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Rocky riverbank with mountain peaks in distance.
Gold River is no place for the indecisive. There’s just too much to do. To the west, the mountains give way to an arm of Nootka Sound and the whole of Vancouver Island’s outer coast. To the east, Strathcona Provincial Park waits with its 250,000 hectares of climbs, hikes and ski routes. The mountains above town boast a collection of freeride bike stunts, while the town’s namesake river below offers up class-IV drops. At least the decision of what house to buy won’t be difficult—they’re practically all the same. Gold River was a company town built, almost entirely, in 1965 to support the nearby pulp mill. The houses are of the three-bedroom, split-level variety, and in 1998 they were going for about $50,000 apiece. That’s the year the Tahsis Company shut its mill down and in effect sold the town. When a rush of leisure-minded refugees from the mainland scooped up the houses, Gold River stopped pulping trees and reinvented itself as a natural choice for biking, boating, hiking, climbing, fishing and diving on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

 

Outdoor lowdown

Sea kayaking: The M.V. Uchuck III, a former Second World War minesweeper, delivers kayakers 100 kilometres up the coast to destinations such as Friendly Cove, Escalante Point, Hot Springs Cove and a thousand other unnamed nooks or crannies.

Hiking: In addition to coastal options, there’s also hiking in and around Strathcona, where day trips on Crest Mountain and Mount Victoria are good warm-ups for a multi-day attempt at the Golden Hinde, Vancouver Island’s highest peak.

Kayaking: With the West Coast’s rain and steep gradient, it’s not surprising that the Gold River has more than 20 kilometres of class-II to -IV+ whitewater for much of the year.

Mountain biking: The 18 kilometres of trails in the Scout Lake area just outside town feature plenty of stunts, most notably the 45-foot gap jump that starts from a ramp 25 feet up a tree. In the words of its creator Rick Fawbert, “It could be fatal.” Work up to it by honing your skills in the bike park the town is building downtown.

 

About town

The good news is, there’s not much in the way of fast food in Gold River. The bad news: There’s not much in the way of food, period. Still, for such a small community, Gold River covers all its bases when it comes to restaurant options. Pub? Check. Little coffee shop? Check. Take-out? Check. Global cuisine? Check. But don’t expect much in the way of nightlife, unless you count bustin’ a move at the local church concert. Gold River’s remoteness does seem to draw artists, and as a result, the village has a small but growing arts community.

 

Other factoids » Despite being named Rio del Oro by 18th-century Spanish explorers, no gold has been found in the area » was the first all-electric Canadian town and the first to have underground wiring » home to The Great Walk, “North America’s Toughest Walkathon,” a 63.5-kilometre trek along the logging road between Gold River and Tahsis

 
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