Goldstream Provincial Park

“Ancient Boreal Forest With Waterfalls, Stunning Views, and Salmon Runs”

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Goldstream Provincial Park

Goldstream Provincial Park is a rainforest. When most people think of a rainforest, an image appears of toucans and monkeys in an exotic forest. But Goldstream is a different kind of rainforest. Called a temperate rainforest, it shares heavy rainfall with its southern cousins. This type of rainforest decomposes slowly, resulting in a rich vegetation base. But because of low light levels and the colder climate, temperate rainforests have fewer tree varieties. Spanish moss hangs from 600-year-old Douglas-fir trees as the distant sounds of a raging waterfall mingle with the songs of birds.

Almost any season at Goldstream will provide unique shooting oppotrunities. In the winter months, a dusting of snow will add a beautiful contrast to your images. Spring and summer months bring a forest is full of life and natural beauty. As autumn descends on the forest, the river becomes home to one of the most impressive salmon spawning runs in the world. Bright red sockeye salmon by the thousands making their way up-river to begin the cycle of life and death again. It is the life of the space that will unfold before your lens and the peaceful solace that can be found here will calm your soul.

Hidden Waterfall

Hidden Waterfall Goldstream Provincial Park - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

An often forgotten waterfall in the park, the Hidden Waterfall is well worth the trip. It is an admittedly smaller waterfall, but it’s symmetry, relative remoteness and ease of access make it well worth the hike. The best time to shoot the waterfalls is in that period between winter and spring when the snow at higher elevations has melted and filled these waterfalls with rushing water. Also given the relatively small size of this waterfall provides the opportunity to get low and wide to shoot it.

Hiking Trails

Niagara Stream View - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

As you make your way along the cliff edges and through the stunning forest of the park, you will find countless shooting opportunities. From the Arbutus Tree Groves high up the trails to the massive Cedars and Fir trees at the lower regions, you will not be short of shooting opportunities. The rich flora and fauna of the forest are almost impossible to translate in photographs, but you will lose yourself trying to do so. To add to the character, spanish moss hangs from the trees above the rich moss covered forest floor and fallen trees. Shooting opportunities from footpaths and bridges also appear, notably within Niagara Canyon as shown in the image above. These offer a unique perspective over the rushing waters that you cannot get otherwise without getting wet. Visitors are reminded to stay to the marked paths to preserve the natural beauty of the region.

Niagara Trestle

Niagara Trestle - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

One of the most popular destinations in Goldstream is the Niagara Trestle, also called the Goldstream trestle. The bridge is an iron trestle which spans the Niagara canyon at a height of 295 feet. Originally built in the 1800s it was relocated to its current spot in the 1910s.  Situated high and deep in the park this railway bridge is still technically active. We do not recommend walking across the trestle as it is technically trespassing and there are no rail sidings to prevent you from falling to your death. While not part of an existing rail line, maintenance crews also still make use of the rails so be careful even when standing on the tracks. Finally, the trestle is at the top of a long hike up the canyon sides, so being in good shape is necessary to get to it.

Niagara Waterfall

Niagara Waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

Next, we have the Niagara Falls. These falls are very different than the famous falls that have the same name. Without a doubt, these falls are one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring sights on Vancouver Island. The narrow falls drop an impressive 156 ft to the riverbed below. The falls are easily accessible presuming the tunnel under the Malahat highway is passable. At certain times of the year, the water levels will be too high to access the falls and you will need to park on the West side of the highway.

Photographing Goldstream

Photographing Goldstream Provincial Park will take the better part of a day. There are some public parking lots, but these will fill up as the day goes on, especially in the summer and fall months. Once parked it may not be immediately obvious where to go. We recommend heading to the hidden falls first (exercise care crossing the highway if you have to), and making your way up to the Niagara Trestle from there. This route provides a much more gradual trip to bridge followed by a steep hike down to the falls. This circular loop is a lovely way to spend a day.

In your planning, consider starting your visit at predawn or dawn.  An early arrival will not only ensure you get a parking spot but also increase chances of capturing the morning mist and dew. These atmospheric effects will add to your shots and also help avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Pack water and be aware that in the summer the forest can be very humid and muggy.

Be prepared to walk at least 5-10km throughout your visit along trails that often have abrupt changes in elevation. For this reason, it is good advice to pack light. If you have lightweight tripods, and a comfortable camera bag you should find the trails very manageable. Also, ensure you have a microfibre lens cleaning cloth to wipe moisture off your lens caused by spray at the waterfalls, and in the event of extreme humidity or rain.

The area is particularly well suited to HDR photography, and your images may require a fair bit of luminosity masking in post-processing to get right. A neutral density filter is a must if you want to shoot silky smooth waterfalls, and wide angle lenses will help convey the sense of space this area demands. Finally, polarizers and lens hoods will prove valuable cutting glare on sunny days.