Buttle Lake Bluffs

It’s a spot where few people stop on their way to Ralph River Campground in Strathcona Provincial Park. There doesn’t look like there’s much to see and the road is so narrow, twisty and windy in this section that there aren’t many places to pull over safely as well, especially if you’ve got a Boliden-Westmin Mines ore truck on your rear bumper.

If you’re a botanist, the bluffs at Buttle Lake are very interesting. Rock exposed when the road was blasted through forms a warm south-facing microclimate rich in many specialized plants that you would typically see at higher elevations in the park.

The bluffs are located on the highway on either side of the Lupin Falls Trail. Both are good but the longer section between the junction to Gold River and Lupin Falls Trail provides a better area to explore and more “pull outs.” Make sure that you’ve got lots of time to pull off the road safely and signal your intention well in advance if there’s traffic behind you.

I spent about an hour poking around in the scree at the base of the bluffs photographing plants in bloom and watching butterflies and other insects flutter by. Here’s a few photographs of what’s in flower:

Field Chickweed (Cerastium arvense)
Lots of Field Chickweed (Cerastium arvense) in bloom – gorgeous little clumps of white flowers!
Falsebox (Pachistima myrsinites)
I love the funky flowers on this Falsebox (Pachistima myrsinites). One of my favourite less noticed shrubs!
Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca)
I didn’t take a too close look at the finer identification features of this violet but I’m pretty sure that it’s Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca). Seemed to like the disturbed gravel in the ditch alongside the road.
Rusty-haired Saxifrage (Saxifraga rufidula)
Rusty-haired Saxifrage (Saxifraga rufidula) is pretty much done – Jocie took this photograph earlier in the spring.
Hairy Rockress (Arabis hirsuta)
Hairy Rockcress (Arabis hirsuta). I only found one or two of these, fortunately I was watching a Sara’s Orangetip and it landed on the flower which was why I noticed it!
Spreading Phlox (Phlox diffusa)
There’s a little bit of Spreading Phlox (Phlox diffusa) in bloom but it’s not looking great at this time of year. This photograph is from a visit to the bluffs a number of years ago.

These are just a few of the plants that are in bloom at the base of the bluffs and easily missed at 60 km/hour. It’s well worth the stop, but remember that the road is busy with travelers and ore trucks so caution crossing the road is well advised.

How to Get There:

From Campbell River on Vancouver Island, British Columbia take Highway 28 towards Gold River. The highway enters Strathcona Provincial Park at the 48 km mark. Keep straight when you reach the “T” junction and follow signage pointing towards Westmin Mines and Ralph River Campground – if you cross the bridge and pass the Buttle Lake Campground you’re going the wrong way. The bluffs are about 10 minutes from this “T” junction and are located between the Buttle Lake boat ramp and Lupin Falls Trail. Gravel pull offs are only available on the lake side of the road so it’s a little safer to stop on your way to Lupin Falls rather than on your way back.