Bear Creek Nature Park

Bear Creek Nature Park is one of the Comox Valley’s less well known regional parks. It’s relatively new (added to the Comox Valley Regional District’s system of parks in 2011) and it is a bit off the beaten track on MacAulay Road in Black Creek. The 161 acre park includes a working fish hatchery run by the Oyster River Enhancement Society.

Leaf Shapes
I was really captivated by the similar looking leaf shapes of the stink currant (foreground), and the bigleaf maple (background). Less visible are the maple-like leaves of Devil’s club underneath the bigleaf maple.

I spent several hours earlier this month poking around the trails and hatchery access roads. The park was virtually deserted and I only encountered a couple of people walking a dog and distantly heard a pair of other walkers over the course of nearly four hours. If you’re looking for a place to walk through some big old bigleaf maples and marvel at Devil’s club, this is the place to do it. The birding is excellent as well and I heard several different species of warblers and western tanagers while I was there.

Quiet Stream
A quiet stream in Bear Creek Nature Park. Lady fern and salmonberry on the right side of the creek, Pacific ninebark on the left. Bigleaf maple and red alder in the background.

The botany is quite interesting. From the parking area you follow an access road and descend to a terrace above the Oyster River. The forest here is mixed, but bigleaf maple dominates. Lady fern, Pacific ninebark, and salmonberry line the streams here and yellow warbler can be heard. Devil’s club grows dramatically in the open areas under the bigleaf maple, and false bugbane lines the roads and trails in the more shaded areas.

Forest Opening
One of the smaller side trails works its way deeper into the forest on the mid terrace.
Old Growth Bigleaf Maple
Old growth bigleaf maple is common in Bear Creek Nature Park.

The road eventually drops again from this terrace down to the flood plain of the Oyster River. At river level, the work of the Oyster River Enhancement Society becomes obvious and there are a number of spawning channels and rearing channels that run parallel to the river. Quiet swamps are surrounded by mixed hemlock and red cedar. Red alder grows alongside of the wetter areas.

Red Alder Swamp
Red alder grows alongside one of the side channels created by the Oyster River Enhancement Society.

There are plenty of paths and narrow roads to choose from, but it is possible to follow a rough loop along the banks of the Oyster and then circle back along the base of the wetland that has formed at the base of the main terrace.

Red Cedar in Dark Forest
A red cedar nurse log in a small clearing in a dark western hemlock grove. Bigleaf maple in the background.

There’s a bit of a primeval feel in the forest,¬†especially in the darker places. It’s very quiet except for the sound of water and bird song. Bear Creek Nature Park is definitely a place to reconnect with nature!

Additional photographs on my Island Nature Tumblr blog. These images and more available as prints at http://DaveIngram.ca.

Getting There:

Bear Creek Nature Park is located in Black Creek which is approximately half way between Courtenay and Campbell River. From Hamm Road (accessed via the Old Island Highway or the Inland Island Highway) turn onto MacAulay Road. Continue for 2.3 km and look for signage and the one-way access road on the right hand side of MacAulay Road. The parking area is a short distance from MacAulay Road.

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