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Saturday, May 24, 2008


It's been years since I last hiked in the Lynn Valley Canyon in North Vancouver. My friends were visiting from Germany this week and we decided, in spite of a steady drizzle of rain, to visit the famous canyon and suspension bridge.

The Lynn Canyon officially opened way back in 1912 once a streecr line was completed in North Vancouver. At that time, the canyon was officially designated as a municipal park. The suspension bridge also officially opened that year and became a popular visiting destination. It cost 10 cents to cross it back then and people would inch their way cross the wobbyly structure grasping the hawser, just as they do today, although the bridge has been reconstructed and is now a free attraction.

The narrow wooden bridge sways precariously 166 feet above the gushing white water of Lynn Creek. If you have a fear of heights, it's not recommended you cross, but if you want a small thrill, it's worth the experience. The more people using the bridge, the more it jiggles and sways, so hang on tight as you cross, and don't run! The bridge is 100% safe, but in the past there's always been some fool who attempts to jump from it or from the rocks above the Creek and ends up losing their life.

The view from the bridge is spectacular, especially at this time of year with a spate of gushing water coming down the canyon from the snow-melt on the mountains.

Once you cross there are various interesting hiking trails through the lush rain forest. The one we took was to Twin Falls, about a twenty minute hike through the forest at the canyon's edge to a wooden bridge that takes you back to the other side. Be aware that there are several flights of wooden steps to climb up and down, so if you're not in good shape, don't attempt it. There's also the famous 30 ft. deep pool where over the years people come to swim in the summer. I can recall doing so myself. But be careful and obey the safety rules or you could get swept away by the fierce currents when the water is moving fast.
The park is a total of 250 hectares. There are some guided tours starting from the Ecology Centre at the Park's entrance. The Ecology Centre opened in 1971 and has an informative display of flora and fauna and a Kid's Exploratorium.

In spite of the drizzle, we picniced along the way (I wish they had covered picnic areas where we could have taken shelter). You had to watch your step because of the slippery paths due to the rain. But in all, it was a refreshingly pleasant day's hike. I'll definitely go back another day during the summer when it's not so wet! There are always plenty of people on the paths, even in the rain, so you'll never be alone in the forest and so long as you keep to the designated trails it should make for a pleasant day's outing.

It's free to go into the park, and parking is free. The Ecology Centre is open 10 a.m - 5 pm daily (closed weekends December to January)
For information call 604-981-3103

Buses run from the Londsdale Quay. A short walk into the park is required.
Driving: take Upper Levels Highway (Highway 1) to Lynn Valley Road exit (19) Follow Lynn Valley Road NE past the Mountain Highway intersection, then continue to Lynn Valley Road to sign for Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre.
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Saturday, May 10, 2008


There is a First Nations legend about three brothers who were shaman giants. They stood on the shore of ocean looking north across to the mountains. Two of these brothers were good shamans, the third was wicked. One of the good brothers threw a rock over the ocean which landed behind two boulders in a creek where people lived during the winter. This became a sacred potlach place where only shamans and spirit dancers were welcome. They gathered there to gain strength and courage from the clear water of the creek and the powerful rocks.

The second shaman brother threw a rock across the water where it landed on the seashore at a place where a mountain stream ran into the ocean. This stream was called Homulchesn. It was the summer home of the people who fished in the sea and hunted in the forest.

The wicked shaman was jealous of his good brothers and in his struggle to overpower them he was turned into stone in a place called Siwash Rock, where he remains standing to this day.

Soon after this, the elders of the Stolo people who lived at Musqueam near a mighty river, chose a princess from the Nanoose tribe as a bride for one of thier young men. According to tradition their first-born son was given the name Ki-ap-a-la-no. When the great explorer Simon Fraser first came up the river, Ki-ap-a-la-no was just a boy. Later he moved away into the valley of giant cedar trees near Homulchesn Creek where he became a great chief who was respected by all the people. The name of Homulchesn was changed to Capilano in honor of him. Ki-ap-a-la-no died in 1875 at the age of 83 years. He was succeeded by his son Lahwa who died twenty years later leaving no successors. The Squamish people chose Sahp-luh as their next leader. He married the great niece of Chief Kii-ap-a-la-no. In 1906 he became Chief Joe Capilano.
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After Chief Ki-ap-a-la-no and his son died, the Squamish people chose Sahp-luh as their next leader. He married the great niece of Chief Ki-ap-a-la-no. In 1906 he became Chief Joe Capilano.

Chief Joe Capilano was a friendly man who gained a good reputation for helping the early settlers. Fifteen years earlier he was one of the two Indian guides who had led an expedition to discover the source of the Capilano River. He died in 1910, aged sixty. His wife Lay-hu-lette (Mary) lived for many years on the Capilano Reserve. She was a respected elder in the community. A wooden statue of her stands in the garden near the Suspension Bridge. On her back is a woven cedar basket in which she is carrying her baby son who later became Chief Mathias Joe Capilano. When Mary died in December 1940, she was over 100 years old.

