What Travel Writers Say

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park - escape the city!

© by Maria Power
One of the top ten most-visited Vancouver area attractions, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a favourite for tourists and locals alike. Seeking a break from downtown's skyscrapers and traffic? You won't be disappointed by the peaceful- almost kitschy charm of the park.
     As you enter, the large Douglas Fir trees and boardwalks, ornate with hanging baskets and potted summer flowers, welcome you. Quickly apparent is the triad of themes connected throughout the 27 acre-park - the history of the bridge and its owners, the First Nations culture, and the area's forest and river ecology.
     The first bridge, constructed with cedar planks and hemp rope simply to cross the canyon, was built in 1889. Ever since, the site has witnessed a colourful past and many changes. It has been rebuilt four times, the current bridge installed in 1956. Known for its strength and safety, it withstood a 46-ton Douglas-fir tree falling on it with virtually no damage, during a winter storm in 2006. It had to be closed for four days, only the second time in its 117-year history, to carefully remove the tree. The bridge remained virtually unscathed throughout the experience.
     So what is it about this bridge that makes it so special?
     The feeling of adventure and history in this minimally-altered natural setting is my personal response. The 450-foot (137 metre) long span wobbles from the moment you set foot on the descending stairs. You are surrounded by some of the largest trees (some 1000 years-old!). The Capilano river 230 feet (70 metres) below and the mountains above truly make you feel that you are far more than just a fifteen-minute car ride from a bustling urban centre.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge

     The park is an ideal spot to visit in summer as its shady setting tends to be cooler than nearby areas. However, it is not to be avoided during inclement weather as the mist that hovers over the river on cooler days is most beautiful at any time of year. Do dress appropriately as efforts to situate as much as possible outside make for very few spots of refuge for an unprepared tourist during a rain shower. Keep in mind that its trails can be rugged and that only the smaller east flank of the park has wheelchair accessibility.

Rainforest Display
Rainforest Display
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge

     Offering more than just a stroll outside, the park is akin to an outdoor museum. Meandering through the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest, efforts to maintain the splendid lush greenery with native plants such as salal, swordfern and ferns score high for this Vancouverite. Most areas have pathways with creative, carefully placed information explaining the biology, geology or history of the area. Most informative signage caters to an adult audience. However, once you cross the bridge, the west side of the river treats children to greater-than-life sized animals and fascinating facts in an interactive exhibit.
     The park's second greatest draw to visitors after the suspension bridge is Treetops, a series of seven suspended bridges that provide an experience among the tall ancient evergreens of the area. Up to 100 feet or 30 metres off the forest floor, it allows the visitor an occasional view of the river and a different perspective on the park. What I appreciated most was the careful, concerted efforts evident in protecting the trees and using as many natural and indigenous resources in the construction of the feature.
     My visit wouldn't have been complete without experiencing Cliffwalk, the newest attraction at the park. Opened just a week ago, I found it awe-inspiring - but more for its engineering ingenuity than its played-up fear factor. It consists of a series of walkways bolted into the cliffs, and a large half-circular viewing platform that juts out 300 feet or 100 metres over the river. Four years in the making, Cliffwalk was the brainchild of John Stibbard, VP of Operations for the park. Using lasers, a 3D-model of the granite cliff, geo-technical engineers were well-challenged determining which part of the cliff could sustain the weight of the 80,000 pound structure. This impressive platform, in the form of a half-donut, seems precariously bolted into the rock and anchored above by a cantilevered support system. This is nothing short of a very smart move to draw more visitors to the park and provide them with yet another superior opportunity to experience nature close up.

Maria Power is a teacher for the North Vancouver School District. Her passions are studying languages, especially French, travelling and hiking.

Photo Credits
Maria Power
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If you go
Tourism Vancouver: http://www.tourismvancouver.com/visitors/things_to_do/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capilano_Suspension_Bridge
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/North_Shore_%28British_Columbia%29#See
Places of worship: http://www.bcpassport.com/vancouver-vital-information/places-of-worship.aspx
Fiction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Vancouver_in_fiction

What's happening, money, distance, time?
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Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/

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