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Parks, Pacific Northwest

Schoen Lake, Pacific Northwest Parks
Schoen Lake Park, Photo By Bud Logan

Whether you like to back pack into wilderness areas, pack your trunk and camp at our provincial campsites or load up your camper and head out into the woods, you’ll discover an outdoor wonderland filled with pristine lakes, rugged mountainous and rugged trails.

No matter where you travel on the BC coast, you will always be close to a provincial park.

From the incredible rugged beauty of Cape Scott on the north Vancouver Island to the Haida Gwaii’s South Moresby National Park, from the parks located along the Skeena River to the southern islands around Victoria, there will be a park ready for you to camp in. The Carmanah Walbran park protects old growth rain forests and in the south, the sunny Gulf Islands cradle dozens of Marine Parks.

Strathcona Park, Pacific Northwest Parks
Strathcona Park, Photo By Bud Logan

Vancouver Island has 150 government designated parks. Some, like Strathcona Provincial Park, are the most incredible parks on Vancouver Island or hikers can hike the most scenic trail on earth (The West Coast Trail), all in all the Island has many parks.

Strathcona Park was designated a Provincial Park in 1911 and was the first provincial park in British Columbia. Situated on the central Island, Strathcona park is a premier wilderness hiking park with some of the Islands highest peaks in it. This park is a beautiful.

There are many beautiful lakes and streams scattered throughout the park with trails going to most of them. There is Marble Meadows, reached by trail from the west shore of Buttle lake, then you can go up to flower Ridge from the east shore of Buttle lake, both hikes are difficult but very much worth it. There are many more trails that take you to various areas of the park.

From the Mount Washington Ski Resort you can head out hiking on the Forbidden Plateau, this is a relatively flat area covered in lakes and full of trails, there are miles of boardwalks in the lower sections that are totally wheelchair accessible, the upper trails can be a bit steeper but still pretty easy going. This is all in an alpine forest setting.

Whisky Jacks, Strathcona Park, photo by Joey
Whisky Jacks, Strathcona Park, photo by Joey

My boys and i come up here quite often, we like to feed the whiskey jacks. There is camping sites, places to fish and a new fishing pier on Battleship Lake. There is a state of art composting toilet located here as well. Fishing in most of the lakes here is fairly good, all lakes are stocked regularly. This creates a good supply of fish.

The rest of the park is wilderness and you should be experienced and well prepared before venturing here. This is a big park, filled with raging rivers, high waterfalls, mountain peaks, pristine lakes and huge glaciers. Be safe when hiking out here. Della Falls is the highest falls in Canada. It is located in the park and the highest mountain on Vancouver Island, the 22,00 meter Golden Hinde stands in the center of Strathcona Park.

Buttle Lake, photo by Bud Logan
Buttle Lake, photo by Bud Logan

Buttle Lake was named after Commander John Buttle who explored the area in the 1860s, has good fishing for Cutthroat, Rainbow and Dolly Varden trout. John Buttle was instrumental in the parks creation.

John Buttle was born in England, in 1838. He came to Vancouver Island by Steamer in 1858 with a group of Royal Engineers headed by Colonel John Summerfield-Hawkins. Corporal Buttle was assigned by the Kew Gardens in England as an Assistant botanical collector. He worked here under the guidance of the Oregon Boundary Commission from the spring of 1858 to the spring of 1862. In 1863 he worked on the proposed route from Bute Inlet, up the Homathco River and into the Cariboo gold-fields for Alfred Waddington and then in 1864 John Buttle became a member of the first Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition that explored the west coast and southern regions of the island.

Mountains of Strathcona Park, photo by Bud Logan
Mountains of Strathcona Park, photo by Bud Logan

Dr. Robert Brown, was commander for this exploratory expedition, and was the first to explore the area but upon his leaving the expedition, he suggested that the job be offered to Corporal John Buttle. He gladly accepted and the committee appointed Buttle as expedition commander. He was accompanied by Thomas Forgie, Magin Hancock, Francis McCausland, Thomas Laughton, and two native guides. These men were all quite capable of carrying out the exploration of the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. His first assignment was just that, the exploration of the island’s west coast.

