The tranquil Blue Mountain Forest in Maple Ridge provides a soothing setting for picnicking in Kanaka Creek Regional Park. Tables are spread about in a sunny location just above Cliff Falls. Come June, the salmonberry bushes are laden with ripe fruit, in brilliant shades of red and gold. They both taste the same (the yellow ones are rarer) and provide a sweet, juicy accompaniment to whatever else you have in your picnic basket.
The picnic site is several minutes’ walk downhill from the parking area at the 252nd Street entrance off Dewdney Trunk Road. There’s also picnicking in the park farther upstream at the Bell-Irving Kanaka Creek Fish Hatchery. This open setting beside the main fork of Kanaka Creek (the two forks merge below Cliff Falls) lacks some of the mystique of Cliff Falls, but none of the calm (except in April, when schoolchildren gather for the annual release of fry from the hatchery).
Kanaka Creek Regional Park is a long corridor of protected land that stretches almost 7 miles (11 km) inland from the Fraser River. To explore the park by canoe or kayak, head for the car-top boat launch in a section of the park located near Kanaka and the Fraser’s confluence. Take Hwy 7 (Lougheed Hwy) a short distance east of Maple Ridge. Just after the highway crosses the Kanaka Creek Bridge, a green GVRD sign indicates the way to Kanaka Creek Regional Park’s Riverfront entrance. Turn south onto River Road, cross the railway tracks, and drive to the west end of the parking lot. The boat launch is located a short distance from here.
You can spend an idyllic 30 minutes paddling a mile or so upstream to the fish counting station beside the 240th Street Bridge (only open from October through mid-December). Shallow water north of here choked with blowdowns makes paddling more difficult—better to float back downstream through Kanaka’s oxbow bends with your binoculars at the ready. Lazily explore the last few bends made by Kanaka between the boat launch and the Fraser. The atmosphere in this section is one of protective solitude, with only a hint of a breeze. Tall stands of evergreens and cottonwoods shade much of the creek. From their branches, hawks eye the herons who have flown across from their colony in Derby Reach Regional Park. Thick stands of green vegetation are so perfectly mirrored in the creek’s languid surface that at times it is difficult to tell where the true growth leaves off and the reflection begins. In places along the creek, mauve, helmet-shaped penstemon flowers tower above the shoreline.
Although the best way to experience the lower section of Kanaka Creek Regional Park is by boat, for an easygoing walking tour, follow Riverfront Trail on foot as it leads out to Kanaka’s confluence with the Fraser from the Hwy 7 trailhead. Along the way, climb the three-storey observation tower beside the creek, which provides an overview of the landscape here. Bring your binoculars, as this quiet refuge sustains a host of fascinating flyers. The creek and river close in on both sides of the nose of land as you follow the trail west. Decaying pilings offer mute testimony that fishing boats once tied up in this sheltered backwater. From an observation deck that overhangs the riverbank, you get broad views of the Fraser. Farther along, a gracefully arched bridge spans the mouth of the creek.
This is as far as you can explore in the riverfront section of the park, but you can log an hour’s more walking time around the Cliff Falls area of the park, a 10-minute drive inland. Walk down a short trail that leads to the first of two bridges that span the twin waterfalls conjoining the separate arms of Kanaka Creek. Another trail leads down to the north fork of the creek. Rock-hopping the streambed in either direction is not difficult when water levels are low. In summer, this is a lovely environment in which to cool off. Small pools have been worn in the creekbed, not big enough for swimming but ideal for giving overheated feet a treat. Wooden staircases and sturdy bridges lead through the nearby forest, which rises and falls dramatically in places. Trails lead east from Cliff Falls to the Salmon Hatchery, an easy half-hour walk.
For more information and a map of Kanaka Creek’s trails, contact GVRD Parks, (604) 432-6350.