Triple Falls in Errington, British Columbia

Sometimes the best falls are the ones that are a little bit off the beaten path. They don’t have to be spectacular drops, but they should be a little harder to get to. The extra effort makes it worthwhile.

This weekend I joined a group of Comox Valley Camera Club photographers on a day trip to the Triple Falls on Morrison Creek (? Haven’t been able to confirm this, but a “Backroads” map shows a Morrison Creek feeding into the Englishman River. It’s in the right location.). The falls are located in Errington, a small community just outside of Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Getting to the trailhead in a nondescript cul de sac in rural Errington was a fairly easy process of “lefts” and “rights” on country roads. The slightly tricky part is choosing the right track leading down to the water. Since I originally visited this site, access has apparently been improved and there is now a trail that does not cross public property and takes you to the falls. Make sure to respect signage identifying public property.

Lower Drop of the Triple Falls
Fast flowing water over the top of the lower drop of the Triple Falls in Errington, BC.
ISO 100, 16mm, f/13, 25 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 6-stop ND Filter

There are indeed three sets of falls. The lower and the upper are the larger of the three, the middle was little more than a foot in height (unless there is another larger waterfall upstream of the upper drop). The upper falls are actually a double drop so maybe that’s where the “triple” comes from.

Triple Falls Pool
The large pool at the base of the lower falls in the Triple Falls system.
ISO 100, 16mm, f/11, 25 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 6-stop ND Filter

I started with the lower falls because there were fewer people photographing it and more room to work. It has cleaner sight lines and a decent pool, with less unruly vegetation around the edges of the falls. Light was fairly dim and the water flow fast so a B+W 6-stop ND filter was sufficient to get slower shutter speeds to blur the water.

By the time I finished the lower falls much of the group had moved on and I had the upper falls all to myself aside from one other photographer who left shortly after I arrived. The light was poor initially—full sunlight on the upper falls created harsh contrast, blown out highlights and weird shadows. I was going to leave, but decided to wait it out. Within 15 minutes or so the clouds had moved in and the falls were more evenly lit.

Triple Falls - Upper
The two drops of the upper falls in the Triple Falls system – not sure if this counts as one waterfall or two!
ISO 100, 16mm, f/11, 124 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 10-stop ND Filter

In comparison to the lower falls, the upper drop of the Triple is much more challenging to get a clean image. There’s plenty of sticks, shrubs and dead grass at this time of year which have to be minimized in the composition as much as possible. I’m already planning a return trip in the spring when the background will be more lush and less volume coming over the falls. Late summer and early fall should be good as well.

Upper Triple Falls Pool
The main pool at the base of the upper Triple Falls.
ISO 100, 16mm, f/11, 182 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 10-stop ND Filter

Even with the cloud, the upper falls were bright so I switched to the B+W 10-stop ND filter. Something in between probably would have been just right, the 10-stop is so dark that I was getting exposures up into the 2 to 3 minute range at f/11. Nice to be able to slow down and enjoy the location while waiting for the exposure—at one point I had a visit from a little Pacific wren who thought it would be interesting to check out the fellow in the rubber boots standing in the water.

If you’re traveling through Parksville or Qualicum Beach and are looking for an alternative to the spectacular falls at Englishman River falls or Little Qualicum falls check out these less visited “secret” falls. You’ll be glad you did!

Getting There:

  • Coming from Parksville south from the Alberni Highway (4A) turn left onto Bellevue Road, then right onto Ruffels Road, then left onto Leffler Road (90° turn in the road – Ruffels becomes Leffler), then left onto Middlegate Road, and finally right onto Sierra Road which ends in a gravel cul de sac.
  • Coming from Coombs heading east on the Alberni Highway (4A) turn right onto Errington Road, then left onto Grafton Avenue at the junction. Grafton takes you to Leffler. Turn right and continue with the directions above.
  • Note that continuing to the end of Middlegate takes you to another interesting set of trails and a fish hatchery