Although it’s contrary to my nature (just ask Eric!) I’m going to speed things up and post more frequently than usual. My preference is to linger over experiences, both as they’re occurring and when reflecting and writing about them. But I really don’t want to be blogging about this once we take to the road again in late November. So without further ado, here we go!
Arriving in Campbell River, just 95 miles from our last stop in Nanaimo, we both felt for the first time that we were glimpsing a hint of the wildness that we anticipated in our travels on Vancouver Island. The town of Campbell River, midway on the east coast of the island, is civilized—but it’s also the gateway to the wilderness of the remote north and western regions and the rugged Discovery Islands just offshore.
Because we were moving quickly to catch the prime whale season further north, we had only a couple of days to explore. It was barely enough time to get a taste of this interesting town and nearby Quadra Island, the closest and largest of the Discovery Islands.
For thousands of years, beginning with the First Nations villages, the rhythm of life here has followed the movement of the salmon. Campbell River is unique in that it is a migration route for all five major species of Pacific Salmon—Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink, and Chum. Legend has it that at one time, the salmon run was so thick it was possible to walk on the backs of the fish in the river.
The fishing is still legendary here, and Campbell River has held the title as the “Salmon Fishing Capital of the World” for at least 100 years. In our afternoon walk along the waterfront, I was tempted to rent fishing gear. If it hadn’t been so late in the day, I would have tried to catch our dinner from the pier. Instead, we bought salmon on the dock. Not as exciting, but still delicious.
We stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park, just two miles from the town of Campbell River. A beautiful hiking trail from the campground winds along the river. Leaning over a bridge, we could see hundreds of salmon gathering on their way home to their spawning grounds.
The hiking trail meets up with the trail to Elk Falls. The falls are rather modest, but the suspension bridge crossing the river is pretty spectacular. Built in 2015, it crosses Elk Canyon, with a dizzying view of boulders and rushing water 200 feet below. It was a great hike, we figured about seven miles in total, including hundreds of stairs (no exaggeration).
We finished up the day with a tapas style meal at Beach Fire Brewing and Nosh House. It’s a fun locals scene, with very good craft beer and a menu that changes daily—the salmon potato cakes and salad with marinated lentils were delicious.
A Visit To Quadra Island
Only a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Quadra Island is the largest of the Discovery Islands. We started our day with a hike that turned out to be a bit more than we bargained for, given that we had a full day planned for exploring the island. Chinese Mountain is the highest point on Quadra, and starts off with a relentless steep uphill rocky trail and some interesting rock climbing obstacles. The view from the top is spectacular! It’s not a long hike, but it’s definitely a good workout. Three miles and three hours later, we returned to town.
While on Quadra, we intended to visit the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre, home to a unique collection of repatriated First Nations cultural items that had been seized by the government during the years when the native peoples were displaced and not allowed to practice their traditional ways. The items were sold to collectors and museums, and only in recent years have been returned to their rightful owners.
As it turned out, the museum was unexpectedly closed for the day. But we were able to enjoy the garden outside with the wonderful welcoming totems. Welcome poles were traditionally placed on village beachfronts to hail visitors. Today, welcome poles are placed at important sites, such as museums, to welcome visitors onto First Nations land.
About the campground
We really enjoyed our stay at Elk Falls Provincial Park. It was peaceful, beautiful, and well-located for our explorations of Campbell River. The sites are spacious and private, and although forested, most have plenty of light. No hookups and the facilities are primitive, but water is conveniently located throughout the campground. We had cell coverage close to the entrance station, but no internet, of course. In September mid-week, all of the river sites were reserved but we found a lovely site without having reservations.
Next Up: Telegraph Cove And So Many Whales!