BY TRICIA EDGAR
“Those are otters!” I exclaim to a couple nearby as I walk down to Twin Falls for catch a glimpse of these new residents of Lynn Canyon Park, a short 20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, B.C.
As I walk across the Lynn Creek bridge I see four river otters, red-mouthed and full-bellied, finishing off their catch. They crouch in the middle of a damp rock below the falls. As the water pounds down around them, one otter drags a salmon out of the water and they feast.
The presence of otters here means there are now enough salmon in the river to support otters in the Lynn Creek watershed. For decades, the Morten Creek Salmon Hatchery has been slowly reintroducing coho and chum salmon to the Lynn Creek watershed and transforming a tiny drainage ditch for an old dump into a small but thriving salmon stream that feeds into Lynn Creek.
Zo Ann Morten began the hatchery project in 1989, and the creek is named in her honor. She says that the gradual reintroduction of salmon has been of huge benefit to the watershed’s predators. “On one day I counted twelve bald eagles soaring over the creek looking for lunch,” she says.
In addition to otters and salmon, other wildlife can be found in the park. Coyotes love Vancouver’s open spaces and frequent the park. Black bears nibble on grass in the meadow above the falls and doze in quiet forest beds. Smaller animals also embrace this park on the urban fringe. Dippers dive into the falls to catch mayflies. Huge pileated woodpeckers grace the forest’s older trees. Banana slugs slime their way steadily across the forest floor, intriguing visitors .
Lynn Creek is a rough and tumble river that begins in the coastal mountains, sweeps through open floodplains and squeezes through small canyons on its way to the ocean. It’s also a distinctly urban river. Even though it begins in the far reaches of the mountains where few hikers manage to tread, it soon rushes down through the suburbs of North Vancouver and into the industrial zones that line Vancouver’s waterfront.
The creek is well known for the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, a wiggly bridge that towers over the canyon below. Under the bridge, the creek leaps from its floodplain over a waterfall into a 90-foot deep pool. From there, the creek winds through a narrow canyon edged with cedars and firs, until it tumbles once again over the two waterfalls that make up Twin Falls.
A twenty minute walk from the Suspension Bridge, Twin Falls is glorious in any season. In the winter, the falls are a rushing torrent whose spray reaches the small wooden bridge that spans the canyon. In the summer, the water is a clear green that turns quickly into white water as it rushes into the depths below. Here, the canyon walls are lined with maidenhair ferns thriving in the water that drips off the rocks above. The creek narrows into a small, rushing canyon and cascades over two waterfalls, one right after the other. Below Twin Falls, the creek is flat and calm, perfect for a coho, chum and pink salmon seeking to dig their gravel nests and lay their eggs.
Twin Falls is a gem in the parks that sprawl across the North Shore mountains. It is an example of how wilderness and the urban environment can coexist.
Adventure Location and Directions
Lynn Canyon Park is located at 3663 Park Road, but it is not commonly found on most GPS maps. To find the park on a GPS, enter Latitude 49 degrees 20’37”N and Longitude 123 degrees 01’04”W.
To drive to the park from Vancouver, go over the Ironworkers’ Memorial Bridge. Take the #19 exit for Lynn Valley Road. Stay right. Go past the mall. Several blocks after the mall, turn right on Peters Road. There is a large sign there that points to the park. At the end of Peters Road there is the park entrance. The Ecology Centre, Café, and trails are at the end of the parking lot.
To get to Lynn Canyon Park on public transit, take the Seabus across Burrard Inlet from Vancouver. Take the #228 or #229 bus and ask the bus driver to let you off near the park. The bus that runs close to the park is the #229, and the bus stop is Peters and Duval Road.
If You Go
When you visit Twin Falls, visit in the morning and take some time to enjoy the trails along the either side of the creek. On the north side of the creek, the Baden-Powell Trail extends all the way to Deep Cove, a strenuous hike that takes a full day in the summer time. On the south side, hike the smaller Beaver Trail, with its quiet places and moss-covered trees.
If you want a longer adventure, take a walk into the surrounding Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, a 30 minute walk up the hill. There, larger animals come out of the forest as you walk quietly by. Deer, owls, and even black bear frequent the trail side.
Also visit the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre offers guided summer programs for adults and children. Find them at www.dnv.org/ecology. CanTop Tours brings groups into the park regularly. Call other local tour companies: many of them stop in the canyon upon occasion.
In the park, the Lynn Canyon Café offers casual food and is open seasonally. Call them at 604-984-9311 to see if they will be open when you arrive.
July and August are the driest months of the year, but the canyon is beautiful in any season. September is often lovely and much less busy than the summer. Go early in the morning if you want to see wildlife. In the summer, the park becomes very busy by late morning and continues to be busy late into the evening. 9 am is a good time to arrive, when the forests are quiet and wildlife is more likely to venture out onto the trails.
The trails are marked, but there are many informal trails. The Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre’s web site has a free map to download.
Be prepared for all sorts of weather. Even if it is sunny in Vancouver, the Lynn Valley area is famous for its large amount of rainfall. Wear appropriate gear for the weather. Bring good hiking shoes. The canyon is steep and the trails are often wet and muddy.
Also, be prepared for bears. There are black bears in the canyon and they do visit the local neighborhoods, particularly in late summer and early fall when the fruit trees begin to make fruit. Speak loudly and leave lots of space for wildlife to cross the path.
Lynn Creek Canyon is a front-country wilderness with a lot of backcountry close by. As such, it hosts many of the more urban animals as well as a smattering of larger animals. You may see:
• Resident birds
(robin, chickadee, varied thrush, junco, dipper)
• Woodpeckers (Pileated, hairy, downy, sapsucker)
• Migratory birds (Swainson’s Thrush, warblers)
• Salmon and trout (various species)
• Banana slugs
• Black bear
• Cougar (unlikely, but present)
• Otters (unlikely, but present)
About the Author
Tricia Edgar is an environmental educator and writer who lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia. When she is not writing about science and nature, she’s out enjoying the rain and hunting for banana slugs with her 6-year-old.
Click here for a map of the adventure location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.