Artlish River

Artlish River
Artlish River, Photo By Bud Logan

The Artlish River has some awesome steelhead trout fishing in March and April and in the fall, sea-run cutthroat and coho salmon are in abundance and provide some incredible fishing. This river is very remote but can be accessed through some rough logging roads from Zeballos on the west coast of the Island.

Some of the best and biggest caves on the Island can be found here as well. The Artlish River Cave system is one of the largest systems on Vancouver Island with over 20 caves located so far, and in terms of flow volume and passage dimensions, it is the largest active river cave system in Canada. The Artlish River flows completely within the cave for about 350 m, leaving no flow at the surface. This cave system consists of several caves and includes the Black Hole Cave, which is an older, higher, and now dry cave.

The caves can only be visited through guided tours and the park has no marked hiking trails and the trails to the cave entrances are not marked or maintained. The Artlish Caves Provincial Park’s main goal is to protect the south fork of the Upper Artlish River with its spectacular and unique karst features and the secondary goal is to present the park to the public. How to accomplish this without causing damage to the caves seems to be a real problem.

There are two caves that are identified for careful management, the Artlish River Cave and the lower section of Black Hole Cave. Both are to be equipped with a series of trails or markings which will guide cavers through the fragile areas of the cave. The number of visitors which is acceptable was set to 500 per year with a maximum of 20 per day. Personally, I am not too thrilled with this.

Artlish River
Artlish River, Photo By Bud Logan

The road to the park is a very bad single-lane road built for logging. The trail from the end of the road to the cave is 45 minutes long, and you need to cross the river at one point, the river can rise up at a moment’s notice in the rainy season.

I have been unable to locate anyone who is giving guided tours, so I am not sure if any are available at this time. If you plan to visit this area, please try to find out what you must do before traveling here. If you do make it into the cave systems, please be kind and do not remove anything, and keep your impact as small as possible. Caves like these are incredible and beautiful, and we want to keep them that way.

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