Nimpkish River panorama

Nimpkish River worth pulling over for

Gordon Henschel highlights the possibilities for artists on the Nimpkish River.

The Nimpkish River is Vancouver Island’s longest river. For an artist, thousands of views and resultant paintings are possible; therefore, the accompanying photo represents merely one of thousands of possibilities. It’s a view that anyone who has driven the Island Highway has appreciated.

Every autumn I am on the lookout for fall colours that seem to be a bit of an enigma on North Island; just not as ostentatious as they are down Island or on the mainland. Scarcities of three larger trees make all the difference: poplars and birches provide yellows and oranges while several varieties of maples offer a number of reds. Although we are beginning to see isolated splotches of these trees on North Island, particularly along the highway, the colours really begin to appear near Woss Camp.

Several weeks ago I mortgaged our house to fill the gas tank in our car and headed down to look for some hot colours to add to my palette. Just down from Nimpkish Camp, they begin to play a game of peek-a-boo, benevolently relieving the eye from the monotony of the hundreds of greens to indulge in the unusual. Wow! How do you plan your painting’s colours from a half dozen tubes of yellows and reds in your paint-box when there are hundreds of different shades in front of you? The learning curve is huge every time you do it!

About five or six kilometres up from Woss Camp the highway skirts the Nimpkish River as the river makes a sharp bend. This is where a panoramic view up the river presents itself in all its glory. You’ve all seen it but usually just short glimpses of it as you’re scooting by, keeping your eyes on the road ahead. I have wanted to paint this view forever but the road is usually too busy to stop alongside the highway, in case you are blocking traffic.

On this day I took my time and parked a long way away from the desired view, walking to it only to discover that there was a small, indistinct access road to the river at that point. Repositioning my vehicle I was soon parked very near the river, sketching my heart out! After the recent rains, the river was flowing fast and furiously but to my surprise, what had been a small dot on the river in the distance, materialized into a rubber raft with a chap hanging a fishing rod from it! As this master of the environment passed by and spotted me, he queried, “Are you catching any fish?”

I answered him with a weak, “No”, but felt I should be apologizing that I was painting!