This city park located in Nanaimo has a little something for everyone. With multi-use trails, an off-leash dog area, a swimmable lake, and waterfalls, Colliery Dam Park is a great spot to spend an afternoon.
Location: 635 Wakesiah Avenue
Quick Park Facts
- Multi-use trails great for walking, jogging, and mountain biking
- Lake is used for fishing, swimming (no lifeguard on duty) and non-motorized boats
- Off-leash dog park – see below for details
- Partially wheelchair accessible
- Onsite washroom facilities
- Picnic area
A Bit of History
The dams at this park are a rare link to Nanaimo’s industrial and coal mining heritage, and as of 2002, recognized and registered as one of Canada’s Historic Places.
The Harewood Colliery Dam was built in 1910-11 by the Western Fuel Company as a place to wash coal. It was also used by the miners, mules and horses in the mines, and as a water line to nearby homes. The water system was eventually carried to most of the homes throughout South Harewood until another dam was built in 1932.
The lakes created by the dams are now a popular swimming and fishing location.
The Trails at Colliery Dam
The outer trails of the park form a figure 8 around the two small lakes, with a few interconnecting pathways. The area also connects to the Parkway Trail, a 20 km paved path connecting several of Nanaimo’s beautiful parks.
Within Colliery Dam, the trails are varied in topography as well as difficulty. You will find paved sections, a few bridges, walkways with stairs, bridges built specifically for mountain biking, as well as mulched wooded trails. These wooded trails have a few beautiful large trees scattered throughout.
Colliery Dam Park is a great destination for families. The 2.3 km loop around the park is easy to navigate and well maintained. And if you like waterfalls, two can be found here!
Finding the Waterfalls
The first waterfall is actually a spillway from the dam, but still quite pretty to view.
Heads towards the first bridge as you follow the paved path to your left when leaving the parking area off Wakesiah Avenue. The spillway you see under this bridge is the first waterfall. Take the dirt path down the hill on the left hand side of the bridge and follow the spillway to the bottom. This path is quite steep and out of park boundaries.
Chase River Falls, or better known as Granny Falls, is the more significant waterfall found at this park. However, it’s a bit more hidden.
To find Granny Falls, you first need to find the large culvert that allows Chase River to flow underneath the Parkway. It’s so large, in fact, there is a wide concrete walkway inside the culvert. And if you enjoy graffiti art, this tunnel is full of it (both good and not so good)!
You’ll find the culvert by heading to the highest point in the park and also where the wooden pedestrian bridge and walkway is found near the upper lake. On the parks map, this upper lake is called “Middle Colliery Dam”. After crossing the wooden walkway, locate the culvert ahead of you. Walk through the culvert and continue to follow the dirt trail for a short distance to Granny Falls. If these directions don’t work, find Chase River within the park and follow it upstream.
The dog park is located at the upper lake, AKA “Middle Colliery Dam”. The trail that loops around this portion of the dam is an off-leash area. Many families enjoy walking their dogs in this section.
The parking area closest to the dog park is off of Nanaimo Lakes Road. This parking area also leads you directly out to a bridge between the two dams.
The best wheelchair access is from the parks main entrance off of Wakesiah and Sixth Street. This paved parking lot gives you access to a hard-packed and level asphalt path that leads you to the first lake.
Negatives about this Park
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the negative aspects of this park.
- Although the city is trying to update this “University District”, Harewood is a well-known high crime area (petty crime). Please don’t leave anything of value in your vehicle when you park.
- The park is surrounded by busy roads, including the Parkway (Hwy 19). This means that vehicle traffic noise is quite evident throughout most of the park.
- In saying both of these points, I still believe it’s a worthwhile location to explore.
Have you been to this park? Did you find Granny Falls? Let us know about your experience in the comment section below. To save this article for future use, please pin this image on Pinterest: