Park Guide: Stotan Falls

We had heard about Stotan Falls near Courtenay a few years ago. People who have been here before say it’s a perfect place to swim and explore so we were already motivated to find this spot, but then a promotional video in September 2017 from the Matador Network (check it out on Youtube HERE) made us even more googley-eyed and excited to check it out! Fast-forward to this summer and our friend posted pictures of it on Facebook and we knew it was finally time to just go!

Stotan Falls has been a bit of a secret for many years, though locals know it and love it as a great summer spot to cool down and relax. In the past, there has even been a fee charged to visitors going on the logging road to get there. Public campaigns have helped re-open the area with no entrance fee now!

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To get here, we used Google Maps with no issues. It guided us directly to the parking lot and we went early enough that we actually found a shady spot to leave the car! Directions are:

  • Take exit 117: Comox Valley Parkway N towards Courtenay/Comox
  • Turn left on Cumberland Road and follow around a bend
  • Turn left onto Marsden Road and follow for approximately 3 kms
  • Turn right onto Duncan Bay Main Line Road, an active logging road
  • Just over the first bridge, you’ll see a parking lot on the right side of the road (if full, there is more parking before and across the second (main) bridge as well)
  • From the lot, cross the road, go down a short path.

By now, you’ll find yourself under the bridge with the river bed spread out before you. It’s honestly just that easy! When you go here, bring water shoes, a mask and snorkel, and your food and water for the day. Some people brought lawn chairs too and set themselves up in the shallow water. This is an important salmon spawning area so it’s so important that you pack out what you pack in to keep the area clean. There are no garbage cans or other amenities here. Again, we’re going to suggest the water shoes; there are a couple of sections along the river bed that are a bit slippery and our water shoes (bought at Canadian Tire on our way there!) were well worth the investment.

Our visit here was in late July and the water was the perfect temperature (read: not freezing!). This particular stretch of the Puntledge River is famous for the potholes in the river bed that fill with water and are warmed by the sun. We learned quickly that people flock here early and grab themselves a spot in a pothole, claiming it as their own natural hot tub/swimming hole!

We saw many families exploring and enjoying the water. Smaller children wore life jackets as the river does have some rapid areas and the potholes are easy to fall into if you’re not careful or watching your step. There is a lot to explore here: above the Stotan Falls area, the river is flat and calm with a rocky bed. Just under and extending out from the bridge are shallow, calm areas and lower down the falls, there’s a salmon ladder with swimming holes along the side.

We probably spent the whole first hour there taking pictures and being blown away by the natural beauty. The further we walked down river, the more amazing this place became! We figure it should be considered a natural wonder of Vancouver Island; it was that cool! As more people arrived throughout the day, we thought maybe it would get crowded and unsafe, but it never actually got busy enough that we couldn’t find our own potholes to relax in.

Looking around, everyone was happy. There was lots of splashing, sitting back in potholes, picnics, families playing games, swimming, and DIY waterslides down the riverbed into a few of the deeper potholes. A few people had brought their dogs as well. They moseyed around both on and off leash and honestly seemed to enjoy the area just as much as we did.

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