Just minutes from Victoria, B.C., witness an epic salmon spectacle and a waterfall worthy of pictures

The Goldstream River is alive with one of nature's miracles.Too many salmon to count hover in the shallow water. They dartaround each other, stopping to rest before pushing upstream again.The river, at this point more like a wide stream coursing overboulders and sand, is so clear you can see the salmon's eyes. Theirskin, torn by rocks, tells of the immense effort of this journeyupstream from the Pacific. Instinct has drawn them here to spawnand die, three or four years after they left this river to maketheir way to the ocean.

By the end of December, thousands of chum, coho, and chinooksalmon will have swum upstream. Goldstream Provincial Park, 10miles from downtown Victoria, British Columbia, is the perfectplace to see them. Trails and observation platforms along the rivermake it easy to watch the salmon and to see bald eagles circlingoverhead or eating fish along the riverbank. The Freeman KingVisitor Centre has displays and lectures about the salmon's returnto their ancestral spawning beds.

But the salmon are not the only reason to visit this 960-acrepark. About 10 miles of well-marked trails meander among600-year-old Douglas firs, Western red cedars, and arbutus. And youwon't want to miss Niagara Falls, a 155-foot waterfall that plungesdown a rock face into a clear pool. It's easily walked to alongLower Falls Trail (get a trail map and directions from the visitorcenter). Gold Mine Trail, on the other side of Niagara Creek, takesyou to old mining shafts, remnants of the mid-1800s gold rushhere.

If you're up to it, hike to the top of Mount Finlayson. Thebeauty of the park spreads out below, and Victoria is clearly inview to the south. From here it seems even more amazing that you'reso close to a city, yet so far away.

See the salmon

From Victoria, take Hwy. 1 (also called Trans-Canada Hwy.)north 10 miles; look for the Goldstream Provincial Park sign on theright. Freeman King Visitor Centre (250/478-9414) is a 10-minutewalk from the main parking lot on Visitor Centre Trail. TourismVictoria (250/953-2033 or www.tourismvictoria.com)has more information.

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