Myra Falls. Glacier-fed river or tropical paradise?
Updated: Nov 19, 2022
If you have not been to Myra Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park in the heart of Vancouver Island, BC, add it to your bucket list because it’s spectacular! It’s so nice that part of the Apple TV show See was filmed there, and yes, that means Jason Momoa, Hera Hilmar, Alfre Woodard, and Sylvia Hoeks were there too!
Geology of Myra Falls
What about the Geology though? Good question and it’s complicated. Myra Falls cascades down a series of rock steps made of sandstone. The “steps” form where mudstone beds or volcanic ash layers form planes of weakness that are progressively cut back causing the rocks above to break off sequentially producing the spectacular stepwise aspect of the falls.
Not 1.5 km to the west of the falls is the Myra Falls Mine, which is one of the largest copper-lead-zinc mines in B.C. and is also rich in gold and silver (1). These metals are hosted in rocks that are vastly different from those at Myra Falls.
Vancouver Island's geological history
The rocks in the Myra Falls Mine and those exposed at the falls were both formed about 370–365 million years ago when Vancouver Island was but an arc of volcanoes somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (2). Imagine something a bit like Hawaii. Rain, waves and tides eroded the volcanoes and produced the sand that accumulated adjacent to and overtop of them. The sand lithified (became rock) to form the sandstone beds exposed at Myra Falls. The sandstone beds show evidence of strong wave reworking which is typical of storms, and suggests the area was regular hit by hurricanes even 370 million years ago!
So is it a glacier-fed river or a tropical paradise? It’s both if you ignore time. However, if you plan to visit in November, I recommend not showing up in a Speedo and with a Tommy Bahama chair.
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(1) Juras, S. S. Geology of the polymetallic volcanogenic Buttle Lake camp, with emphasis on the Price Hillside, Central Vancouver Island PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, (1987).
(2) BCGS. Geology of Strathcona Provincial Park. 28 (BC Geological Survey, Victoria, 1995).