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Brooks, Scanlon & Obrien; Bloedel, Stewart and Welch; and Theodosia Logging were but a few logging companies, with the Brooks brothers and M. Scanlon forming the Powell River Company, western Canada's first pulp and paper mill.The Historic Townsite was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995, recognizing the exceptionally well preserved early 20th Century planned community, rooted firmly in the Garden City Design Movement and the Arts and Crafts philosophy.

The mill is down-sizing, and only three paper machines (#9, #10 and #11) remain in production, thus laying off hundreds of employees.The subsequent diversification of the local economy led to an increased focus on ecotourism and the arts, in addition to more traditional resources like mining, fishing, and general forestry.The city is the location of the head office of the Powell River Regional District.Prior to the establishment of European settlement in the area, the area was inhabited by Coast Salish peoples, and was used as a landing spot for gold prospectors coming from Vancouver Island who were treading their way to the Fraser River to find quick fortune prior to the creation of the Cariboo Road.Powell River's gymnastics association has produced many reputable gymnasts.

A fully free access 180 kilometres long back country trail, which meanders through a wide variety of landscapes, including coastal shorelines, old-growth forest, panoramic mountaintops, pristine creeks and lakes and salmon streams.

In its prime, one in every 25 newspapers in the world was printed on paper from the Powell River mill.

However, since then it has significantly cut back on production and now produces newsprint and specialty papers for Catalyst Paper.

Mean annual temperature is about 8 °C (46.4 °F) and ranges from 5.2 to 10.5 °C (41.4 to 50.9 °F) among the CWH subzones.

The mean monthly temperature is above 10 °C (50 °F) for 4–6 months of the year.

The pulp mill was started in 1908, with a corresponding townsite company town commenced in 1910: the first roll of paper was produced at Powell River Mill in 1912.