Capilano Lake and River Park

Today’s adventure took me back across to North Vancouver in hunt of Capilano Lake and River Park. This time I was accompanied by a friend of mine, Alex, who I met through this blog.

We set off from Downtown Vancouver a little after 9am and caught the first bus, the 246 headed towards Highland. We didn’t want to go as far as Highland but that bus took us over the Lions Gate Bridge to Woods Drive where we got off and waited for the next bus, the 236 headed towards the Grouse Grind. About 40 minutes after leaving Downtown Vancouver we arrived at Capilano Lake.

We crossed the car park and headed up on top of a grassy bung. As we walked up to the top of the bung the great expanse of lake opened up in front of us. Before we could even see the lake the view was spectacular with trees lining the valley with the early morning mist hovering overhead.

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Capilano Lake Selfie
Morning views over Capilano Lake

After a few obligatory photos we picked up a map and decided what route we wanted to take.

First, I wanted a photo of the dam. I find it awe inspiring to look down the dam face and then back at the vast amount of water it is holding back. It amazes me to think of how much pressure it must be under. It is no small engineering achievement, that’s for sure. Capilano Lake is a fresh drinking water lake responsible for providing clean drinking water to approximately 40% of Greater Vancouver.

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View down Capilano Dam

Next we headed down the first of several trails we would end up walking today. The trail was called the Baden-Powell Trail. The descent was pretty steep but soon we got to some steps that took us off the trail towards a second viewing point to admire the dam. Along the way I found some poor kids hat, which naturally I had to try on. I think it suits me, what do you think?

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I think I look like an inspector, albeit a fuzzy one
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Downstream from Capilano Dam

Next stop on our walk was the salmon hatchery. Capilano River is a spawning river for salmon. Every year thousands of salmon make their final voyage up the Capilano River where they spawn before dying – a natural process that happens to all Pacific salmon. Arctic salmon spawn twice before they die.

We couldn’t have timed it better to get to the hatchery. As we got there there was a group about to be taken on a tour. We joined the back and what followed was a 30 minute lesson about the river and the salmon.

The most interesting part about the hatchery was that dispite my initial assumption that it would be classed as a salmon farm it is in fact classed as a wild salmon hatchery. After quizzing our guide, Geoff, for a few minutes it turns out it is considered to be a wild salmon hatchery because the salmon make their way there of their own free will before their eggs are fertilized with sperm.

A natural part of the process, once spawning happens, is the salmon dies. It happens even without human intervention. The great thing about this place is when the salmon die, if they are in good enough condition they are available to the native people for food and if not they go to a processing plant that turns them into fertilizer which is used in the province to feed crops. Talking to Geoff and going on the tour the whole place oozed of conservation and preservation, it was really impressive.

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Salmon in a holding tank ready to spawn
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Salmon run up to the holding tank – it links to the river and salmon come of their own accord
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Outdoor holding tanks for the young salmon

Once our educational tour was over we had some lunch and set off on the final part of our walk. For much of our walk so far we had been coming downhill so we knew that a good chunk of the next part was going to be uphill. Neither of us were too excited about this but onwards we went. The next set of photos show some of the things we saw on the way.

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Hi ho hi ho it’s up the hill we go
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Inuksuk – the symbol of the native people

The trip to Capilano Lake and River Park was great fun. The views were spectacular and the focus on conservation and preservation is fantastic. A couple of notes, firstly, like my adventure to Lighthouse Park, strollers are not advised for this trail, secondly, wear decent shoes because there are plenty of gravel paths to walk on so you don’t want to go sliding anywhere. Final point, there are water fountains dotted throughout the park so there are plenty of opportunities to top up waterbottles along the way.

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