Hot Springs Cove a Geothermal Gem

The thermal pools at BC's Hot Springs Cove are one of Canada’s major thermal springs, and provide the perfect lookout point onto a nearly untouched ecosystem

Credit: Lynsey Franks

A dip in the ocean is a good follow-up to Hot Springs Cove’s 109-degree Celcius waters

A tiny cove on Vancouver Island’s west coast offers a pristine pool of soothing, hot mineral water

As I look beyond the moss-covered old-growth rainforest we’ve just walked through for two kilometres, I am almost certain this is one of the most pristine natural phenomena I’ve ever visited.

The crashing surf of BC’s west coast waters crawls up the sides of the rocks, through the crevices and overtop resting tide pools. Created 160 million years ago, Hot Springs Cove’s thermal pools are one of Canada’s major thermal springs, pumping out five to eight litres of 109-degree Fahrenheit water every second.

According to the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association, this is a place of “dynamic ecological activity.” The fault, running five kilometers deep, is located between the islands and is responsible for the heat and pressure. And the faint smell of sulphur and sight of steaming water has me eager to climb in.

With a view out to the Pacific ocean, I settle in beneath a waterfall, finding relief in the hot water pounding on my back, a sanctuary from the cool fall air.  

The Journey to Hot Springs Cove

Located in the northern region of Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island’s west coast, Maquinna Marine Provincial Park has seen visitors from all over the world who come to soak in its mineral pools, which still exist in their natural state.

The cove can only be reached by seaplane or boat. A 30-foot vessel owned and operated by West Coast Aquatic Safaris was our choice form of travel on this crisp fall day.

Every trip to Hot Springs Cove is different, and sightings of orcas, sea lions, harbour seals, humpback whales, bald eagles and black bears were posted on the “Wildlife Watch” board outside the tour station.

The wide-eyed adventure seekers peered out over the sides of the ship eagerly, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pair of grey whales we were told were feasting on small crustaceans from the ocean floor.

Our tour guide tells us that these 30-tonne mammals have migrated here all the way from Mexico, and that their journey is only half over. The small pod will continue to migrate north to the Arctic Sea, as they do annually. We were lucky enough to catch them on their way.

A Nearly Untouched Ecosystem

We meander through the Flores and Vargas islands littered throughout the inlet. The islands are host to some of the area’s most pristine coastal ecosystems. We see harbour seals, a sea lion sharing its fish with the gulls and an otter floating on its back.

The scenery is equally fascinating with its rocky coastlines resisting the crashing waves, protecting the ancient, towering cedars that lie behind its banks.

To visit such an untouched marvel in nature, one that the Hesquiat First Nations people discovered long ago, and have preserved ever since, is a rarity.

They continue to inhabit what is formally known as Refuge Cove, a small dwelling of roughly 150 inhabitants just north of the hot springs where visitors are also welcome to stay awhile.

After spending 45 minutes soaking in the 109-degree waters, I leave with a sense of renewal, and a new appreciation for another one of Mother Nature’s gifts to British Columbia.

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