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  • Writer's pictureEvan Ruffell

Vancouver Island Waterfalls (Part One)

Goldstream Falls

Goldstream Provincial Park has a lot to offer if you’re looking to shoot old growth forest, wildlife, or waterfalls. Niagara Falls is the most well known waterfall in the area. Easy year round access ensures photographers can go here even when the waterfall mist starts to freeze the canyon walls. It’s also on the way up to the trestle, providing a quick phone snapshot opportunity to scores of weekend hikers. However, if you go a little farther into the park you can find other, less crowded, waterfalls.

Tucked away in the southwest corner of the camping area is Goldstream Falls. A well maintained set of stairs descend down into a small, cool valley. Mist collects and drips off fern lined rock walls. The river pours down into a deep basin and carries on down through the park. The area under the falls is wide and deep enough to swim in. A popular spot for summer campers to take an evening dip and refresh before starting the campfire. The shallow river means you can walk across or even set up your tripod in the river bed, allowing you to shoot from almost any angle. A big benefit of this location is year round shooting. Unlike most spots on this list, even during the peak of summer there should be enough water to make a decent photo.

Mary Vine Falls

Sooke Potholes is a summer favorite of any young, lower island local. Lack of classic beach area tends to keep away older patrons less willing to stake out harder to reach areas on the rocks. Plenty of cliffs for jumping keeps thrill seekers amused and without the patrols you get in similar areas such as Thetis Lake, people are generally more willing to crack a bevy with friends. It’s a beautiful area with plenty to shoot but the fast water and cliffs can make it difficult to find a good/safe photography spot.

Fortunately, there is a nearby alternative. Mary Vine Falls hides in the area, unmarked, a simple 10 minute walk from Parking Lot 2/Galloping Goose Trail. This waterfall is a wonderful, wide cascade that can be shot as a whole, or using the many small pools it filters down into. The terrain lets you get up extremely close and set up gear just about anywhere. The route it’s on is not a popular hiking trail so the last three times I had it all to myself for over an hour.

Little Qualicum Falls

Not so little. The river cascades at multiple points down a rocky gorge, tucked away in a quintessential west coast rainforest. Even during summer there is still significant water volume flowing throughout the park. Flanked by riverside trails and multiple bridge crossings; the entire area is easily accessible by all ages. If you’re heading out west towards Pacific Rim National Park there are many great spots on the Alberni Hwy to stop and stretch your legs but this is one of the easiest to access and well worth a detour. You can even hear the waterfalls from the parking lot so it won’t take up a big chunk of your day. If you have a little more time on your hands, you can go away from the falls and swim in most other parts of the river. It’s a pretty solid place to camp as well, although winter camping is restricted.

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