Sooke Road today seems like a challenge, for many of us, as we try to cope with the almost constant stream of traffic.
The archival image you see here is more than 100 years old, and unrecognizable as Sooke Road though it’s labelled “Road to Sooke.” We suspect that the image was taken between Coopers Cove and Veitch Creek.
A “road” was established in 1872, as well as the first bridge across the Sooke River, improvements considered a godsend by the few hundred settlers hewing a living from the valleys and hills west of Victoria, according to government records.
Prior to that year, travel was mainly by ocean-going vessel, canoe or horseback, and often it would be good old “footback.” For most households, trips to Victoria were few and far between. Today they might be twice daily.
Imagine what a driver of a horse-drawn stage, rounding the myriad of corners that he encountered on his route between Sooke and Victoria in the early 1900s, would think if he could see today’s traffic.
At the time of this photo the primitive dirt road, little more than a trail, actually, would present the driver with a variety of challenges, from flooding, mud, trees fallen across the route, or in summer, clouds of dust. We suspect he and his passengers would be in absolute disbelief if they could see the shiny automobiles whizzing by on today’s paved and well-marked Highway 14.
In the photo, in a good light, one can see wires crossing over the roadway right at the corner, and our speculation is that these would be telegraph lines, on the final leg of the telegraph trail that picked up messages that had reached the Trans-Pacific Cable Station at Bamfield, crossing the ocean via cable laid on the ocean floor from Suva, Fiji and Fanning Island, on the famous All Red Route communication system. The telegraph lines also carried signals and calls for help from isolated light stations on the coast, their only link to Victoria. Later, of course, that route became the West Coast Trail.
Today, Transportation Ministry records show a traffic flow from Langford to Sooke during 2017 as an average 16,000 vehicles a day. With all the changes that have taken place in the past century, one thing has remained constant, we have one road and one Sooke River bridge connecting Sooke and Victoria.
Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.