North Island caving

There is no shortage of sea level and higher thrills in and around Port Hardy

North Island caving

There is no shortage of sea level and higher thrills locally.

Yet adventurers also go underground exploring the highest concentration of caves in Canada. Water has worked its alchemical magic on the rugged landscape for hundreds of thousands of years. Result: The relatively soft karst (limestone) topography is riddled with networks of subterranean getaways – some suitable for beginners, others only for the most expert cavers (aka “spelunkers” or “potholers”).

Rookies of all ages can test their nerves, hard hats and strap-on headlamps at Little Huson Caves Regional Park, a 45-minute drive south of Port McNeill off of the Zeballos road. A self-guided tour here includes stops at a natural rock bridge and walk-in, cathedral-style cave.

Also within the Port McNeill region is the Vanishing River, which dips underground for the length of ten football fields before rising again to the surface. Enroute to Port Alice is the Eternal Fountain with its soothing waterfall, and the Devil’s Bath, an eerie lake that some fanciful souls claim is bottomless.

Experienced cavers can explore some of the longest, deepest karst caves in Canada on Vancouver Island North. Several are concentrated in an area rich in limestone called the Quatsino formation.

Guides are strongly recommended for the more difficult treks, and regional authorities ask that spelunkers steer clear of any unmapped caves. Information about the sport on Vancouver Island (aka the “island of caves”) can be found through the Canadian Caver Website at www.cancaver.ca.