Begbie Creek, Sutherland Creek and Mulvehill Creek
south of Revelstoke, BC off Highway 23
By Dr. Robert Berdan
June 15, 2012
One of my favorite locations for photography is south of Revelstoke along highway 23 in British Columbia. Revelstoke is about a 4.5 hour drive from Calgary. The highway to Revelstoke is scenic as you pass over the Rogers Pass and there is lots of wildlife such as black bears and mountain goats along the way. This highway is always busy, but as soon as you get off the main stretch onto other roads the volume of traffic slows to a trickle. Once I reach Revelstoke, I usually stop for a bite to eat and then head across the suspension bridge and turn south along highway 23 towards Galena Bay. At Galena bay there is a ferry that takes you across the Arrow lake and if you like can you drive further south to a small town called Nakusp which I will describe in a future article. Here I will focus on several waterfalls and hiking trails off highway 23 south of Revelstoke.
Mountain goat next to the highway on the way to Revelstoke. I chased this goat up the hill and away from the highway so he wouldn't be hit by an oncoming car or truck. Keep an eye out for mountain goats and bears when driving in this area.
South of Revelstoke on highway 23 there are several parks along this stretch of roadway that provide beautiful opportunities to hike and photograph waterfalls, wildflowers, and temperate rain-forest. The first scenic area is Begbie creek, but if you don't know about it chances are you will drive right by it without seeing it. The second park, Blanket creek provincial park, has better signage and you are unlikely to miss it. The third waterfalls is actually a private residence that includes Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn and it is located before Blanket Creek park. This entire region has been logged and most of the trees are second growth though you can still find stumps from giant red cedars that once grew here. In Blanket Creek park I found stumps that appeared as large as the trees I have seen on the West coast.
I found a few large living red cedars across across Galena bay while driving towards trout lake.
One recreation area that is not well known is Begbie creek. The area is not officially a park, but part of the Begbie Falls integrated Resource Plan south of Revelstoke. The town recognizes the high recreational value of this area and there is a plan that allows for strategic reserves where harvesting conflicts will be minimized. New trail construction was completed by the Mt. Begbie Recreational Improvement Association in the summers of 1993/94. A total of 5 km of trail has now been completed and this area is used by local mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders and rock climbers wishing to access the rock bluffs. Motorized use of the trails is prohibited. To my surprise some of the locals don't know about this place.
To access the trails follow Hwy. 23 south of Revelstoke and turn off at Clough Road. Drive to the bottom of the hill and turn right onto Begbie Road. Follow the signs to the start of the Begbie Falls Forest Service Road. From this point there is a trail head 150 m down the road on the right. From here you can either walk or if you have a jeep you can drive down this narrow bumpy road.
Another trail head can be reached by staying on Hwy 23 south and driving past the Mt McPherson Ski Trail parking lot approximately 1 km. Look for the first turnoff to the left where there is a small parking lot and bulletin board. Mountain bikers should dismount and yield the right-of- way to all other users on the trails. There is a registration box at the Hwy 23 trail head. Users are encouraged to sign in and comment on their experience (source Columbia Forest District) .
A narrow road leads to a small parking spot. Most people choose to walk this 2 km road as it is filled with pot holes and is only wide enough for one car, but for those that drive a jeep its an invitation to explore. It ends in a small parking lot.
Begbie creek trail leads through rainforest down to a scenic waterfall.
Steps lead down to the waterfall from near the second parking lot.
Begbie creek flows through a small canyon covered in moss and fallen logs.
My wife, Donna poses with my photo back in front of Begbie creek.
Begbie creek is a great place to just sit and relax.
Begbie Creek waterfalls on a sunny day is challenging to photograph because of the high contrast, for best results go on a cloudy day or wait for a cloud to cover the sun and create lower contrast lighting. While photographing the falls I have met people from around the world that strangely new about this beautiful location.
Short video of Begbie creek and Sutherland Creek waterfalls from June 6, 2011 - Canon 5D Mark II.
Bunchberry are common around Begbie falls in June. Also look for Queens cup lilly and other wildflowers along the trails.
Queens cup Lilly photographed along the trail in overcast light. 100 mm macro lens with tripod.
Map of Begbie Creek trails. Access the park via Clough Road off highway 23 and drive to the parking lot at (A). If you own a jeep or small 4 wheel drive vehicle you can drive the one lane road to the next parking spot (B ). However, this road is not maintained, cuts through some thick bush, allows only one vehicle to pass and often the road has numerous deep potholes covered in water - so use at your own risk. Most folks simply hike the 2.3 km road to the falls. I often have a lot of camera equipment so I prefer to drive my jeep carefully down the road to the next parking lot and then hike to the falls. You can also hike down from the highway at point (E) which is about a 2 km hike and frankly not as scenic. Map source - Columbia forest district.
SUTHERLAND CREEK FALLS in Blanket Creek Provincial Park
Further down highway 23 is another beautiful park on Arrow lake called Blanket Creek provincial park. The creek features a spectacular waterfall and beautiful camping facilities. The waterfall is only a 5 minute walk from the parking lot. The best light to photograph the falls is overcast. Use a tripod and set you camera to low ISO speed and exposures longer then 1\8 of a second to get the misty water appearance. If it is a sunny day try to crop the sky out of the picture and\or you may want to try taking several exposures and then combine the images to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image.
Sutherland Creek Waterfalls in Blanket Creek Provincial park is a short 5 min. walk from the parking lot. Above photo taken
with a large format 4 x 5 inch camera on Fuji Veliva ISO 50 film with 135 mm lens, F45 at 4 seconds.
