Darling River Campsite - West Coast TrailThe second, or second to last campsite on the West Coast Trail is at Darling River. Located just 1.6 kilometres(1 mile) from Michigan Creek, the Darling River campsite has an alright, sandy beach and a truly wonderful waterfall. Darling Falls pour into a stunning, emerald coloured pool nestled against a short cliff. The falls only drop about three or four metres as they fill the pool at the base and flowing down to the ocean in an ever-narrowing torrent of water.

The campsite at Darling River is the best along this stretch of the West Coast Trail because of its wonderful waterfall. Michigan Creek is busy often chaotic. There are many aspects of this place that are beautiful. First it is a bit up from the beach and almost everyone passes it by unnoticed! Another is the emerald colour of the water is hemmed in by the deep forest that stretches over the small valley giving you a strange sense that you are inside something.

Until you look directly up as you float on your back in the water and see a narrow band of sky through the encroaching forest. On a sunny day, the sun penetrates the thick canopy only along a gap that appears to narrow by the minute. At the Darling River campsite you are just five hours from the Pachena trailhead. That is at a reasonably good pace and including a short tour of the lighthouse on the way. There are lots of areas along the beach that you can put up a tent amongst the driftwood logs. There are not a lot of amenities off the beach, except for the usual bear proof food boxes and West Coast Trail outhouses. One amusing thing you find here is the morale of the hikers that pass by. Heading to Michigan Beach, you see people on the last full day on the trail. Tired and plodding along to the last night before the end of the trail, not even walking up Darling River for a couple minutes to see the waterfall.

The Michigan's boiler is a visible remnant of that shipwreck near Michigan Creek. Darling River has a shipwreck of its own, laying at the bottom of the ocean where Darling River flows out. The Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck on April 1st, 1943. A Russian ship, the Uzbekistan was part of the lend-lease program during World War II, where the US shipped war materials to Russia. She left Portland for Seattle to pick up a load of war materials destined for Vladivostok. On April 1st 1943 the Uzbekistan encountered stormy weather and bad visibility, mistaking the light at Swiftsure Bank for that of Umatilla Reef. She steered toward what was thought to be the Juan de Fuca Strait. Because of the strong northerly current, she was far north of her supposed location.

Darling River on the West Coast Trail

At 11pm the Uzbekistan collided with the the rocky shelf just down from today's Darling River. The entire crew made it to shore safely and made camp. They then managed to hike their way to Bamfield and were eventually picked up by a Royal Canadian Navy ship. Today, if you are lucky you can spot the Uzbekistan's boilers and parts of her propulsion machinery at very low tide at the edge of the reef. You will more easily spot pieces of steel scattered around the mouth of Darling River.

Darling Falls - West Coast Trail Campsites

Should you camp at the Darling River campsite? Definitely. Darling Falls and Darling River make this mediocre West Coast Trail beach and campsite exceptional. Darling Falls is one of those rare waterfalls that you find in movies where our heroes stumble upon after getting lost. It is a hidden, emerald coloured world that entices you to throw off your clothes and dive into. Washing off the the sweat and grime of the day.

Darling River Campsite Map - West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Darling River - West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Darling River on the West Coast TrailThe captain of the Sarah sighted the recently built Carmanah Point Lighthouse and mistook it for the Tatoosh Island Lighthouse. The Sarah struggled against the south-east wind and the ship was pushed westward. Later the crew was able to regain their eastward coarse, toward what they though was the Juan de Fuca Strait. The ocean current had moved the ship considerably far north and on the evening of the 8th November, 1891, the crew was surprised to suddenly hear distant breakers. They immediately dropped anchor, then shortly after another one. But it was too late, the Sarah ran aground on the shore of what is now kilometre 7 of the West Coast Trail. One lifeboat was freed with some of the crew, however the captain, the rest of his crew and his wife and baby remained because the second lifeboat could not be freed. Throughout the following day and night they struggled to free the boat to make their escape to safety. Two of the crew drowned in attempting to reach the shore in a makeshift raft. Finally they managed to free another lifeboat and the survivors managed to get ashore. They were rescued by one of the many indigenous tribes residing on Vancouver Island. It seems safe to assume that it was the Huu-ay-aht First Nations which resided there, as they do now, at Pachena Bay. The Huu-ay-aht brought the shipwreck survivors to a trader's post where they found passage to Victoria on a local schooner. 16 of the crew of 18 and the captain's wife and baby survived the Sarah shipwreck.

Shipwrecks Near Darling River on the West Coast TrailBuilt in 1864 the 1376 ton, 3 masted ship, Becherdass-Ambiadass was wrecked on the rocky shore only a half mile from Pachena Point. This British ship was returning from Shanghai to Moodyville (now North Vancouver) when Cape Beale was sighted. As she neared Vancouver Island early morning fog blinded her and under full sail collided with the abruptly rocky shore near the 8k mark of the West Coast Trail. Amazingly no one was seriously hurt, but the ship was wrecked. The crew used the lifeboats to save themselves. The next day a local boat carried both the crew and their belongings to Victoria. In the following weeks the ship disintegrated on the rocks. There are no remnants of wreckage from the Becherdass-Ambiadass shipwreck to see. The wreck sits under the waves not far from where the Black River meets the ocean at the 8 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail.

