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Wells GrayGo to Slide Show

One of BC's larger and lesser known parks



I've driven by Wells Gray a few times while driving from Jasper down to Kamloops and wondered about the park.  The Park has some exposure - there are several guide books published for the park, and I've met people who have been - more than I can say for most BC parks.  Helen and I had some days off this summer and decided to go check the park out.

Spahats Provincial Park

It is impossible to get lost driving in Wells Grey.  There is a single road in and it just goes deeper and deeper into the park.  When you turn off the highway (at Clearwater) you aren't yet in the park - you have to drive 36km.  Before you get to Wells Gray, you pass through Sphats Provincial Park.

Spahats Falls
Spahats gives you a quick tutorial in how the valley is built.  While you admire the waterfall, you notice the bands of basalt (slowly cooled lava) in the cliff walls surround the bowl carved by the waterfall.  This whole area is a layer cake of hard lava and softer layers which leads to hard layers supporting dramatic undercut water falls. 

Layers Of Basalt And Confused Trees

You can learn a second lesson about Wells Grey here too - it's easy to walk to a viewpoint and see the falls.  That said, it's quite hard to take a unique picture in this park because your choice is either a quick and easy viewpoint, or a multi hour walk to find a larger variety of viewpoints.  After our 20 minute stop in Spahats, we continued toward Wells Gray.

Helmcken Falls

Helmcken Falls And Second Falls
The start attraction of the park is Helmcken falls. This is one of the most dramatic falls in Canada and even though the viewing platform is a long way away from the water, you are struck by just how big this drop is and how much water is going over it every second.   If you don't mind a bit of a walk (about 4km each way), you can walk to the rim on the other side of the river (and get a much closer (and unguarded view of the falls).

Helmcken Falls In Fog

If you really want to do these falls justice, you probably need to walk up river to nearer the base of the falls - roughly a five hour return trip.  Even then, you want the right combination of sun (later afternoon is apparently better) and weather (not foggy).  Good luck!

Moul Falls

I really like the return on investment on this falls.  It isn't a a drive up falls and it isn't the biggest drop in the Park, but this falls is the most fun.  After about 45 minutes of walking, you walk down stairs to get to the base of the falls.  From here you can walk around behind the falls and watch the water come over your head to fall in the pool.  There aren't a lot of places this approachable.

End Of Trail At Moul FallsBehind Moul FallsPeople Walking Behind Moul Falls

You get a sense of the different ecological zones here.  Away from the falls, plants are adjusted to a mostly dry life where they conserve water.

Butterfly On DaisyKnapweed Flower

Moss On Rocks Behind Falls
In the spray zone of the falls you get different species.  Directly under the falls (where there is very little direct light), the rocks are covered in moss and algae.   Just a little down river from the falls you see "stream bank" species such as Cape Jewelweed - a plant I have never seen anywhere else.

Cape Jewelweed

Ray Farm

Rays Farm House
Beyond the drama of nature, there is a human element to Wells Gray.  This area was settled by pioneers before this was a park.  Ray farm is what remains of the homestead started by John Ray.  He cleared the land, built several buildings and is buried (with his wife) on the site.  Hopefully, you won't be staying as long.

Farm House And FieldsCold Spring Below Farm



Plants Growing In Mineral Spring
Located on the farm site is a large mineral spring.   The water bubbles up an leaves the ground a rust colour.  Moss grows closest to the springs, and just outside the moss zone is a variety of lush plants that apparently attract large grazers (not that we saw any).  I could imagine that would be quite handy to have around if you were running a farm.



Field Of Ferns Going Yellow

We went for a walk toward the other spring, about a km away.  We found toads (or more accurately, toadlets) crawling in the dirt around the trails.  These tiny toads (smaller than a dime) don't need to live in the water and looking to finding good places live.   I've seen toads 5 times the length of these little guys - it surprised me how much growing up they have to do.

Young ToadShaggy Mane
 
 In the dry conditions, we didn't make it to the next spring.  We decided to leave it for our next trip.

Trophy Meadows

Our guide book has a handy chart of which flowers are blooming in which month.  By mid August, pretty much everything is done.  End of August was the time we had so we had to make the best of it.    Trophy Meadows isn't in Wells Gray (the turn off is just after Spahats park) and you drive up the mountain through an old clear cut until you get close to the parking lot.  We came across a Blue Grouse on the drive up and the birds are so confident in their camouflage, you sometimes need to chase them off the road to get to go by.

Spruce Grouse Walking Beside RoadSpruce Grouse Looking At Me
 
Once we parked and got on our hiking boots, we hiked up into the unlogged forest.  Pine beetle damaged trees are now common around British Columbia and these high trees were no different.

Sub Alpine ForestPine Beetle Attacked Trees


As suggested by the book, there were very few flowers (mostly Indian paint brush and some asters).  Even without flowers, the meadows were quite impressive.

Walking In MeadowShepherds CabinAcross The Valley To Long Hill
 


Spruce Grouse Walking Beside Road
Species: Dendragapus obscurus (Blue Grouse)
Field Of Ferns Going Yellow
Person: Helen
Altitude: 657m (2155 feet)
Location: Go To...
Young Toad
Species: Bufo boreas (Western Toad)
Tags: amphibian, baby
Rays Farm House
Altitude: 657m (2155 feet)
Location: Go To...
Shepherds Cabin
Altitude: 1993m (6538 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: cabin, derelict, flare, meadow
Behind Moul Falls
Tags: waterfall
Helmcken Falls And Second Falls
Altitude: 742m (2434 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: waterfall
Cold Spring Below Farm
Altitude: 652m (2139 feet)
Location: Go To...
Helmcken Falls In Fog
Altitude: 752m (2467 feet)
Location: Go To...
Moss On Rocks Behind Falls
Tags: moss
Walking In Meadow
Pine Beetle Attacked Trees
Altitude: 1768m (5800 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: dappled light, forest, trail
Spahats Falls
Spruce Grouse Looking At Me
Species: Dendragapus obscurus (Blue Grouse)
Across The Valley To Long Hill
Altitude: 2048m (6719 feet)
Location: Go To...
People Walking Behind Moul Falls
Tags: trail, waterfall
Sub Alpine Forest
Altitude: 1773m (5816 feet)
Location: Go To...
Layers Of Basalt And Confused Trees
Altitude: 736m (2414 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: columnar basalt, tree
Cape Jewelweed
Species: Impatiens capensis (jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not)
Tags: flower
Shaggy Mane
Species: Coprinus comatus (shaggy ink cap, shaggy mane)
Tags: mushroom
Farm House And Fields
Altitude: 660m (2165 feet)
Location: Go To...
Plants Growing In Mineral Spring
Altitude: 650m (2132 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: cold spring, moss
Butterfly On Daisy
Species: Speyeria zerene (Zerene Fritillary)
End Of Trail At Moul Falls
Altitude: 589m (1932 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: sign, waterfall
Knapweed Flower
Tags: waterfall(4), trail(2), moss(2), sign(1), mushroom(1), columnar basalt(1)
People: Helen(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Wells Grey
From: John Harvey Photo > Blogs for 2016 to 2005 > Wells Grey

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Last Modified Sunday, September 13th, 2009 at 12:23:51 Edit
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