On June 19, the Navy’s H.M.S. Forward left Esquimalt, two days later they delivered John along with the rest of his crew and their supplies to the shores of Clayoquot Sound. where they set up a base camp. For the next five weeks Buttle and the rest of the expedition explored Clayoquot Sound. then on July 28 they arrived at a point two miles up the Bedwell River that at the time was called the Bear River. Here the river forked and the party decided to separate into two groups. Buttle, along with two other members explored the right branch which is now called the Ursus River. Hancock and the others headed up the left branch of the river. Both parties took with them enough supplies to last 10 to 12 days.

On Johns trip up the Ursus river, John climbed one of the mountains along the way, he was accompanied by one member and the native guides. From the summit he got a good view in the direction of Comox, he reported seeing saw a very large body of water that was about 20 miles long and about 2 miles wide, one must assume he was looking at Buttle Lake. From Buttle’s personal diary of the trip dated August 2, he wrote: “saw a beautiful sheet of water at the very least twenty miles long”.

John Buttle would send in reports when ever possible and in one report, he noted that Hancock and his crew had found gold up the left branch of the river. This report of gold was picked up by the newspapers and sensationalized, a mini gold rush followed, unfortunately, no one found much gold.

Woss Lake, photo by Bud Logan
Woss Lake, photo by Bud Logan

After reaching base camp again Buttle continued with the exploration of the west coast arriving at Nootka Sound and then travelling as far as Conuma (Woss) Lake via the Tahsis/woss grease trail. Buttle had been trying to reach nimpkish, but illness and bad weather forced him to turn around and then return to Victoria.

When the party reached Victoria, they had to deal with many angry prospectors who had rushed to the Bedwell River upon hearing of the discovery of gold, only to be disillusioned by the small quantities.

Criticized for the Bedwell River fiasco, Buttle moved on to California and was rarely heard of again on Vancouver Island. In 1892, the surveyor William Ralph named the Buttle lake after Corporal John Buttle.

Although the work done by John Buttle was not undertaken to find areas that could be set aside as parks, his work would eventually be used to do this. The reports written by John were the inspiration that helped make this the first provincial park in the new province of BC.

Strathcona park is a premier wilderness hiking park with some of the Islands highest peaks in it. The wildlife here is incredible and the outdoor recreational opportunities are endless. This park is beautiful. Many others had a hand in the creation of this park but in my eyes, John Buttle was instrumental in its creation. I have heard it said that Buttle lake is the jewel of this park, a fitting name for it, the name of a great explorer who was one of the first to explore this area.

The whole BC coastal Region has many parks, protected areas, ecological reserves and conservancy areas. It is a wind swept land of water falls, rivers, mountains and ocean vistas that rival any place on the planet.

I grew up on this coast and still am able to find parks that not only have l not been to visit them, i have not even known of their existence, this gives me the excitement of something new just about every time l go out.

San Josef Bay Park, Pacific Northwest Parks
San Josef Bay Park, Photo By Bud Logan

Some of my most fond memories are of hiking up in the high country parks with a group of guys that l grew up with. We all enjoyed the same things, we all enjoyed getting out into the wilderness. We would hike for days through swamp and brush to get to hidden lakes or mountain trails. I remember both the soreness from carrying heavy loads to the exhilaration on first sight of our destination.

Strathcona Park, Pacific Northwest Parks
Strathcona Park, Photo By Bud Logan

Sometimes we could drive right into the middle of parks and take short hikes into some incredible places. This is what’s so great about parks, besides of coarse the whole protection component of parks. Parks can allow the less able to get out and enjoy the wonders of the coast, there are many trails in our parks that are even wheelchair accessible and this is wonderful.

Many of our elders are now unable to do hikes like they could when they were younger, although l have hiked along side some that could put a 25 yr to shame. These shorter and mostly level trails still allow them to get out and taste the fresh air, feel the forest winds gentle blow across their faces and feed their souls with peace.

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