Camp out at the Strathcona Dam
In the shadow of Strathcona Dam, a BC Hydro recreation area is more than a free campground with 11 first-come, first-served sites. It's a base for exploring Strathcona Provincial Park - B.C.'s oldest - that's riddled with hiking options, fishing for trout and Dolly Varden char, snow-covered peaks and spectacular Della Falls.
The campground is just a 35-minute drive from the City of Campbell River, and it's become popular for anglers and boaters keen on access to Lower Campbell Lake Reservoir's calm waters.
Plan your trip to Strathcona before you go, and check important notices about parking considerations, closures and more.
What Strathcona Dam has to offer
Get here early for the best spots
BC Hydro's recreation area features a spacious campground with 11 campsites along the Lower Campbell Lake Reservoir, and a large area for informal camping and trailer parking.
A small beach and reservoir access are also provided.
Other campground options
Our campground is far from the only game in town - it's just a great free option.
Popular Buttle Lake campground offers 85 vehicle accessible campsites - some reservable, some first-come, first-served. The same guidelines apply to Ralph River campground, located 35 km south of Buttle Lake along the Buttle Lake (Western Mines Road) offers 75 vehicle accessible campsites set amongst towering old-growth Douglas fir.
Closer to Campbell River, on the lower end of Lower Campbell River Lake, is Loveland Bay, a small, rustic provincial park that provides camping and boat launching directly onto Campbell Lake. Loveland Bay is a convenient base camp for day tripping to attractions in the nearby communities of Campbell River, Gold River, Sayward, Kelsey Bay and Quadra and Cortes Islands.
Do you prefer wilderness camping? Strathcona Park has designated backcountry sites at Bedwell Lake Trail, Elk River Trail, Della Falls Trail and the Forbidden Plateau core area.
Cool, calm waters beckon
The lakes in the Campbell River system provide excellent fishing opportunities for rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden char. It's an ideal base for exploration of smaller lakes in the area, and to popular Buttle Lake, which is connected to Upper Campbell River Reservoir at Buttle narrows by a short but wide stretch of the river.
Waters are cold, even in the summertime. But if you're up for an icy dip, swimming is permitted in all lakes in Strathcona Park except for Kwai Lake.
Great hikes, short and long
Strathcona offers a variety of hikes that range from short, family-friendly day hikes to 2,4 and 6-night backpacking adventures to the high alpine for amazing panoramic views. There are a variety of easier day hikes at Buttle Lake, and a short drive from BC Hydro's rec site are trails at Elk Falls, including the Millenium Trail that takes you to the suspension bridge and viewing platform above the falls.
Here are a few popular longer day hikes to consider at Strathcona Park:
Length, 11 km one way. Elevation change: 600 metres. Long easy trail up an old growth valley to Landslide Lake can be done as a day hike or as an overnight. Dramatic mountain veiws of Mt. Colonel Foster and Elkhorn.
Length, 6 km. Suggested time, 5 hours. Elevation change: 1,250 metres. Notable for its open hiking on the ridge and some striking viewpoints, but it's challenging and water can be scarce.
Strathcona Dam & Strathcona Provincial Park
Earth-fill dam built in the 1950s
Strathcona Dam was constructed between 1955 and 1958 by the BC Power Commission, a predecessor of BC Hydro. This dam, along with the Ladore and John Hart dams further downstream, make up the Campbell River hydroelectric system.
Together the three developments harness a watershed of more than 1,400 square kilometres and produce 11% of Vancouver Island's power demand. Strathcona Dam is unique in that it's an earth-filled dam with an extremely wide base.
Recently the dam was reinforced to ensure its safety and stability in the event of an earthquake, and another project is planned to lower water levels and increase the stability of the dam following an earthquake.
The Strathcona Dam is a 54-metre high earthfill dam with a power tunnel that delivers water beneath the base of the dam to a generating station on the downstream side. On the right bank of the dam, there are three spillway gates used for flood risk management during large storm events.
B.C.'s oldest park is a rugged outdoor playground
Strathcona Provincial Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in B.C. Located almost in the centre of Vancouver Island, the park is a rugged mountain wilderness dominated by mountain peaks, some perpetually mantled with snow.
Lakes and alpine tarns dot a landscape laced with rivers, creeks and streams. Summer in Strathcona is usually pleasantly warm, while winters are fairly mild except for the higher levels, where heavy snowfalls are the norm.
Two areas – Upper Campbell Lake Reservoir/Buttle Lake, and Forbidden Plateau – are popular with outdoors enthusiasts. Buttle Lake, named for Commander John Buttle who explored the area in the 1860s, is the major body of water in the park.
Della Falls, whose drop of 440 metres over three cascades makes it one of the highest waterfalls in Canada, is located in the southern section of the park. And the highest point on Vancouver Island, the Golden Hinde (elevation 2,200 metres), stands almost in the centre of Strathcona to the west of Buttle Lake.
Strathcona in photos
See our other visual guides