COURTENAY, B.C- A popular spot in the Comox Valley has had its name unofficially confirmed.

The Stotan Falls, which lies west of Courtenay towards the Forbidden Plateau area, has long been a place where Valley residents go to cool off during the summer. The site is along the Puntledge River, and lies on private land off the Duncan Bay Main Road.

The area has been the subject of controversy over the past year, as the current landowner is seeking to develop a residential project close to the site of the falls. However, a running question in the community is the exact name of the falls in the first place.

Some in the Valley refer to it as the “Stokum Falls”, while others maintain the name is “Stotan”, which appears on most online maps and news articles on the area.

Further support for the “Stotan” name comes from British Columbia’s archive of place names, which has deemed “Stotan” the unofficial name. No other versions of the name are listed in the archive.

According to the province’s archive, one of the earliest mentions of the name comes from a BC Hydro publication in 1970.

“Identified in BC Hydro’s publication, “Progress”, spring 1970, p.13: “…one major obstacle for the salmon was navigating turbulent Stotan Falls between the powerplant and the spawning channel…”,” read the archives’ entry.

The database also mentions an article by the Comox District Free Press in May of 1981, where the falls are located one hundred yards downriver from the bridge over the logging road.

Two news articles held in the Courtenay museum’s archives also touch on the question of the name. The first, written by former Green Sheet columnist Barry Zabrack (with a missing dateline) finds that Stotan was the correct spelling.

He mentioned a variety of other names, such as Strokum, Speakum, Strutten, Stooten, and Soakum. None appeared to be correct.

Zabrack also mentioned speaking with Mary Cliften, believed to be the last speaker of the Coast Salish dialect known as Satch-oth-twh. According to his article, she was unfamiliar with the name of the falls.

An article from the Comox Valley Echo in August of 2012 on the same topic by Judy Hagen mentions a conversation with well-known Valley conservationist Ruth Masters. In the article, Masters is quoted as not knowing where the “Stotan” name came from, saying that she knew the falls as the “Puntledge Falls” growing up.

“Somewhere along the line it became Stotan Falls,” said Masters, in the article.

Hagen’s article does not mention a definite source for the “Stotan” name.

As for the earliest written record of the site, it is drawn from the account of Robert Brown, who led an expedition on Vancouver Island in 1864. There, he records a passage over falls named “Skei-ep”, or “Laughing Waters”.

The newsroom has reached out to the province for more information about the “unofficial” designation for the name of the falls. This story will be updated once that information is received.

The archive’s definition of “not official” is included below.

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The rules to propose a new name are also included below.

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