Chief Mathias Joe became a renown carver and spirit dancer. In 1906 he visited England and was received at Buckingham Palace by their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. At this time he was introduced to the poet Pauline Johnson. They became good friends and when she came to reside on the west coat he told her many of the legends which she later retold in her books and poetry.

In the early 1900’s Chief Mathias Joe began carving totem poles at a spot under the Lions Gate Bridge where he lived until the early ‘50’s. One of his friends and fellow carvers was August Jack Khahtsahlano who was born in 1877 at the Squamish village of Snauq near the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge. August Jack was a respected elder and a great leader. He was a wise man, courteous and trustworthy and had a reputation as a natural historian, storyteller and spirit dancer. He and his elder brother Willie helped build the first suspension bridge across Capilano Canyon. He lived to be almost 91 years old and died in Vancouver, June 1967.

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The first suspension bridge was constructed in 1889. Chief August Jack Kahtsahlano and his brother Willie helped to build it. The original bridge was made of hemp ropes and cedar shake boards. It was known as “The Laughing Bridge” because of the sound the wind made as it strummed on the hemp ropes. George Grant Mackay was the first pioneer to live at the bridge site. His house, completed in June 1889, was the first house in what would some day become a prestigious residential area. Mackay later sold his property to wealthy German land speculator Bruno Stetzer, who authorized the building of a steel cable suspension bridge 450 ft. long. The new bridge was officially opened August 8, 904. It was constructed with two single strands of steel cable strung across the canyon and anchored to huge logs buried in the ground and mounded over with rocks and earth.

The Capilano property was sold to Edward Mahon, a Yorkshire man who came to B.C. in 1889 as a miner. He had established a camp called “Castelgar” named after his ancestral home in Galway Ireland. He was a 48 year old bachelor when he bought the Capilano site. When he married Lilette Rebbeck of Victoria, she and her mother and three Japanese servants moved to Capilano. The first pioneer baby born in the Canyon was a baby girl born to the Japanese servants in November 1910.

Mahon built the Teahouse in 1911 at a cost of $4500. It was situated 100 feet above the canyon near Mackay’s cliff house. The gardens were landscaped by the Japanese workers with the assistance of Mrs. Rebbeck who as a landscape designer and gardener. There were beds of daffodils, crocuses, primulas, roses, perennial plants, rhododendrons, azaleas and ornamental trees. Some of these original gardens still remain in the park.

By 1914 the park was a popular place for visitors. Electric trolleys and an improved ferry service brought people across to North Vancouver. From the ferry dock they walked two kilometeres up Capilnao Road to the suspension bridge. Later tour buses and taxis provided transporation for the sightseers. Motor clubs also included the Bridge in their outings. Mrs. Rebbeck prepared food and hospitality for her guests.

Because of its popularity, the bridge was reconstructed in 1914 and was advertised as “The Eight Wonder of the World.” The price of admission was only 10 cents collected by a gatekeeper. At this time,Mrs. Rebbeck lived alone in the cliff house. She raised goats and chickens and hired girls to help as waitresses. They lived in the Teahouse (now the Trading Post).

Because of rationing during the First World War, there was a lack of staples so fewer visitors came to the canyon. At that time the government enacted legislations for the serving and preparation of food in public eating places and Mrs. Rebbeck was given a license. A new gatehouse and store were built and when Mrs. Rebbeck married Mac MacEachran, the district fire warden and forest ranger, many new additions and expansion were made including the building of a pergola where light meals were served.
During the Great Depressions, two Danish carvers came to the canyon looking for work. Aage Madsen and Karl Hansen were hired by MacEachran who gave them lodgings in return for carvings. Some of these outstanding carvings are still on the grounds. One is the carving of Chief Mathias Joe’s mother. Chief Mathias Joe and other local Natives were invited to place totems in the park. These original totems are still in the park.

The Capilano Suspension bridge wa purchased from MacEachran in 1945 by a French restaraunteur Louis Henri Isadore Aubeneau. He also bought the MacEachran home which was situated across the road from the bridge. This is now the Bridge House Restaurant. During this time, the park became neglected and many of the carvings of Madsen and Hansen were covered with tar, supposedly to preserve them. In 1953 the bridge and park were sold to Douglas McRae who cleaned it up and made improvements. The Tea Room was reopened and a banquet room was built to accommodate weddings and receptions. In 1956 the bridge had major repairs with prestressed wire cables tested by British Wire Rope. Aaje Madsen came for a visit and was hired to restore his carvings.

