The Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is located on the south west coast of Vancouver Island. The park includes the entire drainage basin of the Carmanah Creek and the Park was established in 1990. The park is an area of real wilderness and contains extensive areas of temperate rainforest. The old growth forest contains giant western redcedar, coast Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce. The rainforest has survived in this area as a result of the climate, topology and geology of the area. The valleys funnel the weather systems inland causing very high rates of annual rainfall
Some of the trees in this area are over 1000 years old and grow to over 90 metres tall. The tallest tree in Canada, named the Carmanah Giant, lives along the Camrmanah Creek. It is a Sitka spruce, 95 metres tall and 400 years old. With the forest being protected within the park it provides opportunities for forest research and education in terms of biodiversity, wildlife and fisheries habitat.
The coastal fringes of the park are dominated by Sitka spruce that rarely grow when more than 80km inland. The area’s extensive groves contain a biomass weight that is double than what is found in tropical rainforests. Protection in the area from the logging companies is vital for the maintenance of the natural ecosystem. It simply isn’t acceptable to claim that the companies will replant new trees after deforesting an area. These natural ecosystems have been formed as a result of trees growing and dying over thousands of years. The natural death of an old tree is as vital to the balance of the ecosystem as keeping a healthy tree growing.
The natural rotting of the tree provides nutrients for bacteria and beetles. Further invasion from mites termites and bugs result in fallen trees rotting rapidly causing the nutrients to be transferred back into the soil. From this point small trees like the hemlock will appear and the natural balance will be restored as succession will occur over the following centuries. This natural process cannot be replicated by man and if the magnificence of the temperate rainforest is to be protected then logging must be controlled.
Prior to the creation of the park in 1990 Randy Stoltmann played a key role in stopping the logging companies from chopping down the forest in Carmanah Valley. Following his death in 1994 his work was recognized by the province with the creation of the Randy Stoltmann Commemorative Grove. This is a grove of large Sikta spruce flourishing within the valley. Despite wishing to protect the natural environment the park also wants the general public to have access to this natural wilderness. This is the most successful method of introducing conservation and the education of people can only be helped by as many as possible being able to see this environment first hand.
It is difficult to maintain the quality of trails in the park for a couple of reasons. Firstly the wet climatic conditions and continuous natural forest activity means that they always appear to be in a state of dis-repair. Secondly, the government have cut back their investments in the parks so there is certainly a lack of man power when it comes to maintaining the quality of the trails. Still this does not stop people from back packing in the park. Although there is only main entrance at Caycuse River Bridge there are three routes into it from Port Alberni, Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan. Once in the park visitors have a chance to view the magnificent wildlife that is present in all of Vancouver Island as well as the magnificent temperate rain forest that is the major attraction of this Park.