There is a little bit of everything to be found at Ruckle Provincial Park, located on the southern tip of Salt Spring Island – history, waterfront, wildlife, woodland trails. When we visited back in early autumn we figured on spending about an hour there; in the end we were entranced enough to be there well over two hours. It could easily have been a lot longer if the weather and darkness hadn’t been closing in on us.
Ruckle Provincial Park sprawls over 1307 acres (529 hectares), looking out to Swanson Channel. Tumbling through Garry Oak meadows, forest, farm land and along rocky headlands, the park offers an abundance of peaceful activities that will banish your everyday cares and draw you in to the majesty and beauty of the southern Gulf Islands.
The road in to the park wends its way past a stunning Victorian home – one of the later houses built on the farm by the Ruckle family. It was that house, along with a collection of other ancient farm buildings, that made it clear that this wasn’t just any old provincial park. This was different, on so many levels.
Homesteaded in 1872 by Irish emigrant Henry Ruckle, the farm evolved in to a huge operation featuring livestock, field crops and a massive fruit orchard. Six hundred apple and pear trees and 40 nut trees were planted, many of which continue to produce their heritage fruit to this day.
The 200 acre farm is the oldest continually operating farm in British Columbia. Overseen by the original family, the farm serves as home to a flock of sheep, Highland cattle, chickens and turkeys. There is still an enormous market garden that keeps the farm stand stocked throughout the growing season.
We spent a considerable amount of time wandering amongst the accessible heritage farm buildings and abandoned houses on the property, taking in the information boards that provide historical notes of interest about the farm area of the park. Imagining what life must have been like in the late 1800s in this loveliest of places wasn’t difficult.
We left the rustic buildings and bucolic ambiance and headed up the road, further in to the park and the ‘wilds’. Time constraints allowed us only a short hike to Beaver Point, but the variations in terrain and water views were enough to keep us entranced. Beautiful vistas, picnic areas and benches to rest and take in the sweeping water panoramas and parade of marine traffic occupied a solid hour. We hiked back under the forest canopy, through the campsites and returned to our vehicle totally relaxed, the cares of the moment banished.
Next time (and there will be a next time) we visit Salt Spring we will put aside an entire day to explore more of Ruckle Provincial Park – the large network of trails is simply too enticing to pass up. There is almost 4 ½ miles (7 km) of shoreline to explore as well as the inland trails that skirt the farm. For the time being though, memories of our initial exploration of this most unique spot will have to suffice.
Dogs are welcome at the park but because of the livestock and farming activity, must be kept on leash and are only allowed in certain areas. Portions of the park – the trails leading from the main parking lot to the waterside picnic areas – are wheelchair accessible.
Further information on Ruckle Provincial Park and the working Ruckle Heritage Farm can be found at the websites:
Ruckle Provincial Park is located 6.25 miles (10 km) from Fulford, at the southern tip of Salt Spring Island. Follow Beaver Point Road to the end to access the heritage farm area, camping and parking.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 48.771741 Long. -123.381824
N 48 46.304 W 123 22.909