Down at the Brown’s

Brown’s River falls have been on my “must visit” photography list for a while—the problem was that I really didn’t have a clear idea of where exactly they were. The Comox Valley Camera Club did a field trip there earlier in the month but I had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t attend.

There are a couple of different ways to get into the Brown’s River falls—unfortunately, the directions are a bit vague. A Google map search showed access points via Piercy Road and a power line cut, a longer trail in from Duncan Bay Main, and the possibility of walking downstream from the bridge where Forbidden Plateau Road crosses the Brown’s River. I decided to go with what looked like the shortest route via the Piercy Road parking area.

Brown's River Falls
The Brown’s River Falls are a gorgeous little waterfall on the Brown’s River in the Comox Valley, British Columbia.
ISO 100, 24mm, f/18, 10 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 6-stop ND Filter

The Piercy Road access point does get you to the waterfalls fairly quickly. The problem is that you have to descend down a fairly steep bank (similar to the bank that leads down into Trent River falls); there is a rope that you can use to slow your descent and to assist you on the way back up.

Top of the Falls
Looking down at the top of the falls.
ISO 100, 22mm, f/16, 13.0 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 6-stop ND Filter

Photography options are somewhat limited on the north side of the river because it is hemmed in by the bank. However, you do have the advantage of photographing the falls from an angle that is a bit different (apparently the south side access is more regularly used since it is easier walking). At this time of  year the water level is quite high so moving either upstream or downstream is tricky. I think it would be much more interesting in late summer and early fall when there are more rocks exposed and water flow a bit slower.

Bowls at Brown's River Falls
Some interesting bowls along the top shelf of the Brown’s River Falls.
ISO 100, 16mm, f/14, 13.0 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 6-stop ND Filter

I tried a couple of different positions below and above the water falls and was happy to try out my new B+W 6-stop ND filter. It’s a bit more versatile than the 10-stop and you can actually see through it which helps with composition. The filter is dense enough that you can get decent long exposures and that milky effect of moving water.

Brown's River Falls and Bowl Detail
Water flowing over the Brown’s River Falls.
ISO 100, 35mm, f/14, 15.0 sec – Nikon D600, B+W 6-stop ND Filter

Now that I know where these falls are I’m definitely going to plan a return trip. The rock formations look interesting and with lower water should make for some stunning photographs.

Getting There:

  • Piercy Road access – from Courtenay head out of town via Condensory Road, turn on Piercy Road. Continue on Piercy until you see signage for Wildwood Forest. Park underneath the power lines on either side of Piercy. From the parking area follow the access road underneath the power lines on the opposite side of the road from Wildwood Forest trailhead.
  • Walk a short distance on the access road and watch for a narrow trail leading off to the right – it isn’t flagged but is noticeable as the first well used trail that seems to go somewhere. Once it leaves the power line cut and enters the forest it becomes more obvious and is flagged.
  • The trail makes its way to the top of the high bank above the Brown’s River and then follows it to the east. Look for a trail with a rope that descends down to the river below. Some caution should be used because this trail is close to the edge. It continues down the river a ways but there didn’t seem to be any other easy/obvious points to descend back down. I ended up bushwhacking a bit to get back to the power line on my way out, probably better just to retrace your steps.
  • Use care around the river’s edge once you’re at the base of the bank—the water is flowing very quickly.
  • See the Google map for other possible access points. I haven’t checked these out so use at your own discretion!

Parking location for Piercy Road access. The trail here follows the powerline access road and then branches off onto a narrow woodland trail towards the river.

Bridge where Forbidden Plateau Road crosses the Brown's River. Some photographers recommend parking near here and walking down the river - probably best to do this during low water flow.

Haven't checked this access point out and not sure if it is accessible.