Located halfway up the west coast of Vancouver Island, Clayoquot Sound encompasses 262,000 hectares (650,000 acres) between Tofino and the Hesquiat Peninsula. The coast is deeply scored with glacier-scoured inlets. Its ten major river valleys support the largest lowland temperate rainforest remaining on Earth.
At the entrance to Clayoquot Sound, Flores Island and Vargas Island protect the inside waters from the force of the Pacific Ocean swell. Meares Island provides a majestic backdrop for the village of Tofino. Here you'll find groves of thousand-year-old trees, some of the world's largest western red cedar and sitka spruce.
These lush forests feed nutrients to the aquatic life inhabiting the many tidal flats of the area, which in turn feed the multitude of shorebirds traveling the Pacific flyway, a significant population of wintering waterbirds, as well as the summer resident grey and humpback whales. Transient orcas frequent the area, and sea otters are making a comeback. The region supports healthy populations of river otters, mink, marten, bear, wolf, cougar, deer, elk, all five species of salmon, steelhead, bald eagles, and over 200 species of birds.
Clayoquot Sound is also the home and unceded traditional territory of three Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations: Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht. Clayoquot (pronounced Klak-wit) is an Anglicization of the native name Tla-o-qui-aht (pronounced tla-oo-quee-at), meaning "people who are different from who they used to be". The Native population in the Sound is approximately 900, largely concentrated in the villages of Ahousat, Opitsat, and Hot Springs Cove. The majority of the 1,100 non-native residents in Clayoquot Sound live in Tofino.
Once known only for its stunning scenery, hot springs and whales, the area was flung into the international spotlight during the summer of 1993, when nearly 1000 people were arrested for peacefully blocking clear-cut logging in the Sound's rare temperate rainforests. Twenty years of struggle led to the designation of Clayoquot Sound as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, recognizing the area's global ecological significance.
While Biosphere Reserves are not parks and the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has no jurisdiction over land-management issues, they do provide support for research, education, and training.