Taking advantage of its deep water and abundant forests, Gold River developed in 1967 as a logging and pulp & paper industry community. Gold River quickly sprang into prosperity and established excellent community facilities. When shifting world markets brought the mill closure in 1998, many of Gold River's inhabitants were forced to relocate. Since then, the village has capitalized on its idealistic setting among picturesque mountains, lakes, rivers, ocean, and forests to develop tourism and sport fishing as its main economic generators.
Currently, Gold River serves as a base for such famous activities as the Nootka Island trek, hiking the Elk Lake trail, mountain-climbing up Golden Hinde (Vancouver Island's highest peak), and the Great Walk.
Gold River also serves as a historic point, being the closest village to the famous Yuquot, or "Friendly Cove", where British explorer Captain James Cook first set ashore.
Gold River is located in central Vancouver Island, at the end of scenic Highway 28, 90 km (55 mi) west of Campbell River. Traveling from the north or south Island, exit easily from Island Highway 19 and follow the signs through Strathcona Park, then across the bridge between the lakes.
Strathcona Provincial Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Located almost in the centre of Vancouver Island, Strathcona park is a rugged mountain wilderness comprising more than 250,000 hectares. Mountain peaks - some perpetually mantled with snow - dominate the park. Lakes and alpine tarns dot a landscape laced with rivers, creeks and streams. Summer in Strathcona is usually pleasantly warm, while winters are fairly mild except for the higher levels, where heavy snowfalls are the norm. Buttle Lake and vicinity and Forbidden Plateau - offer a variety of visitor-oriented developments. The rest of the park is largely undeveloped.
Worth a drive to see the mountain climbers trying their skills along the steep rock walls, manoeuvring around on over 100 different routes. A real treat and an eye-opener. Located 9 km (6 mi) east of the Gold River Village on Hwy 28 by the Crest Mountain trailhead.
A picnic area nestled up to the shores of the Gold River. Enjoy your meal as you watch the kayakers and canoes floating by. Next door are the beautiful fairways and greens of the local golf course. Located on Hwy 19 south of Gold River.
Gold Muchalat Provincial Park, located northwest of Gold River on central Vancouver Island, offers a pristine wilderness environment for sports fishing, wildlife viewing and rustic hiking. Whitewater kayaking and rafting is also permitted. This undeveloped park provides key winter habitat for Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer and is home to the Marbled Murrelet and a variety of fish species. Sockeye salmon spawn in the Muchalat River. Summer steelhead, Rainbow trout and coho can be found in both the Muchalat and Gold Rivers, which run through the park. A trans-valley corridor of old-growth Douglas fir and Western hemlock is protected within the boundaries of this rugged park, which has no developed facilities. A user-made trail meanders along the river's edge and deactivated logging roads allow foot access into the more heavily forested areas of the park, which was established in 1996.
First discovered in 1971 during nearby road building and harvesting, the Upana Cave systems were explored and mapped in 1975 by recreational cavers. Named by cavers for the river that runs through the system, the caves have since attracted thousands of visitors. The cave interiors remain in a relatively wild, undeveloped state, without the comforts and conveniences of major North American show caves. The system is actually comprised of several caves within one group. There are fifteen known entrances within the system and caves vary in size from single rooms to branching passages of considerable length. The Upana Caves are accessible to everyone, from novice to experienced spelunker. Helmets and lights are recommended, as well as boots with rubber soles and additional protective clothing if one plans to get more adventurous or a little grubby. A year-round experience, the temperature inside the caves remains a chilly 7 degrees Celsius, no matter what the weather is like outside, so sweaters or jackets are also a good idea. Maps are available.
White Ridge Provincial Park forms the backdrop for Gold River village. The name of the park is derived from the white limestone and karst topography for which the area is internationally known. The park's karst surfaces - a distinctive topography in which the landscape is largely shaped by the dissolving action of water on carbonate bedrock (usually limestone, dolomite or marble) - are significant and easy to see. White Ridge also features an extensive cave system and protects important deer and Roosevelt elk habitat. Although there may be potential for caving opportunities in the future, this area is sensitive and use is not recommended.
Vancouver Island's West Coast near Nootka Sound holds a worldwide reputation as one of the finest fishing areas on the planet, salt water or fresh. From mighty salmon to gigantic halibut in the 'saltchuck', cutthroat, rainbow, and steelhead trout in fresh water, anglers here catch their limit of fish, fun, and adventure in a spectacular wilderness setting. A number of fishing charter companies in Gold River offer expert guides and fishing charters. You can tackle the west coast any time of year, but summer sees most people trying their luck at catching the transient runs of Coho, Sockeye and Spring Salmon (also know as Chinook), or Tyee. For variety, try bottom-fishing for ling-cod, rock-cod, snapper and gigantic halibut (some up to 175 pounds).