Shipwrecks Near Darling River on the West Coast TrailOn the West Coast Trail at the 12k mark you will come to the Michigan. The Michigan shipwreck on the West Coast Trail is the first one you can see and actually touch, which is incredible since it is well over a century old. On January 21st, 1893 this 695 ton steam schooner was heading to Puget Sound from San Francisco. The strong northerly current that prevails in this part of the Pacific and would eventually cause dozens of shipwrecks, caused the Michigan to massively overrun her position. Instead of sailing into the Juan de Fuca Strait, she collided with Vancouver Island in the middle of the night. The 25 people on board managed to get ashore after daylight.  The the seas calmed the crew was able to retrieve a boat from the wreck and was able to get to Neah Bay for assistance. A ship rescue was attempted, but was not successful. One death resulted from the attempt to hike over the old telegraph trail to Carmanah Point. A testament to how difficult it was then as compared to how relatively easy the now relatively easy West Coast Trail.

Shipwrecks Near Darling River on the West Coast TrailThe Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck on April 1st, 1943. A Russian ship, the Uzbekistan was part of the lend-lease program during World War II, where the US shipped war materials to Russia. She left Portland for Seattle to pick up a load of war materials destined for Vladivostok. On April 1st 1943 the Uzbekistan encountered stormy weather and bad visibility, mistaking the light at Swiftsure Bank for that of Umatilla Reef. She steered toward what was thought to be the Juan de Fuca Strait. Because of the strong northerly current, she was far north of her supposed location. At 11pm the Uzbekistan collided with the the rocky shelf just down from today's Darling River. The entire crew made it to shore safely and made camp. They then managed to hike their way to Bamfield and were eventually picked up by a Royal Canadian Navy ship. Today, if you are lucky you can spot the Uzbekistan's boilers and parts of her propulsion machinery at very low tide at the edge of the reef. You will more easily spot pieces of steel scattered around the mouth of Darling River.

Shipwrecks Near Darling River on the West Coast TrailJust 4 kilometres past the Uzbekistan shipwreck you will pass by the final resting place of the Varsity. The Varsity was a small fishing boat of 90 tons, returning to Puget Sound from California on February 5th, 1940. In bad weather and stormy seas, she abruptly struck the shore, just a kilometre past, what is today, Tsocowis Creek on the West Coast Trail. The Varsity had overrun her position due to the fast northerly current. The crew were so hopelessly lost that they believed their position to still be in American waters, instead of way up on the coast of Vancouver Island. Unfortunately their distress call gave their position as several kilometres south of their actual position. Of the crew of seven, three survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs. 

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSarah at 7k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailBecherdass-Ambiadass at 8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailMichigan at 12k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUzbekistan at 13.8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVarsity at 17.6k

More West Coast Trail Campsites 

Michigan Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe campsite at Michigan Creek is the first or last campsite you will encounter on the West Coast Trail. First if you begin your hike at the Pachena trailhead(hiking south) and last if you begin in Port Renfrew(hiking north). The 12.1 kilometres(7.5 miles) between the Pachena trailhead and Michigan Creek is fairly easy and flat. Compared to the rest of the West Coast Trail, this section is wonderfully relaxing. At a brisk pace, you should be able to hike this section in a little over 3 hours. At a more relaxed pace, and stopping at the Pachena Lighthouse, you will take 4 or 5 hours from the trailhead. Certainly the highlight of Michigan Creek is the extraordinary remnant of the Michigan shipwreck trapped on the rocky shelf revealed by low tide. The huge boiler of the Michigan is so large that it sits ominously in a depression on the rocky shelf near where it drops off to deeper ocean. From the sandy shoreline, this rusty hulk sits about 70 metres away as large waves constantly pound it. You can easily walk out to it when the tide is low and get a close look at just a couple metres away. Getting close enough to touch it will require a short and cold plunge into the ocean with swirling water all around.

Michigan Beach on the West Coast Trail

Orange Juice Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailJust a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice CreekOrange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of driftwood logs. If you aren't keen on swimming and/or washing at Darling Falls, Orange Juice Creek is a good alternative. Much quieter than Michigan Creek and a bit quieter than Darling River, you will find a more relaxed surrounding at the campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Another less obvious aspect of Orange Juice Creek that makes it worth camping at is the small, but very livable sea cave. Some find it charming, others find it spooky. At the very least it is worth a look. A small fire in the middle, surrounded by driftwood logs for seats, in horribly, wet weather, this cave is paradise!

Orange Juice Creek on the West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5k has a decent beach with an excellent water source. There is plenty of room for tents along the beach amongst the driftwood logs. You have the same amenities here as other West Coast Trail campsites such as deluxe outhouses and animal proof food storage boxes. Tsocowis is home to one of the West Coast Trail guard cabin's. In 1940 the survivors of the Varsity shipwreck survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs. Hikers tend to pass this campsite and push on to the end of the trail(or the next campsite if heading south). 

Tsocowis Beach Campsite - West Coast Trail

  Michigan Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailMichigan Creek at 12k Darling River Campsite on the West Coast TrailDarling River at 14k Orange Juice Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailOrange Juice Creek at 15k Tsocowis Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailTsocowis Creek at 16.5k

 

West Coast Trail Campsites

The Pachena Bay Campground is the closest campsite to the Pachena trailhead, not on the West Coast ...
Read More
The campsite at Michigan Creek is the first or last campsite you will encounter on the West ...
Read more
Just a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange ...
Read more
The Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5k has a decent beach with an excellent water source. Most hikers ...
Read more
The campsite at Klanawa River is quite nice beacause of its lovely, swimmable river, expansive ...
Read more
Carmanah Creek slowly flows through this wonderfully massive channel that cuts deep into the ...
Read more
Walbran Creek at 53k is home to possibly the best, and most unappreciated campsites on the West ...
Read more
The Pacheedaht Campground is a beautiful, and often bustling campground, quite close to the ...
Read more