It is almost unfair to attempt to capture the extraordinary beauty of Elk Falls in photos or film. Neither come close to the actual experience. And it is an experience, one well worth the trek.
The experience begins on Highway 28 when suddenly the trees reach awe-inspiring heights dwarfing whatever mode of transportation you are in. Honour must be given to the unprecedented collaboration between BC Hydro, BC Parks, The City of Campbell River, District of Strathcona and last but certainly not least, the Rotary Club of Campbell River whose vision has now been realized.
As you begin your journey at the trailhead, to the left is the map and to the right the John Hart Interpretive Centre, which explains the massive 5 year, multi-million dollar John Hart Generating Station Replacement project, an impressive engineering feat which is viewable from one of the trails.
The trails themselves transport you to another world, where there exist infinite shades of green, tranquility and solace. Walking over the penstocks, which also has a new bridge crossing, you fully appreciate their uniqueness and also the reason for the upgrade. Likely, the most beautiful aspect of the trails is that they are only a 5% grade, hard packed stone creating easy access for all levels of mobility, including wheelchairs. The first indication of something new is a broad opening allowing a gorgeous view of the rushing water at the top of Elk Falls and a hint of the canyon below. Carrying on, the forest is protected by cedar railings where needed, demonstrating the level of care and consideration that has gone into this project.
Imitating a mirage through the trees straight lines of cedar descend and disappear. Suddenly you find yourself in a small clearing, giants shading the sky all around, and there before you the stairs tease what waits below. It is not until you are on the last set of steps that you see the expanse from cliff to cliff and feel the thunder. You can’t help but go to the nearest railing to take it all in. The roar of the water, the canyon walls, the river below, the bridge above, the viewing platform staring directly into the falls, you are unsure where to look first.
Venturing onto the bridge takes your breath away. As you move across, 150 feet above the river below, the scenery changes with every step exposing unseen views from these new vantage points. Once on the north side, looking back you discover the entirety of the project. Wow.
The stairs continue to descend from the bridge landing firmly on a cantilevered platform; you are now being balanced over the canyon itself with nothing between you, the falls, the canyon and river below.
Whatever you were doing before or going to do after this is a distant memory as time seemingly stops while you feebly attempt to comprehend the immense beauty that surrounds you.