Above I combined two exposures of the falls, one was +1 EV to open up the shadows, the other was -1 EV to ensure the highlights were not overexposed and then I combined the two images to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image in Adobe Photoshop. HDR works well for images with high contrast scenes on sunny days. Otherwise, the best light is to shoot when the falls are covered in shade or on overcast days as shown below and be sure to use a tripod.
Waterfall taken with a DLSR camera with 20-35 mm zoom lens, F22 at 4 seconds.
Sutherland creek falls in overcast light. It's my favorite water falls to photograph and I never tire of visiting and photographing
this falls. Keep some lens tissue with you to clean the water spray off your lens.
Camping at Blanket Creek provincial park. The park is beautiful, offers a swimming hole for kids, and plenty of lake
front with soft sand. The water in the Upper Arrow lake is a bit cold for my liking.
The campgrounds are clean, and reasonably priced. There is a warm artificial swimming lagoon that is ideal for children. The Park is open between May 4 and September 30 and includes 63 vehicle accessible campsites of which 30 can be reserved in advanced. The park is located about a 15 minute drive, 25 km south of Revelstoke on highway 23, where Blanket creek flows in the Columbia river just north of the Upper Arrow Lake. Blanket Creek Park is 318 hectares, contains white pine and second growth western hemlock and western cedar. The park protects the scenic qualities of Sutherland Falls, a regionally significant natural feature. The park encompasses a farming area known as the old “Domke homestead”. The remnants of this heritage farm and its wide array of trees, both native and imported, are reminders of the pioneer orchardists who first homesteaded the area in the late 1940’s. The park was established in 1982 after the reservoir was made, to provide recreational opportunities for local residents.
Map showing the location of the waterfalls
While driving south on Highway 23 I noticed a small sign that said Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn. I had passed by this way before but never noticed the small sign so I decided to turn into the narrow driveway that heads down a steep hill. When I arrived at the bottom I found a waterfall, beautiful gardens and a Wilderness Inn equipped with a heated swimming pool and hot tub. The property was surrounded by the arrow lakes. I went inside to meet the owners, a swiss family and decided to stay. I was so impressed with the place that I have returned several times. The grounds include a beautiful series of waterfalls and they have numerous humming birds visiting their feeders.
I photographed this Rufous humming bird near a feeder on the porch while I enjoyed a glass of beer. I set up my
300 mm f/2.8 lens, camera and an electronic flash to capture this image at Mulvehill Creek.
Currently the Inn is for sale for about $3 million dollars and should I ever win the lottery I would buy it!. The waterfalls on the property supports a generator to provide power. They owners offer dinner at an additional cost and it is a swiss meal with cheese fondue and other trimmings that was delicious. I don't know how much longer this gem of a place will be open for business, but if you are in the area and looking for a wonderful place to stay it is amazing. One year I took my family for a week long vacation here as I could take photographs on their property all day long, hike along the creek and falls, or canoe and kayak on the lake. Some folks like to fish and there appears to plenty of trout near the creek mouth. The Inn is open all year long and they even have a small chapel on the grounds to host weddings or special occasions. See the link below to their web site for more pictures and information.
Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn off highway 23 south of Revelstoke.
Overlooking Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn and the Arrow lakes from Highway 23 south of Revelstoke.
Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn looking out on the swimming pool and Arrow lake from the dinning room.
Upper Mulvehill Creek leads to several more waterfalls which you can walk along.
Bottom of Mulvehill Creek Water falls, a power generator is located left just out of the picture.
Canoeing on the Arrow lakes. Canoe provided by Mulvehill Creek Wilderness Inn. I photographed the canoe from my kayak.
WILDFLOWERS ALONG THE ROAD
After years of searching I finally found some Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera spp) plants in a marsh area along highway 23 a few kilometers south of Revelstoke. These insectivorous plants feed on mosquitoes and other small insects. They are quite tiny so if you are not looking for them you probably won't see them.
Yellow Skunk Cabbage (Lysichitum americanum) frequent roadsides and marshy areas around the end of April and early
May. The leaves are edible after boiling. The rootstock was an aboriginal staple, made into flour.
In summer Lupines are common next to many of the roadways around Revelstoke.
Wild lowers along the road to Mt. Revelstoke include Indian paintbrush (red), lupines (purple), Nodding onions (white), groundsel (yellow) and the large leaves are from False hellebore which are poisonous. Flowers of the false hellbore are small and yellowish green.
WHAT TO BRING
Although this area is close to town, and there are some homes nearby, it is still wilderness and you can encounter bears and cougars so I would recommend carrying bear spray, hike in pairs or let someone know where you are headed in case you fall or get hurt. It often rains, which is why its a temperate rainforest, so bring rain gear. The water looks clean enough to drink, but you may want to bring bottled water to avoid "beaver fever" or just to be on the safe side. For camera gear, I recommend a tripod, camera with a wide angle lens and polarizing filter. Use long exposures to blur the water (i.e. 1\8 second or longer) to get the silky look. A macro lens is ideal for photographing flowers along the trail. Bring along some lens tissue to clean spray from the falls off your lens.
For locations to stay there are several bed and breakfasts in the region, Mulvehill creek Wilderness Inn is one the nicest though prices start around $179. There are plenty of motels in Revelstoke and if you prefer camping, Blanket creek provincial park is a great place. The arrow lakes are cold and calm and ideal for kayaking and canoeing. Revelstoke is undergoing a boom in tourism as they build new resorts. The town itself is still small and includes a train museum and several places to dine as well as your usual fast food outlets. Recreational opportunities abound all year long. Mt Revelstoke Park just east of town includes a winding road that leads to the top of the mountain and this is one of the best places to photograph wildflowers - the best time being around the end of July. Note the photos in this article were taken over the period of several years. RB