The Sooke Potholes are a series of deep, polished pools carved naturally into the river’s bedrock and undoubtedly the town’s most famous attraction.
Glacial action during the last ice age is responsible for the formations. Moving, melting ice packs stripped the surface area and carved a path deep into the natural bedrock. The rushing river that followed carried along huge boulders, which became lodged against the canyon walls, carving out the potholes seen today. The protected area surrounding the potholes consists of two parks, and both offer something unique.
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
The Provincial Park is the first park you come to while driving along Sooke River Road. This 7.28-hectare day-use area protects old-growth Douglas fir and associated sensitive plant communities that line Sooke River. The park lies on both sides of the river and extends just past Todd Creek.
Todd Creek offers a waterfall to view and the recently restored Todd Creek Trestle, situated along the Galloping Goose Trail. Over 100 years old, this 4-story wooden trestle is a historic landmark of the former rail line that ran from Victoria to Leechtown. Take the Todd Creek Connector trail within the park to access the trestle.
The calmer waters, along with the shallow gravel beds and crystal clear emerald pools, make the Provincial Park a fantastic spot to watch spawning salmon in the fall. The rocky beach offers a great place to soak in the sun or have a picnic along the river.
There are several short trails leading down to river viewpoints within the park. Although short in length, some are steep with rock stairs that can be slippery when wet. Extra caution is advised.
The Provincial Park offers no facilities other than pit toilets near the parking area. As it’s a park, dogs must stay on a leash at all times.
Sooke Potholes Regional Park
The Regional Park is 63.5 hectares and is located a bit further along Sooke River Road. This park is the best spot for viewing the famous potholes. The river here plunges through narrow rock canyons over a series of waterfalls. And the deep, crystal clear pools offer some of the best freshwater swimming in the region. The large warm rocks provide a spectacular place to sunbathe during the summer.
Trails to the potholes can be steep at times and slippery when wet. The canyon rocks can also be extremely slippery. Please use caution. While the deep pools are a popular and inviting place to swim, the river has strong undercurrents. There are also many hidden rocks underneath the surface, making it unsafe for diving.
The Regional Park is a great place to start on the Galloping Goose Trail. At 60 km long, this trail is a rail-to-trail conversion named after a 1920s gasoline-powered passenger car that operated on the CNR rail line. The trail passes through many Greater Victoria communities. It’s a wonderful trail to bike, hike or run.
Pay parking is in effect in the Regional Park from May 1 to September 30. The cost is only $2.25 for the entire day, or you can get a season’s pass for $20. The ticket dispensers accept loonies, toonies, quarters and credit cards.
Nestled in the Regional Park one can find the abandoned Deertrail Resort. These remains are what’s left from an extravagant resort that never was. In the early 1980s, Victoria developer Albert Yuen purchased a 160-acre parcel of land along the Sooke River. His vision was to build a luxury resort for those seeking adventure, wellness and ecotourism. The centrepiece of this resort was to be the Timber Lodge and include Canada’s largest log-burning fireplace.
Shortly after purchasing the land, construction began; however, over the span of 20 years, it only happened sporadically. In the end, a lack of money prevented Yuen from being able to bring the ambitious dream to fruition, and what had been built fell into disrepair.
The Regional District acquired the land in 2004, and the partially constructed buildings were torn down to the stonework. It’s this stonework one can view today. Over the years, however, it’s been defaced by many graffiti artists, prompting the Regional District to place fencing and security onsite. Despite this, it’s still a draw for curious onlookers.
Camping at Sooke Potholes
The area has a private campground managed by the Capital Reginal District but run by the T’Sou-Ke First Nation for those who want to extend their stay in the area.
Spring Salmon Place (KWL-UCHUN) Campground operates seasonally, from mid-May to mid-September, on a first-come, first-served basis. Unfortunately, reservations are NOT accepted.
The 67-site campground is a local favourite and can accommodate both RV and tent camping. It’s located at the north end of Sooke Potholes Regional Park and adjacent to the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Some of the sites offer riverfront camping.
Facilities are limited, so you need to be pretty well self-contained. There is no electricity, dumping stations or showers. A few of the services that are provided are as follows:
- Garbage bins, including recycling and food waste
- Drinking water station
- Fire rings at each site (firewood can be purchased)
- Picnic areas
- Onsite caretake
Getting to the Sooke Potholes
Both parks and the campground are found off of Sooke River Road. The drive takes approximately 45 minutes from Victoria (traffic dependant).
- Coming from Victoria, take the Millstream Road Exit (Exit 14) towards Langford/Sooke
- Follow Veterans Memorial Parkway
- Turn right on Sooke Road
- Turn right on Sooke River Road and follow the signs
If you are looking for a few other ideas while in the area, please read: The Best of Sooke
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