Bring your own boat, rent one, or hop on the MV Uchuck III - it all begins at the Gold River government wharf near the old mill site. The protected waters of Nootka Sound, the fiords and channels, the maze of islands, and the smaller communities scattered throughout are a boater's paradise. Sheltered anchorages abound, and rounding a point brings a number of surprises, from an old abandoned cannery, to the sight of a bear hunting salmon in a rivermouth. Everywhere you are surrounded by nature - virgin forest, towering mountains, eagles overhead, whales and dolphins in the water.
Growing numbers of kayakers explore the rich Aboriginal history as they visit the coastal communities, the abandoned villages and remote islands of the Land of Maquinna, one of the world's finest sea kayaking areas. Seek out a kayak tour company for all-inclusive packages, or you can load your kayaks on the Uchuck III at Gold River and sail out to the outer coast where, using a pallet attached to the ship's boom and a winch, the crew lowers them into the water. Arrange with the Uchuck III for a return pick-up. An absolutely splendid wild wilderness awaits paddlers: uninhabited beaches; dense old growth rainforests populated by wolves and bears; waterfalls; deep fjords, and coves, secluded and sheltered.
The giant rollers and pounding Pacific surf of Vancouver Island's west coast results in the 'killer' waves beloved by surfers and windsurfers. Often up to 7 m (25 ft) in height, these waves have turned this coast into a surfer's paradise. Although Long Beach (in Pacific Rim Park near Tofino) is considered the 'Malibu of the North' and the 'Surf Capital of Canada,' record numbers of tourists and surfers can make for crowded conditions. Now some surfers have discovered the magic of Nootka Sound.
Opportunities abound for viewing eagles, black bears, orcas, cougars, elk, sea otters, deer, vultures, and more in the pristine wilderness of Gold River and Nootka Sound.
Sometimes referred to as the Island of Caves, Vancouver Island has over 1,000 caves - more than any other area in Canada - with the Upana Caves near Gold River being among the most spectacular. The caves owe their existence to the action of ground water seeping into limestone rock and combining with carbon dioxide to produce a weak solution of carbonic acid. This acid acts slowly to dissolve the limestone and to form underground caves and passageways and other fascinating formations including stalactites and stalagmites, those icicle-like rock forms.
For climbers, Crest Creek Crag has over 100 routes to test your climbing stamina. These rock walls draw climbers from around the world.
With the famed West Coast Trail becoming so crowded that people planning to hike it need reservations, the Nootka Island Trail offers a 35 km (22 mi) hike through the same kind of wild, pristine wilderness, but without the crowds. Most start at the north end of the trail, arriving there by seaplane, or get a boat or water-taxi to drop them off at Louie Bay, just south of the Nuchatlitz Inlet. Consisting almost exclusively of beach walking, the hike allows for viewing of black bears, wolves, cougars, eagles, sea otters, whales, and sea lions in a natural and unspoiled setting. Other highlights of the trail include showering under Calvin Creek waterfall; swimming and body surfing in the ocean; exploring ancient middens and mounds where long houses once stood; investigating the life in tidal pools, and beach-combing for treasures deposited from across the ocean. Hikers arrive four or five days later at Yuquot, or Friendly Cove where the Uchuck III makes bi-weekly pick-ups.
If you're looking for something a little less strenuous that only takes a few hours, nearby Strathcona Provincial Park offers numerous trails to explore. These trails are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Crest Mountain Trail off Highway 28 is a 5 km (3 mi) trail with an elevation over 1,100 m (3,600 ft). Forested paths, wilderness all round, and a single log bridge leading to a lookout with stunning views. Elk River Trail is an 11 km (7 mi) 5-hour hike along the Elk River. The trail takes you to Landslide Lake.
Gold River's Golf Course sits amidst a vibrant forest of Hemlock, Pine, Red Cedar, and Douglas Fir. Half the fun of playing this course is the spectacular scenery one encounters both playing it or while heading there. Gold River Golf Course only has 9-holes, but can be very challenging. With plush fairways and small greens, players are often forced to play some terrific target golf.
For the ultimate winter weekend getaway for family and friends visit Mt. Cain. This ski area is well known for its awesome trackless powder. The Mountain opens in mid December (snow permitting) and closes at the end of March or in early April.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia