Cathedral Grove is one of the most accessible stands of old-growth forest left in BC. Only 16 km east of Port Alberni, along Highway 4, it is a remarkable place to visit.
The Grove is only 157 ha in size, and resides within the 300 ha of MacMillan Provincial Park. Cathedral Grove contains a stand of ancient Douglas Fir, some of which approach 800 years in age.
In 1944, H. R. MacMillan, donated 136 ha to the provincial government "for the perpetual enjoyment of the public in recognition of the unique stand of trees." The donation was made after years and years of refusing to discuss the possibility of preserving what had already become famous as Cathedral Grove.
In 1997, on New Year's Day, a severe windstorm changed the park forever. Hundreds of trees were toppled and much of the park's trail system destroyed (some have not yet been re-opened). The fallen trees are of significant value as they open the canopy to provide light, shelter and nutrients for the new growth.
About 1 million people visit the park every year, and there can be an initial sense of congestion : cars and people. That being said, it only takes a few moments to find peace and solitude, and it is worth every minute.
Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.