Campbell River – Vancouver Island
We were treated to more of the spectacular mountain , lake, and forest scenery on our way back from to the East Coast of Vancouver Island. We had decided to go further North to Campbell River and plan a whale watching trip. We had two campsites in mind and ended up in Elk Falls Provincial Park, very close to the town, but in a beautiful area by the Quinsam River. We selected a beautiful, spacious site with the river running at the edge, bald eagles and herons cruising up and down the river, fishing, and settled down to a ‘chill-out’ day. That evening, several black bears cruised up the river and we were notified by the ranger that a Cougar had been seen in the campground (no pictures, I’m afraid). We walked the river every day in hopes of seeing more and Colin spent a lot of time trying to get a close-up Eagle shot; several times, just to tease him, they flew very quickly a foot or two over his head.
In addition to being a picturesque waterfall, Elk Falls is the site of a brand new Hydro Project. This will replace the 68 year old hydro-electric generating station, by siting a new station completely underground to improve reliability, beautify the area, and enhance the salmon habitat. At the moment, water is taken from the John Hart Lake and fed through three massive pipes all the way down to the generating station. These three overground pipes will be replaced by an underground tunnel to the new underground station. Colin hiked to the falls, saw the brand new suspension bridge overlooking the falls, hiked to the bottom and back up the many steep trails and steps and, as usual, took too many pictures. The notice about warnings of water level rise reminded Colin of the time as a young boy, before he learned to swim, being stranded with his brother in the middle of a rushing river in Scotland when a the local Hydro-Electric plant released additional water.
The Tyee Club
We planned our whale watching trip while eating the “Best Fish and Chips in Canada” at Ziggers (recommended by a local) overlooking the Campbell River. Colin noticed some strange behavior of a group of 30 or so identical-looking boats moving back and forth in slow motion over what looked like a windward-leeward sailboat race. However, there were no sails, only oars. It reminded Colin of Friday night Laser racing in light winds at West River Sailing Club. It turned out to be the British Columbia Tyee Club, a very serious, exclusive and prestigious organization. Membership is limited to those who catch a Tyee (Chinook Salmon) over 30 lbs using approved rod and tackle, from an approved boat, in the river off the clubhouse during an approved event!
We took a six hour whale watching trip out of Campbell River. The naturalist on board lowered our expectations of seeing Orcas as the salmons were not as plentiful this year and the ‘seal eating’ Orcas were very difficult to see, hunting by stealth. We did see a large Humpback Whale off one of the many islands in the area. He was diving and breathing every four minutes so we spent some time in the area, wondering where he would show next. He obliged us by showing his tail several times (see movie below) and so was identified as Zorro, recognized by a “Z” shaped scar on the starboard side of his tail. We spent the rest of trip touring around the Islands, enjoying the beauty of the strait on a perfect weather day. The cormorants, sealions and harbor seals were out in force, particularly at the Vivian Island Nature Preserve, and we recorded a movie of the wonderful noise of the sealions (below).
Click on any thumbnail below to see larger image gallery.
Zorro the Humpback Whale
Sealions on Vivian Island Nature Preserve