Tucked away in the mountainous landscapes of the central east coast of Vancouver Island, just minutes south of the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, is a series of small – but significant – waterfalls, enrobed in layers of serene, Jurassic jungle. The protected park is named for the creek that flows through it, but most know the falls by a completely different name. If you frequent the Instagram profiles of Vancouver Island’s incredibly talented photographers, you probably know it by a different name, too: Ammonite Falls.
There are two access points to choose from to get to the falls, the more popular being the Jameson Road trailhead. From where we parked at the lot off Doumont Road, the trail network was elaborate, but we saw only maybe 4 or 5 couples/individuals meandering the weaving web of trails. We first explored the many dirt-biking trails before we decided to seek out the main attraction of this beautiful, historical park.
When we finally chose to find the falls, we first headed back to the parking lot to re-establish ourselves (I have essentially no inner compass, so things like this happen when you put me in charge of navigation). Had it not been for the help of a nearby local walking his dog, we likely wouldn’t have found the falls on our first try, but after leaving the lot for a second time the hike down to the creek only took us about 20-25 minutes.
Our choice of route took us down some pretty steep trails, and I wouldn’t have done them without the aid of a rope.
Oh yeah, and bring rope.
In an effort to get off the beaten path, we deliberately took a right when we were supposed to take a left. This took us down an extremely narrow trail, supported by the roots of the trees that jutted out of the path. To my left was a 150 foot drop down to the creek.
Needless to say, my anxiety sank in and I was stuck on a stump while Conor blazed the trail ahead, looking to see if the path would get easier to maneuver. It didn’t. We turned around and I anxiously rushed myself back to safety. At least it made the path down to the falls look easy.
Once we made it down the ravine (with the help of an old nylon rope some previous explorer had left behind) we followed the flow of the water down to a series of small falls over layers of sedimentary stone.
Not the main attraction, no, but the flow of the falls was so inviting, we hung out here for likely half an hour, playing in the water like a couple of kids. I jumped in first, slipping on my water shoes and splish-splashing around, laughing so hard anyone who heard my voice from above the steep ravine may have thought I was drowning.
I fell down so many times in the water, I might as well have gotten completely submerged.
It was at this point that I suggested to Conor we try a more racy shoot (since I was soaking wet anyway), which you’ll be able to see on my Instagram profile later this week.
After drying off a bit, we decided to explore upstream some more, where we could see the fall’s namesake, each rock hugging thousands of fragmented shells, otherwise known as ammonite.
Definitely worth the vertigo.
I let Conor run off on his own adventure, set up my cameras, and separately we explored. Embracing his inner monkey, he decided to scale the cascade and explore upstream, while I investigated the creek beds that gave the falls their name.
If you decide to visit Benson Creek Falls Regional Park, there are a few things to bear in mind. The trails are steep and unmaintained, making the boot level moderate-difficult depending on the conditions. Wear the appropriate footwear, and make sure you have a basic aid kit on you, as there are lots of sharp and slippery rocks once you get down to the water. This area is also a part of a very delicate ecosystem, so practice LNT Principles while on the trails of Benson Creek, and everywhere else you visit. Also, don’t forget to bring some snacks, water, and your camera, because you will definitely want to spend your entire afternoon here.