would have to pull out all the stops to prove that it could be done,” he says. “Of course, it was necessary to have the right partner to make it work. I was lucky to have Deb by my side every step of the way.”

Fraser and Clifton were three and one years old respectively when the Murrays left civilization to relocate in the unknown world where, Craig says, “it was beautiful with bears and fish, herons and eagles. And all around us was life-giving water that I knew would sustain us.”

Although the combination of cascade and mountain peak is indeed magical in essence, no amount of wizardry was going to create electricity for the nascent resort. To do so Craig learned he required a Pelton wheel, a 1,500-pound water turbine. After he found one, he would have to barge it to Nimmo Bay and off-load it, not just on any random day, but on the highest tide of the year.

To be continued…

Words: Crai S Bower

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