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

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

RDN paid $35 million in wages last year, financial statements show

Statement of financial information, including salaries and expenses, will be presented to directors

Departure Bay ferry capacity increases to 70%, says B.C. Ferries

Fifty-per-cent limit being phased out, B.C. Ferries has no current plans to provide masks

Company with Nanaimo lab gets federal approval for psychedelic drug research

Numinus’ CEO says company seeing a shift in how people look at mental health treatment

Library takes Summer Reading Club online

Children, teens, parents in Nanaimo can participate in online reading challenges and events

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read