Reaching south from Capilano Lake and the Cleveland Dam, the Capilano River Regional Park follows the river as it plummets down the dam’s spillway and winds its way through a picturesque canyon deep in a lush forest of Douglas fir and cedar. For our first foray there, we parked at the dam and then set off on foot.
Front atop the dam, the view to the north showed the surrounding mountains lost in the low cloud and the lake noticeably down in level. Once across the dam, we took the first trail to the left and ambled down the broad avenue that cut through the trees, angling ever down toward the sound of the water rushing between the canyon walls. Finally, we reached the Pipeline bridge, where we met up with the Coho Loop trail.
Here we found views of the river and of those fishing there, both human and animal.
Fat gulls sat on the rocks, surveying the surrounding waters, looking for prey, while anglers cast their lines for the salmon coming upstream to spawn.
Following the Coho Loop trail, the air crisp and cool, the ground was littered with fallen leaves, some giant maples that were as big as a dinner plate. Above, the colours of the fall intermingle with the evergreen background, with sprays of golden yellow and occasional brilliant reds that catch the eye. Tiers of mushrooms festoon the moss-covered trunk of a tree.
Our wandering a brought us to the Capilano Salmon Hatchery, where displays educate visitors on these remarkable fish. The fish ladders have a viewing area where you can see the salmon moving upward around the low dam there. As we watched, their dark shapes would loom out of the murky water and bump against the glass, then, with a flip of their tails, they would launch themselves up to the next level to continue their ancient instinctual urge to return to their place of hatching to spawn and then die.
Across the river, a heron stood sentinel, scanning the rapids for a chance meal, then gracefully launched into the air and disappeared upstream to perhaps try its luck elsewhere.
From here, we took the Palisades Trail steeply upward to return back to the parking lot at the dam. This portion of the trek was quite arduous and for older folk, I’d recommend parking at the hatchery or one of the lower parking lots to do the loop trail.
There are many trails within the park, and we will return to explore more of this wonderful area that is so close to Lower Lonsdale, and yet so beautifully wild.
By Bus: take the 236 bus from Lonsdale Quay all the way up Capilano Road. Get off at Prospect Avenue Stop.
By Car: drive nearly to the top of Capilano Road (if you hit the Grouse Mountain parking lot, you’ve gone too far) and park in the parking lot adjacent to Cleveland Park.