Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park

Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park is the District of Saanich, one of thirteen areas that form the Capital Regional District of British Columbia. This is a friendly family area where you can walk around the entire lake and explore its shoreline and forest trails. The peaceful lakeshore has picnic tables and picnic shelters for outdoor partaking. The two shoreline play areas have climbing frames, swings and play equipment. Encompassing both lakes and riparian areas, this CRD park covers about 411 ha. The walk around the two lakes is about 10 km taking about two hours. The sunset from Hamsterly Beach is a good place to contemplate a day.

Hard surfaced gravel paths around the lake have a low gradient, as the pathway on the west side of the lake was once a railway line. The railroad operated from eighteen eighty-four to nineteen-nineteen and was one of two rail lines that transported good and people between Victoria and Sidney. In nineteen twenty-three the City of Victoria included in this park the right of way for the V&S Railway which become part of the 10K trail. When walking along the west side of Elk Lake notice, beneath your tread, the large berms that were built to grade the rail line. There are many additional smaller trails all frequented by walkers, dog walker, runners, cyclists and equestrians. There are a few areas of bare earth and exposed roots, which will slow wheel chairs or strollers.

In eighteen seventy-nine, an earthen dam, built at the south end of Beaver Lake, raised the water levels of Beaver Lake several meters so that it merged with Elk Lake. This created a reservoir for the City of Victoria that was in use until the mid nineteen seventies. The water from the reservoir passed through the sand filter beds before distributed to the nearby neighborhoods. The large grass covered area just south of Beaver Lake contains the sand filter beds that are still maintained. The old water pipes can be seen beside the trail that connects the parkland to Pipeline Lane. In nineteen twenty-five, a resort was built at Hamsterly Beach with a tearoom, dance pavilion, bathing boxes with towels and confectionary store. Another attraction that was closer to Beaver Lake Beach was a Wooded Wonderland, ran from during the nineteen sixties and into the nineteen seventies. This amusement area constructed storybook and nursery rhyme characters along pathways through the cedar and fir trees. The concrete foot bases are only remnants of the Wooden Wonderland found in the parkland.

The CRD website has the following park map:

https://www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/find-park-trail/elk-beaver-lake

Elk/Beaver Lake are within the Colquitz Creek watershed and form the headwaters of the five thousand hectare drainage area. Colquitz Creek flows through Saanich into Portage Inlet. Portage Inlet is part of Gorge waterway. The waterway connects to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea. O’Donnel Creek flows into Elk /Beaver Lake from its northwest side. Other smaller ephemeral creeks bring water into the lake from along its north west side.

Acquired by the Capital Regional District in 1966, Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park is known for hosting triathlons, rowing regattas. The park is surrounding equestrian stables and the trails are frequently used for dressage practice. The boathouse and docks on the south shore of Elk are home to the Victoria City Rowing Club: founded in nineteen fifty-two, practice sites for the University of Victoria Team and the Canadian National Rowing Team. Olympic-level and other rowers training in the early hours most days of the week. Several times a year, the rowing center hosts local, provincial and national regattas. The Elk/Beaver Equestrian Society, formed in nineteen eighty-six, operates the equestrian area on the southern side of the park. The ponds near the center are used for retriever training.

Canoeing, sailing, wind surfing, paddle boarding, water skiing and kayaking enjoy the lake waters. As the lake is stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout, fishers are frequently seen along the shoreline and docks; there are also many anglers casting into the waters from their small watercraft. Small mouth bass and pumpkin sunfish also found in these waters. The access to the water varies around the shore with swimming at Beaver Beach, North, Eagle, Hamsterly and Water Ski beaches. Along the 10K Trail look for rocky outcrops that are good areas for dogs and humans to enjoy the waters.

Large trees, poplar, fir and cedars, offer shade over both playgrounds in the park.  There is a playground off Beaver Beach near the south end of the park and at Hamsterly Beach off Brookleigh Road.  There are also grassy fields and woodland meadows where both horses and dogs can roam.  Toilets are at Beaver, Hamsterly, Eagle and several other areas around the lake. A Nature Center is located near Beaver Lake Beach and is open periodically. This is a popular place to walk in your backyard.

Geographical Location 48°30’ 36”N 123°23’ 27”W

Elk / Beaver Lake Park can be reached from the TransCanada Highway. Exit Hwy 1 onto Mackenzie Avenue to reach Pat Bay Highway. There are three access to the park from Pat Bay Highway (Hwy 17). To go to Beaver Lake Beach:  Follow Pat Bay Highway to the Royal Oak Drive exit and cross over the highway to get to Elk Lake Drive.  Turn right on to Elk Lake Drive and continue until you see the entrance sign for the park. The paved road winds to a parking lot at Beaver Beach and further along the road an unpaved parking area near the filter beds. To go to Eagle Beach, beside the rowing center, exit off Pat Bay Highway to the left, look for the National Rowing Team Sign. This paved road lead to two parking areas, an upper gravel lot and lower paved parking area. There is boat launch beside the rowing center building. Alternatively, you can get to Hamsterly Beach by continuing along Pat Bay Highway to Sayward Road.  You turn left onto Sayward Road, passing the service station, to reach Hamsterly Road.  You can continue straight along Hamsterly Road to a roadside parking area and the beach or turn onto Brookleigh Road to access another parking area and playground. There are other access point to the park that are mentioned in other blog posts.

Two interesting websites with information about Elk/Beaver Lake Park

https://saanich.accesstomemory.org/entrance-to-the-wooded-wonderland-attraction-beaver-lake-park

http://unknownvictoria.blogspot.com/2008/08/freshwater-playground.html

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