by Jesse Holth –
During these long, hot summer days, everyone is looking for a way to beat the heat. One of the best places to cool off is at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, where you can take a dip in the Sooke River. There are several places to swim in the clear, emerald water, including shallow areas suitable for kids and adults alike. The namesake “potholes” were formed by glacial processes 15,000 years ago, when boulders became lodged along the river, and its rushing waters carved large, smooth craters into the bedrock.
If you bring a picnic lunch, you can sit at one of several tables dotting the riverside and enjoy the view. You’ll be able to spot the beautiful falls, rushing through and over polished rocks. In fact, you might not know that the geology of Vancouver Island holds a surprising secret – the bulk of the island was actually formed down near the equator, and eventually drifted northeast over the Pacific Ocean. About 42 to 55 million years ago, a smaller piece of crust collided with the Island, and it is this “marine volcanic rock” that forms Sooke. That’s why the Sooke Potholes look so different than some of our other rock formations – they are actually volcanic rocks!
There are also some great hiking trails along the river, where you can take in a variety of landscapes. The whole area is forested, with tall, beautiful trees providing plenty of much-needed shade. Sometimes a glorious breeze will sweep up along the river, and there are several viewpoints where you can look out over the idyllic scene. You can even spend a few nights in the RV and tent campground at the north end of the park. Open until September 18, the Spring Salmon Place Campground operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
The park can easily be accessed by the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, which is a great option for cyclists. If you explore the landscape, you might even find some lesser-known sights – for example, the unfinished remains of Deertrail Lodge standing beside the river. Its massive chimney still visible, these ruins may appear to be hundreds of years old. In fact, construction only dates to the 1980s and 1990s, when private owners began to build a resort that would never reach completion. The abandoned ruins are still there today, providing a moody and foreboding atmosphere to the surrounding area.
Sooke River is an important coho and chinook salmon spawning river, and you’ll have the opportunity to see bald eagles, red squirrels, and black-tailed deer. Even cougars and bears occasionally wander down from the Sooke Hills, so use caution (particularly when camping). The driving time to Sooke Potholes is around 45 minutes from Greater Victoria, and there are several parking lots – the closer ones are pay parking, which costs $2.25 per day in the summer season. Wear your bathing suit, pack your cooler, and experience freshwater swimming at its best!
For directions and other information, visit www.crd.bc.ca/parks.