Exploring Near Campbell River BC – Falls and Fish and a Bear

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Mid-September day and our summer RVing is winding down here in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, BC. There is a noticeable chill in the air as the days shorten. Autumn is just around the corner. I check the weather forecast: light winds, sunny and a high of 20C. It looks like a perfect day for a hike.

A while back I posted about my visit to Strathcona Provincial Park. Well, on the way there I passed road signs to attractions that were worth a future visit. Both are located less than 15 minutes from town. 

One is called Elk Falls located in the Elk Falls Provincial Park. I vaguely remember hiking to the falls as a youth, however, two years ago they upgraded the trail and installed a suspension bridge! Second on the list is the Quinsam River Hatchery. I’d heard pink salmon were returning and black bears were routinely spotted gorging on them.

Campbell River Google Sat Map

Elk Falls Suspension Bridge

The parking lot at the trailhead is only an 11-minute drive from our campsite at Thunderbird RV Park. The large parking area is newly built and offers plenty of space for RVs. Also on site is a small interpretive center with facts, photos, and video detailing the ongoing John Hart Dam upgrade project. 

All it took was the hard work and fundraising savvy of the local Rotary Club, and a pivotal decision by BC Hydro to build a permanent parking lot and trails designed specifically to handle the expected doubling of the annual number of visitors to the park the bridge would generate. The 250-acre John Hart property is located in the middle of the Provincial Park. 

When I visited, a staff member was on hand to answer questions. She explained how they were replacing the 1940 vintage above ground wood piping used to carry water from the dam to the generating station. The multiyear project will see a new hydropower generating station built and new pipes tunneled underground. Quite the deal.

John Hart Dam wooden penstocks

The main trail out to the falls is only a 10-15 minute walk with a little bit of declining elevation. Near the falls you’ll find multiple sets of stairs leading down to platforms to view the falls and canyon below. I was amazed how well built they are. They and the suspension bridge are top notch quality steel construction with grated flooring.

Elk Falls suspension bridge

The 60-meter (197 feet) long suspension bridge crosses the river gorge at the height of 64 meters (210 feet) offering terrific views of the falls, canyon and surrounding forest. The falls themselves aren’t overly impressive in height or water volume, but the overall scene is gorgeous. I give the place a thumbs up for those looking for a little exercise and leisurely nature stroll.

Elk Falls Vancouver Island

Quinsam River Hatchery

Next on my list for the day was the Quinsam River Hatchery. Best time to visit the hatchery is the fall (September to November) when several different species of salmon start returning. I’d heard rumblings that black bears have been spotted feeding on the now returning pink salmon. I was eager to catch a glimpse of one if I could. 

I was a little early in the season, but there still were some salmon to view in the pens and the river. There is a small visitor center with photos, info, and a movie and you can pick up a free pamphlet for a self-guided tour.

Quinsam Hatchery Visitor Centre

It was Saturday, so not much was going on at the hatchery, I walked around on my little self-guided tour of the facility. Out near the counting fence and attraction channel, I found a significant number of salmon jockeying for position. They were lining up to jump a fish ladder I think.

Quinsam River Hatchery Map

I met a couple of other folks out there that informed me they had just seen a black bear! They said he came out from the other side of the river, caught a salmon in the shallow water near the fence and disappeared back into the woods. I waited for a while, and sure enough, he reappeared for another fishy snack. So cool to witness. 🙂

Quinsam Bear

River Fishermen and Campground Drive Thru

I finished off this little exploratory trip with a drive through the Elk Falls Provincial Park’s Quinsam River Campground, then stopped to watch the fly fishermen angling for salmon in a shallow section of the Campbell River.

Campbell River fishing grounds

All and all, not a bad way to spend a few hours during a sunny late summer day on Vancouver Island. Please enjoy my video highlights and photos below.

Falls and River and Fish and a Bear –  Exploring Near Campbell River BC Video Highlights

Photo Gallery

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