The trail at Westwood Lake Park is the only one on which the city puts a running base.

The trail at Westwood Lake Park is the only one on which the city puts a running base.

What’s so great about Westwood Lake?

Nanaimo's Westwood Lake Park is voted best place to walk, jog or hike; swim outdoors; and walk your dog in Best of the City survey.

Pull into the main parking lot at Westwood Lake Park and you’ll find it nearly full most days.

Beaches, groomed trails to walk, jog, bike or maybe take a four-footed best buddy out for some exercise, plus a boat ramp to launch a day of fishing, kayaking or canoeing, make Westwood Lake Park one of Nanaimo’s best loved outdoor recreation areas.

The park’s central location puts those beaches and trails within a few minutes’ drive from most of Nanaimo.

Westwood Lake is a legacy of Nanaimo’s industrial past.

William J. Westwood settled and farmed the area in the 1860s when the lake was little more than a shallow marsh that fed Darough Creek.

As Nanaimo progressed into the 20th century and demand for electricity grew to power local industry the head of Darough Creek was dammed in 1908, creating Westwood Lake as a reservoir for a hydroelectric plant.

The hydroelectric plant was ultimately abandoned, but the dam and the lake remained and in 1957 Westwood Lake was dedicated as a city park.

Today ghostly snags of trees that stood green before the valley was flooded, reach up from below the lake’s surface and steal the hooks and lures from anglers fishing for trout the lake is stocked with annually.  Some say remnants of Westwood’s farm can still be seen on the bottom of the lake.

“The only thing I’ve ever seen on the water was what, to me, looked like the arch of a roof,” said Ed Singer, owner of Sundown Diving. “I haven’t ever seen anything else in there.”

Singer said some divers have reported spotting what appears to have once been a fence line, but stories of others seeing old tractors in barns in the lake’s depths are just tall tales.

Two big sandy beaches are crowded with families on hot summer days when children build sandcastles or wade and swim in the park’s shallow, bordered swimming areas. Lifeguards are on duty through July and August.

The beach area features change rooms and washrooms, a playground, wheelchair access to the water, a wheelchair accessible floating fishing dock, a drinking water fountain and there is usually a vendor parked in the shade of big fir trees nearby who sells hot dogs, popsicles and other goodies throughout the summer.

Picnic tables are scattered among the fir trees between the west beach and the park’s gravel overflow parking lot.

Paths and trails criss-cross the park’s 120 hectares, branching off of Westwood Lake’s six-kilometre main trail that meanders around the shore. It’s well maintained – with wooden bridges and boardwalks and groomed with wood chips – and a favourite route of walkers and runners who don’t mind their pace being broken up with a climb and descent over a rocky knoll on the lake’s north east shore.

About 750 people a day run the trail, which has become a main venue for local charity runs and other special events.

“It’s the only park that we put a running base on,” said Kirsty MacDonald, city parks and open spaces planner.

The trail’s busiest months are April and October.

Westwood Lake Trail links up to more pathways through Morrell Nature Sanctuary. The 111-hectare nature preserve borders the east side of Westwood Lake Park, and offers 11 kilometres of nature walks through second growth forest.

Dog lovers can let their pets run free on the south side of Westwook Lake, in the park’s off-leash area on the powerline service easement lands and roads.

The park is also the gateway to Westwood Ridge, where hikers and mountain bikers test their mettle on a network of trails that traverse streams and small ravines that form part of the Westwood watershed.

Beyond the ridge, Mount Benson’s north face awaits hikers searching for more challenging ascents and grander vistas at the end of the journey.

Te’tuxw’tun trail offers a challenging 11-kilometre round-trip hike to the top of Mount Benson. The trail starts from the west end of Westwood and climbs through steep terrain, logging roads and even some old growth forest.

At 1,000 metres, the top of Mount Benson is the highest point in Nanaimo and from where hikers take in sweeping views of Westwood Lake Park, the city and the Strait of Georgia and coastal mountains beyond.

photos@nanaimobulletin.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Nanaimo area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

FOI records provided to the News Bulletin from the City of Nanaimo in 2018. (News Bulletin file photo)
Samra’s numerous FOI requests to City of Nanaimo aren’t ‘vexatious,’ privacy commissioner decides

Former CAO says records will assist her in a future B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Most Read