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Canada Diary Part 15 – Vancouver Island and the Salmon Run

Canada Diary Part 15 – Vancouver Island and the Salmon Run

The drive from Penticton to Vancouver was long but spectacular, particularly through Manning Provincial Park where the road weaved its way through valleys with swirling misty clouds suspended among the treetops between the mountains. The weather was fierce and we drove through one hell of a hailstorm which made us feel sorry for all the motorbike holiday gangs and backpacking cyclists. The hail on the ground was so thick that we stopped for a hail-ball fight.

road through manning provincial park

A spectacular misty drive

Hail as thick as snow

Hail as thick as snow

We made it to the ferry terminal on time and thoroughly enjoyed the 90 minute ferry ride across to Vancouver Island. Ferries are not something we get at home in South Africa, and driving our car onto a boat was a novelty for us. A scenic drive northwards up Vancouver Island ended our two day cross country journey in Campbell River, billed as the salmon fishing capital of the world.


Vancouver island ferry

Waiting to board the ferry

Vancouver Island Ferry

Enjoying the view of Vancouver Island

As we pulled into Elk Falls Provincial Park’s Quinsam Campground, I could see immediately that we had made a great choice. There were huge, private sites tucked under a lush, towering rain forest and ours was right next to the river.


Having experienced a night in the big yellow tent, I laid claim to this beauty and we allocated our little green love-nest to Luke and Cian, much to their disgust.

Elk falls provincial park Quinsam campground

A stone’s throw from the river

quinsam camp Elk Falls Provincial park

The road through the camp ground

Although the camping gods kept trying to throw a spanner in the works, now that I had made my peace with camping, I handled each new challenge with patience and grace:

Sopping wet pillows and mattresses from the hailed-on roof bag. Pah – who needs those? Towels for pillows and damp mattresses for one night.

Pit toilets (i.e. a stinky “long-drop” full of flies). Pah – so it won’t kill us (hopefully), and at least it was close enough to our campsite to minimise stress while running the midnight eye-shine gauntlet.

No showers. Pah – make a plan. I located a public swimming pool to visit each day for my shower, and turned a blind eye (or nose) to the kids’ lack of hygiene.

Wet mattresses

Wet mattresses

Nope – nothing could detract from being in this piece of paradise. I don’t know if it was the magic of this ancient forest or just having been away from everyday stresses for so many weeks, but a feeling of absolute peace and calm had washed over me. I was just so completely happy to be right here, right now and it was so rewarding to know that all five of us were in the same head space.

Elk Falls Provincial Park Vancouver Island

Moss covered trees surrounded our camp site

elk falls provincial park quinsam camp forest

Ancient trees towered over us

mule deer in elk falls provincial park

A shy campsite visitor

We woke up early the next morning to Jacob’s delighted cry – “The salmon are running!” and I’ll be damned, so they were – right in front of our tent! Hundreds of fish came past in little groups, climbing and jumping up the shallow river as they wriggled their way upstream back to the place of their birth. It was like being inside a NatGeo Wild programme. In a flurry of excitement the boys ran into the river, squealing and screaming with laughter as they tried to get the shiny pink salmon to take their flies. Jacob was first to hook into one and he laughed out loud in sheer delight as he fought it for ages, finally bringing it into the net Cian was holding. Although we usually release our fish, we decided to keep this beauty for dinner – after all, fresh Canadian salmon is hard to beat!

flyfishing campbell river

Boy vs fish

flyfishing pink salmon campbell river

Jacob with his first pink salmon on fly

Luke was next to hook one, and he was equally delighted with his fight, but we released that beauty. The salmon run ended a couple of hours after it started. I didn’t realise that these amazing fish run only for a short time – early morning and sometimes early evening – and not every day, only when the conditions are right. We witnessed one of the first runs of the season, when the fish were still plump and full of energy from their life out at sea.

pink salmon run quinsam river

Luke’s salmon

fly fishing for pink salmon campbell river

Pink salmon take pink flies

What a fantastic day. We explored a bit more of the campground and the boys spent hours fishing the river, exploring the deep pools to see if they could find any other fish. Jacob was thrilled to catch some wild cutthroat trout as well as a tiny juvenile steelhead – his ultimate in trout species.

canadian salmon campbell river

Fresh salmon for dinner

quinsam river sunset elk falls campbell river

Sunset over the Quinsam river

As we sat around our campsite table enjoying our fresh salmon dinner, I was acutely aware that this is as good as it gets. We were literally in heaven on earth and life just simply could not be better.

Happy Camper Meter

Happy Camper Meter


Yours in travel




Did you miss any of our previous diary entries? Click below to catch up:

Canada Diary Part 14 – The Badlands and Another Unhappy Camper

Canada Diary Part 13 – The Canadian Prairies

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