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Hiking in Ruckle Provincial Park, on Salt Spring Island, feels like a hike through primordial wilderness. Green moss-like epiphytes drape branches and fallen logs.

Hiking in Ruckle Provincial Park
Hiking in Ruckle Provincial Park
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Western red cedars tower above us. At our feet, lacy sword and bracken ferns carpet the ground with rainforest hues.

Fulford Harbour

Ruckle Provincial Park is located 11 kilometers (seven miles) west of Fulford Harbour, at the end of Beaver Point Road. The BC provincial park occupies 486 hectares (1,200 acres) of southeast Salt Spring Island.

The earliest settlers of Fulford Harbour were not Europeans but, rather, American slaves who purchased their freedom in 1857, and made a fresh start on Salt Spring Island.

Other early settlers were Polynesians, from Hawaii, who came here to work for the Hudson's Bay Company. Their descendants rest in St. Paul's Church cemetery in Fulford Harbour.

Douglas firs

Ruckle Park incorporates one of the oldest farmsteads in British Columbia. Henry Ruckle's original 1877 farmhouse still stands here, as does the apple orchard, barn and potato house (now park headquarters).

As we hiked through the Coastal Douglas Fir Ecosystem, we spotted a salal shrub. Florists use salal leaves in bouquets. A mottled brown and yellow banana slug, the size and colour of the overripe fruit, rested on our path.

A vernal pool, on one side, is a habitat for frogs and other amphibians. On the other side, we saw faintly scented vanilla leaves that settlers once used to repel flies.

Hiking past sword ferns in Ruckle Provincial Park
Hiking past sword ferns in Ruckle Provincial Park
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

We were surprised to discover maple leaves as wide as telephone books. Big-leaf maples are the largest maple trees in North America. They grow only on the west coast. In the fall, they turn yellow and brown, but not red.

Snow-white blossoms of ocean spray lined an old farm road that we followed to the farmstead. When you heat ocean spray wood, it becomes hard. First Nations people, who harvested shellfish along the coastline, made spears, hooks and digging sticks from ocean spray.

Ruckle Park has seven kilometers (4.5 miles) of shoreline, with coves, rocky headlands, picnic and camping grounds. We found mussels, crabs and purple starfish in the tidal pools.

Produce stand

Sheep graze around the Ruckle Provincial Park headquarters. Next to a display of old photographs and signs, describing the original farmstead, we discovered an honesty stand, one of several on Salt Spring Island.

Buying flowers at honesty stand
Buying flowers at honesty stand
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Flower bouquets, fresh fruit and jars of homemade preserves, each with a price sign, covered the roofed wooden table. Shoppers make their selection and drop the money through the wooden honesty box slot.

The charming custom dates back to the days when farmers trusted neighbours and visitors to pay for surplus garden produce left by the roadside. It says a lot about life on Salt Spring Island.

Getting to Ruckle Provincial Park

It takes 35 minutes to travel by BC Ferry from Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island, to Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island.

You can hike or bicycle the 11 km (seven mile) trail along the coast between the BC Ferry terminal and Ruckle Provincial Park. Alternatively, you can drive along Beaver Point Road from the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal to Ruckle Park.


Salt Spring Island: www.saltspringtourism.com

BC Parks: www.bcparks.ca

Destination BC: www.hellobc.com

Tourism Vancouver Island: www.vancouverisland.travel

More things to see & do in the BC Gulf Islands:

Romantic BC Gulf Islands

Galiano Biking Tour

Saturna Island BC Tour

Tsawout Native Reserve - Salt Spring Island