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Pacific Northwest - Where Suspension Bridge Crosses Rainforest

There’s a rainforest in Vancouver, Canada.


Surprised the heck out of me.


Some of you, who are much smarter than I, are saying of course there’s a rainforest in Canada, you dummy, it rains a lot in the great Northwest.

Photo of Capilano Suspension Bridge in middle of rainforest surrounded by tall pine trees.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge. 460-feet long and 230-feet above the river below. **

You would be right. I did feel a little dumb when the realization hit. I’d just always imagined rainforests in warm, even hot, weather countries. I didn’t expect to see one in in a location that seldom sees a temperature above 80 degrees F.


This particular rainforest is located in a magical place called the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, five miles, give or take, straight north of Vancouver.


I almost missed it and I’m so glad the fates guided me there.


I didn’t know anything about the bridge other than it came up on a list of things to see in the area so I jotted it down. But there’s so many things to do in Vancouver I crossed it off the list while there, leaving it behind as I traveled north to Squamish to check out new sites there.


In the game of chance that is so often our lives, after my stopover in Squamish my return route south to the states just happened to take me within a few miles of Capilano. It seemed destiny was sending me a message.


Capilano Suspension Bridge


Not so surprisingly, as the name implies, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is known for its suspension bridge, and rightfully so.

The view from the bridge to the Capilano River below. The cliffwalk is just up the cliffside to the right.
The view from the bridge to the Capilano River below. The cliffwalk is just up the cliffside to the right. **

The bridge stretches 460 feet in length, think a full football field-and-a-half long, 230 feet above the Capilano River below. If you have an aversion to heights it may or may not be something you want to include on your personal to do list.


Never fear though, the bridge will hold your weight and those of dozens, even hundreds of people at the same time.


It dates back to 1889 and was originally made of hemp, long since replaced with steel cables making it capable of holding a 747 jet. The cables at either end are buried in 13 tons of concrete!


The bridge might be the centerpiece, but it is only a small part of the park that spans a 6,000-acre forest.

It’s named in honor of the indigenous people, both the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, who lived in the area. Kia’palano means “beautiful river” in Squamish.


A little side note, you’ll find Canadians, at least in the western half of the country are working diligently to remember and honor the indigenous people who originally inhabited there. I found this in both my trip to British Columbia and another, just a few years back, in Winnipeg where there is the amazing Canadian Museum for Human Rights.


Many of the totem poles situated about the park were carved by indigenous people specifically for placement there.


Exploring the Capilano Park

Photo of suspension bridge leading between tree tops.
Seven suspension bridges guide visitors through the park from high above. **

There are a couple of ways to explore the park’s rainforest that dates back centuries, from the treetops above or on the ground. Both are well worth the experience.


On the ground, well maintained trails weave through much of the park, allowing you a close-up look of the flora and fauna on the ground floor as well as craning your neck upward, taking in the heights of Douglas Firs dating back more than 1,500 years.


The forest is so densely populated only glimmers of light shine down from above. That makes it all the more magical if you happen to be there in December, when the park is lit for the holiday season, not with candy canes and snowmen but with white mysterious orbs of light.


From above, the kid in all of us comes out in the treehouses and walkways stretched from tree to tree above the forest floor.

A view down at the forest floor from high up in the trees.
There's a great view looking down from the treetop suspension bridges. **

A main tree house, made from wood reclaimed from an old Hudson Bay Company grain elevator, you history nerds will recognize that name, connects to seven more suspension bridges, the highest floating 110 feet above the ground.


If you’re concerned about those bridges damaging the trees, you needn’t be. They are designed to accommodate the trees’ growth so they will continue to live their natural lives. Instead of bolts hammered into their sides, everything is attached using collars that can be adjusted over time.


The Capilano Cliffwalk


But wait, there’s more!


Once again I feel like a late-night informercial salesman.

If all that isn’t enough to entice you to put Capilano on your travel list, there’s one more thing, a cliffwalk.

Narrow steps and walkway alongside cliff.
The steps down to the Cliffwalk provide a glimpse of how narrow the walk is. **

The Capilano Cliffwalk, officially recognized as a Canadian Signature Experience, is quite literally on the side of a cliff hanging out over the Capilano River.


The metal platform follows a curve around the cliff, measures 700 feet in length, weighs 45 tons and is supported by a mere 16 anchor points in the cliff wall. But, big but, some of those anchor points are drilled 18 feet into the cliff walls.


The grated flooring rises 300 feet above the river below, even higher than the park’s namesake suspension bridges, and is so narrow, just 20-inches wide, traffic is only allowed in one direction.


Hanging out from the cliff face, the walk provides a great view of the river below and the surrounding valley.


Short video of lighted orbs hanging over the water inside the park (decked out for the holidays), followed by a walk across the Cliffwalk:



Visiting


Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is open year-round but hours do vary so check out the website.


Ticket prices are roughly $45 American for adults, $25 for teenagers, $18 for ages six to twelve and free for those under six. I’d say it’s very much a family friendly experience.



_________________


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.

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