The fantastic Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island is a very popular place to be, averaging one million visitors every year. The huge park is a valuable example of the coastal lowland ecosystems and marine shelf region.
The park covers 500 square kilometres of protected land. It is divided into three major geographic regions:
- West Coast Trail –75 km (46 miles) long, this world-famous hiking trail takes an average of 7 days to complete. The trail takes hikers past some truly spectacular white-sand beaches and tidal rock formations. The trail is open from May to September, and due to its popularity all hikers are required to book their visit in advance.
- Long Beach – The most accessible and recognizable area in the park, Long Beach is a 10 km (6 mile) unbroken stretch of white sand. Located between Tofino and Uclulet, there is access to many short hiking trails, excellent surfing, a provincial campground and Interpretive Centre.
- Broken Group Islands – A group of over 100 small islands, featuring eight remote camping locations. Numerous local companies offer single and multi-day kayaking tours of the area.
The West Coast Trail Shows a Unique Part of Vancouver Island’s History
The 75 kilometer long trail visited by thousands of hikers every year began as a web of trails used by the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples for trading. Through the 1800s, as European sea traffic increased, the rugged coastline and unpredictable weather caused many shipwrecks. The trails helped shipwrecked sailors reach safety, and were connected with the construction of the Dominion Lifesaving Trail. Emergency use of the trail dwindled through the twentieth century, and the trail became part of the Pacific Rim National Park in 1973.
The Unique Environment of Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park
The park protects many stands of old-growth trees: most of these are coniferous, or “evergreen.” One of the most unique species is the Sitka spruce: growing an average of 70 metres (230 feet) tall, these trees only grow within the first 700 metres (less than half a mile) from the ocean.
Pacific Rim National Park is home to many unique creatures, large and small. The rocky headlands that frame the beaches hold complex tide pool systems, home to sea stars, anemones, mussels, and other fascinating (and squishy) creatures. When walking along the beach, you may be lucky enough to spot seals, sea lions, otters, dolphins, or even whales off-shore. When exploring the forest, be aware of predators: black bears, wolves, and cougars all move through the area. Always pay attention to park wildlife notices to ensure your safety if you spot one of these animals. Such wildlife encounters can be a breathtaking experience you will remember for the rest of your life – but only if you behave responsibly and with respect.
All Visitors can Help Prevent Unnecessary Damage to the Park
Canada Parks staff work with the Nuu-chah-nuulth First Nations and other local communities to keep the rainforest healthy. The park is a careful balance of protecting environmental stability, and encouraging public exploration and education. Infrastructure such as parking lots, campgrounds, and hiking trails all impact the rainforest. With nearly 600, 000 people visiting annually, human impact on the park environment can be huge. Park visitors play an important role in ensuring that the environment stays healthy for generations of future guests. When exploring this spectacular place, help protect it by stay on the trails and out of the tide pools.
Have you seen a whale breaching while exploring the beach, or watched a bald eagle fishing? Share your wildlife experiences from the Pacific Rim National Park in the comments below.
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