It had been more than 40 years since I last visited Stamp River Provincial Park in the beautiful Alberni Valley, and I have to admit that I headed over there recently with some trepidation. Back in the 1970s the place was wild and essentially undeveloped, 327 hectares (800 acres) tucked in at the far north end of Beaver Creek Road. Few folks visited – it was little more than a local hidden gem then. Would it, like so many other natural treasures, have changed for the worse through ‘enhancement’? It turns out I needn’t have worried.
We were delighted to find that although things have changed at Stamp Falls, the developments have been minor and truly wonderful. The 23 unserviced campsites are private and nicely scattered through the forest. The two kilometers (1.2 miles) of walking trails are better groomed and more accessible for many visitors.
The four picnic tables perched along the riverside offer a lovely spot for a sit-down and an informal al fresco meal. The well-conceived interpretive signs are a great educational addition to the park.
There is even a television screen serviced by an underwater camera that allows visitors to see the salmon working their way up the fish ladders that were installed at the falls back in the 1950s.
Happily, the timeless unadorned natural world of the area has remained the same, too. The Stamp River continues to run clean and clear, a wide, mesmerizing swath of blues, greens and white foam. The falls continue to tumble through a nine metre (30 feet) gorge and every autumn, as they have for untold eons, the cohoe, sockeye, Chinook and steelhead make their way up the river and battle through the falls (or the fish ladders) to answer the instinctive call to return to the spawning grounds on the upper reaches of the river and at Great Central Lake. Black bears appear on a regular basis in hopes of securing a meal – one ambled along the other side of the river and down below the falls during our recent visit, much to the delight of everyone who was perched on the bluff above the falls expecting to see only the courageous journey of the fish.
While there are certainly more visitors to the park than in the past it is still a bit of a hidden treasure – during the couple of hours we lingered there we probably saw no more than 30 people, of all ages. Youngsters gamboled along the pathways and sat, mesmerized, watching the leaping fish. Senior citizens, parents, dogs (on leash only, due to the bear situation) all enjoyed the perfect Indian Summer afternoon. Travellers and locals leaned over fences to watch the water swirl and eddy its way along, lingered at the excellent interpretive signs that explained the natural ecology of the area, paused to chat.
The fish runs will continue into December, so anyone keen to experience this natural phenomena still has plenty of time to get to the falls. Even if you are visiting at other times of the year, there is plenty to see and enjoy at this lovely park – the world is still as it should be at Stamp River Provincial Park. It is so worth the 14 kilometre (8 ½ mile) drive from Port Alberni, any time of year.
More information about Stamp River Provincial Park can be found at:
The park is located near the end of Beaver Creek Road, which branches off Highway 4 just out of Port Alberni, on the way to the west coast.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.34386052916214 Long. -124.91905185215
N 49 20.632 W 124 55.143