Almost a kilometre up the road from Burde Beans coffee shop is the entrance to one of the most delightful locations in Port Alberni, the Burde Street Ponds, also known as the Beaver Ponds.
A lot of features combine to make them worth a visit. They are mostly surrounded by tall 80-year-old Douglas fir forest and to a lesser extent a 15-year-old naturally regenerated stand from some logging in the past. Trails provide good access to both ponds. Beavers are present in the quiet times of the morning and evening. All winter long they attract overwintering waterfowl like buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and especially Wood Ducks, the most beautiful duck in North America, in my opinion. A variety of dead trees on the edges of the ponds provide food and homes for several kinds of woodpeckers. I have seen white plastic patio chairs on the margins of the ponds providing an opportunity for quiet contemplation.
Each pond has its own character. The lower one, next to the Log Train Trail, is a little smaller and is surrounded by a stand of yellow flag irises. These plants are natives of Europe and were originally introduced to North America. As they are very showy gardeners have introduced them right across the continent. They are considered very invasive. But they are admittedly beautiful. And right now you can see them at their best.
To find this pond, go to the Burde Street entrance of the Log Train Trail. Then walk northward over a small cement bridge. You will see an opening in the forest on your right and a couple of small beaver dams on the creek it crosses. A few metres further up you’ll see a trail to your right leading to a spot under some large firs with a wonderful view of the pond. Across it you may see a beaver lodge.
The upper pond does not have this ring of irises around it. It is a little larger and has a tiny island with a beaver lodge on the edge of it. This pond is a little more popular with the ducks as it isn’t visited quite as much.
To get to it, you continue up the Log Train Trail about 200 metres to a post and a trail leading off to the right. It winds through the forest coming out at the upper pond. There, an old grade leads left or right. Left leads further into the forest and to a rabbit warren of paths and logging roads in the Hupacasath Woodlot. Right will take you back out to Burde Street.
The whole loop is about 1.5 km, making for a leisurely 45-minute walk. Although the Log train Trail is public land the ponds themselves are privately owned, and undeveloped. Except for the north end of the upper pond it is all within the city limits and zoned Parks and Recreation. So any development that takes place will have to observe this zoning status.
I’ve known about these ponds for a very long time. Way back when the Log Train Trail was just an old grown-over rail grade extending south behind town, I spotted them on some old air photos used by the Ministry of Forests. One had to bushwhack in to the edge of the ponds. But now, thanks to Frank Stini’s efforts the Log Train Trail has some official status, at least along this portion of it.
The lower pond is accessed more easily. The short path into it was originally very narrow and rough. Now, thanks to someone whose status may be quite “unofficial” the path is good. Similarly, I suspect the trail in to the upper pond from the Log Train Trail was an “unofficial” construction by the ATV community. The road from Burde Street past the upper pond was built to log the property in this area.
Thanks to the effort of all these people, named and un-named, we now have a fabulous place for an easy stroll with the dog, a friend, or family members.
It’s Port Alberni’s answer to Vancouver’s Lost Lagoon.