Massive trees, majestic waterfalls, a meandering river that meets the sea, flowers, birds, animals and fascinating fish are a few of the attractions that draw people to Goldstream Provincial Park, just 16 km from downtown Victoria on southern Vancouver Island.
It’s a world that seems far removed from the urban adventures of British Columbia’s capital city. Goldstream’s numerous trails criss-cross through the dramatically different terrain of two distinct vegetation zones.
The park is home to 600-year-old Douglas fir trees and western red cedar, mixed with western yew and hemlock, red alder, big leaf maple and black cottonwood. On the drier ridges visitors can find flowering dogwood, lodgepole pine and arbutus. The arbutus, with its thick leathery evergreen leaves, red-dish trunk and peeling bark, is Canada’s only broad-leafed evergreen and is found exclusively on Vancouver Island and the southwest coast of BC. In spring and early summer, Goldstream overflows with colourful wildflowers.
The park is also the site of an annual chum salmon spawning run, which draws thousands of salmon – and visitors – every year. Riverside trails and observation platforms provide extraordinary opportunities to view this natural phenomenon, which also attracts Bald eagles, who swoop down to devour the bodies of the spawned out salmon.
The annual salmon run starts from late October through December, with thousands of salmon making the arduous journey from the Pacific Ocean to the Finlayson Arm of the Saanich Inlet. The salmon draw people, bears and Bald Eagles to the park as they struggle up the Goldstream River to spawn in the streams in which they were born three to four years earlier. From the riverside trails in this forested park you have an extraordinary opportunity to view the miraculous event of chum, chinook and coho salmon spawning.
The observation deck is an excellent place for viewing numerous Bald Eagles during December and January. Look for them as they survey the waters below from their vantage points high in the tall trees adjacent to the estuary. These majestic raptors devour the carcasses of spawned-out salmon.
The Freeman King Visitor Centre at the north end of the park has several displays that enhance the understanding of the area’s natural and human history. The Visitor Centre schedules seasonal interpretative programs, with naturalists and volunteers conducting informative lecture tours throughout the summer and fall. A viewing platform located at the estuary near the Visitor Center provides visitors with great views of the eagle feeding frenzy in the winter.
Goldstream Provincial Park offers an extensive network of interconnected nature walks and hiking and walking trails. Trails track along creeks, through forested upland, amongst some of the oldest and largest trees in the park, and past abandoned gold diggings from the gold rush days. The park also protects various reptiles and amphibians and a number of red and blue listed species of flora and fauna, including rare wildflowers and plant species such as the Dense Spike Primrose and the Pacific Waterleaf.
Just east of the Goldstream River is the start of Mount Finlayson Trail. Take this mountain trail seriously, as people have lost their lives on Mount Finlayson. For ambitious hikers, the trail is steep and rugged. Hiking time to the summit is little more than an hour. Keep to the trails and follow the same route down.
Goldstream Park is home to black bears, cougars and deer, as well as numerous small animals like raccoons, minks, beavers, otters and Gray and Douglas squirrels. Migratory and resident birds such as hummingbirds, Bald eagles, turkey vultures, ducks and gulls can be spotted throughout the park.
Another highlight of Goldstream is Niagara Falls, a 47.5-metre cascade down a rock cliff to a crystal-clear canyon pool. A five minute walk along the south bank of Niagara Creek on the Lower Falls trail provides access to the base of the falls.
Goldstream Park has 167 campsites located in the campground on the western side of Highway 1. Reservations are accepted. There are pit and flush toilets, showers, a sani-station and wheelchair access. Swimming and fishing are possible within the park. There are two yurts available and can be reserved by phone only through Discover Camping.
There is so much to see and do in Goldstream – it’s all yours to savour and explore. Goldstream Provincial Park is open all year. Fees for full services collected from March 15 to October 31. There is a winter fee with minimal services provided charged from November 1 to March 14; campers must be self-sufficient.
The Trans Canada Highway (Route 1) provides direct and easy access from Victoria and from up-island. Access to the campground is via Sooke Lane Road from the highway at the southern boundary of the park. The entrance to the day use area is near the junction of the Highway 1 and Finlayson Arm Road.
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