“ Sightseeing Type: Parks / Gardens / Contact: (604) 985-7474 „
In my summary of our visit to Canada and Vancouver in particular, I mentioned that one of the attractions we visited was the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. We went there as a part of a day out, which included also a visit to Vancouver's own ski area, Grouse Mountain. They are close to each other and so can easily be covered in one day. You could also ski Grouse Mountain although most ski fans would probably want to devote a whole day, despite the relatively small size of this ski resort.
Getting there is quite easy as a dedicated bus runs right from Canada Place on the north shore of Downtown, picking up visitors through the city, crossing finally over Lion's Gate Bridge from Stanley Park to North Vancouver and on to the Capilano Bridge. All this is included in the entry fee of around the equivalent of £20 per person, with the usual sorts of reductions for OAPs and students and so on.
The site is halfway up to the gondola station that takes you up to Grouse Mountain, on a road that rises up through a primarily residential area. Eventually you arrive at the car park at the entrance. Here you either buy your tickets if you have arrived independently or present them if, as we had, you had bought them in advance at the Vancouver Tourist Information office. Once through the turnstiles you start your visit.
The site straddles a deep gorge which carries a river fed by the melt-waters of Grouse Mountain, down to the bay. On the entrance side are things like the souvenir shop and a café. The souvenir shop is quite large and has an impressive selection of products for you to buy for yourself or friends although prices are, as is inevitable, a little on the high side.
On your way to the bridge there are displays of information about the history of the site. It appears that over the years it has passed through a number of hands. Not all of the owners have exploited the potential of the attraction. At times the property has clearly fallen on hard times. However, the current owners seem to be making a success of it, as the number of visitors there during our visit testify.
Beyond this, as you approach the bridge, by a circuitous route, you pass the almost obligatory tribal totems and other such reminders of the indigenous peoples who lived here before the Europeans arrived. Then, finally, you approach the bridge.
The bridge is suspended from huge steel cables of the sort that are used for ski gondolas of the biggest kind. The bed of the bridge is wooden planks and the whole thing is wide enough for two or maybe three to walk abreast. At each end the descent is quite steep as the bridge hangs naturally under the pull of gravity in a parabola. In the centre it is flat and here you overlook the river far below, and most people do: the views are quite spectacular. The picture at the top of the page gives a pretty accurate view of just how long it is. When we were there the river was fairly calm but I suspect it gets really wild when the snow melt.
The bridge is quite stable and you don't really notice too much the effect of others walking on the bridge at the same time; it certainly doesn't bounce alarmingly, like the Millennium Bridge in London did, until they installed the dampers.
At the far end you enter into a forest wild-life haven, which you can explore by a number of paths. Most are at ground level but there is also a "Tree Top" walkway which, despite its name is actually a series of wooden bridges built between and around trees at about halfway up their trunks, from which you can explore the forest floor below, without actually disturbing it. The owners of the site have done a lot to try to ensure that the flora and fauna are as little disturbed as possible without upsetting the enjoyment of visitors. The tree top walks are the part of the attraction that is most enjoyed by the young.
One of the things you pass is the remains of a huge tree that fell across the bridge some years ago, during a ferocious storm. It lies beneath and to one side of the bridge, where it finally fell during the operation to remove it. It had to be removed a bit at a time as, if the tree had simply been cut in half, the rebound of the bridge as the pressure on the cables was suddenly released could have been catastrophic. The breaking strain of cables is such that they absorbed the additional weight of the tree without any damage although the securing anchor points at one end were partly dislodged.
At various points you come out onto viewing platforms overlooking the gorge and with great views of the bridge from the side and below. One new attraction, which was in construction but which wasn't open when we visited, is a walkway that runs along the face of the cliff, overhanging the gorge. We would have loved to have done that as well; you will now be able to if you visit.
We greatly enjoyed our visit. The weather was, fortunately, good although cold. It is probably of more interest to adults than children as there really isn't a lot to keep kids interest, other than running away and hiding. It's a location that will definitely be of interest to anyone with an interest in Botany: there is much information about all of the life found in the area and you may even spot the real thing.
Coupled with a visit to Grouse Mountain, this makes a very satisfying day out.
Suspension bridge in a beautiful Canadian nature park.