Who is Ralph? Well, I’m not quite sure, but I sure like his River! We stumbled upon this gem of a campground during one of our other camping escapades to the magnificent Strathcona Provincial Park. Although this location may seem to be long distance to travel just for a typical weekend camping experience, especially for those that are coming from the Southern end of Vancouver Island, I can promise that is well worth the drive, as it is far from typical. Although the name of the campground highlights the fact that it rests beside Ralph River, it is also along the shores of Buttle Lake, the largest body of water in Strathcona Park. If you are born and raised British Columbian resident, the mountains on all sides will remind you of the breathtaking beauty for which this province is known. Alternatively, if you’re not sure whether you are more of a mountain or flat-lander patriot, the feeling of the majestic peaks surrounding you will win you over, hands down.
The campground has 75 drive in sites; a decent variety of site to choose from, including those with a lake view, shade, sun, double/shared, and of course the coveted first come – first serve sites that are long the river banks. Although we left work early on a Thursday before the long weekend in September, to see if we might luck out and be able to snatch a river site, we arrived to see all of them happily inhabited by fellow campers that arrived earlier than us. We ended up in site #27, which happens to be a shared site. In our camping experiences, it is rare that we choose a shared site, but given the long weekend demand, this was one of the few choices remaining. Despite our apprehension of having close neighbors, we ended up falling in love with #27, as it had a view to the lake that was the highlight of our morning wake up each day, room for our canoe, a path that we could walk our puppy (yes, a puppy named Snoopy, our mini dacschund that travels with us everywhere), a clean and oh so convenient outhouse across the road, and a relatively short distance to the water pump. As for having neighbors in the other half? – It was a great opportunity to invite some company over to our campfire chats, share mosquito spray in the evenings, and expand our social horizons.
My overall rating of the amenities available at the park is very good. The outhouses were always clean, stocked, and somewhat freshly scented with the help of bounce sheets on the inside door hook. The campground also has two water pumps that provide fresh, potable (safe to drink) water. Depending how much water you use, you can get your fair share of cardio/strength training in during your vacation! The parks staff drive by regularly with firewood available for purchase, but not so often that you notice the repetitive sound of a truck engine interrupting your serenity. Although we launched our canoe from the access to the Buttle lake from our site, we were told that a boat launch is available just a few minutes down the highway at Karst Creek. In my opinion, the boat launch may be the way to go next time. The access to the lake from our site was convenient, but to be honest, I think the downside of the litre of blood we both lost to the mosquitoes and the trek in our gum boots through the marshy grass to enter the water, outweighs the benefit of close proximity. Now, I admit my opinion of launching the boat in the marshy grass could be tainted by our experience involving Snoopy jumping from the canoe into the slimy water. After all, what do I expect after encouraging him earlier to swim in the river? He saw an opportunity and leaped at it, literally!
This campsite is above average in my opinion, just for the scenery alone. Combined with the very peaceful and almost untouched feeling that can sometimes be lacking in other provincial campgrounds, and this place will remind you of what is significant in this world, and what truly is not.
We definitely have this place on our favorites list and will be returning, hopefully before Thanksgiving! Or, even better, during Thanksgiving. Stay tuned for more about this place, I’m sure I’ll have more to share.