In recent years, Stan Joseph, grand nephew of Chief Mathias Joe, has restored the park totems. Joseph, whose Squamish name is Sequilem was born on the Capilano Reserve in 1950 and has been carving totems since he was twelve. His work is internationally known. New totems have been added to the park. At the entrance is the magnificent Centennial Pole, carved by Stan Joseph.

The Capilano Suspension bridge is the oldest commercial tourist attraction in the Vancouver area. It embraces the cultural influence of the First Nations people and early settlers, Japanese and Europeans. It is an important legacy of this area’s history.

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Early settlers began buying land in the Capilano Canyon in 1888. There were no roads into the area except rough wagon trails from North Vancouver up the Capilano River to the Vancouver Water Works Dam which was under construction in the second canyon.

The Flume Company was purchased by Edward Mahon in 1908 and was then leased to the Japanese in an unprecedented business transaction. At that time government rules prohibited Japanese and Chinese people from attaining success in the lumber industry. Mahon was respected by the Japanese for his fairness. In return they built him a little Oriental-style house which eventually became part of a community centre. They also cleared the land, and planted azaleas and rhododendrons imported from Japan, some of which are still growing on the boulevards of North Vancouver.

George Grant Mackay, an immigrant from Scotland, bought 320 acres of timbered land on the east side of the Capilano River. At that time there were no houses or farms in the area. Mackay built a cabin near the precipice of the canyon. Mackay became known as “The Laird of the Canyon.” He believed this forested wilderness should be enjoyed so he often invited his city friends to visit. The only transportation across the Burrard Inlet at that time was on the steamer boat “Senator”. This vessel could carry twenty passengers and occasionally horses and buggies. Because Mackay’s cottage was difficult to reach, most guests had to hike the strenuous six miles up into the canyon.

Eventually Mackay and his partners, A.P. Horne and R. MacKay Fripp of the Capilano Park Company, developed 4626 acres north of the first canyon for recreational purposes. They purchased the land at $1.00 an acre, timber value not considered, because they felt the forest should be enjoyed by everyone. Te first hotel was built by Mackay’s son in 1892. But Mackay’s plans to develop the park were curbed by the 1890’s Depression.

The Capilano Lumber Company established a mill at Sister’s Creek in 1890. Single bolt flumes were built to run through the first and second canyons linking with one farther along the river near the Mission Indian Reserve. The longest flume was completed in 1906. It ran from Sister’s Creek, nine miles down river, past the dame and into the second canyon. The flume was nearly 200 feet above the water clinging to the rock face amidst breathtaking scenery where white water tumbled over the rocks forming roaring rapids and salmon pools. Shingle bolts cut by Japanese workers were floated down to the mills and often daring boys would ride these bolts down the flume. Capilano Joe’s people and Japanese pioneers built this flume. Many of them were killed while the work was in progress and were buried high above the river on the canyon plateau.
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Here are the might giants of the forest, many of them hundreds of years old.

This is the Tree Top Adventure suspension bridge strung between the trees, high above the forest floor so you get a bird's-eye-view.

This was taken on the Cliffside Walk, a view of the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
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CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE: Vancouver's Natural Wonder


On Earth Day, Augusut 22, I was privileged to pay a special visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It had been some time since my previous visit so I looked forward to my day of adventure in this beautiful canyon park.

There’s a lot to see and do in the Capilano Suspension Bridge area -- not just the thrill of walking over the swaying bridge high over the white water of the Capilano River below.
There are nature trails and Native carvings and many things to explore in the park.

As you enter, there is an interesting pictorial history of the Canyon and Suspension Bridge, which dates to 1889. And you can browse among the totem poles and other carvings which are the legacy of the First Nations people. Then you step on to the bridge, swaying 230 feet above the floor of the Canyon. At the midpoint of the span, you are 450 feet looking down into the rushing stream far below. You step off the bridge into the forest of cedar, Douglas Fir and hemlock. These towering giants began growing long before the first European settlers every stepped foot in North America.

I wandered along the Cliffhanger Walk first, taking in the sweet scents of the forest and the quiet beauty at the canyon edge. There are ponds teeming with trout and wild flower blooming in mossy glades. I spent a pleasant hour or two wandering the paths and enjoying the views of the Canyon. One of the biggest thrills was ascending the wooden steps to the Treetop Adventure, built in 2003, where an elevated timber frame suspension bridge is strung between the tall Cedars in a series of cable bridges suspended between platforms that reach as high as 10 stories giving you a unique birds-eye view of the forest below.

Back at the Trading Post, there are pricey souvenirs for sale. This is one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist destinations, and the entrance fee is about $25. I was lucky that day to have a media pass which enabled me to enjoy the whole day wandering around the grounds and forest. I took a picnic lunch and enjoyed a rest at one of the tables provided by the forest trail, but there’s a restaurant and snacks available on site. If you can afford it, it’s well worth the day’s adventure and a great way to celebrate Planet Earth!

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