Enjoy a stroll through an urban Douglas fir and Garry oak forest to see the inspiring views of Richards Island, Fisgard Lighthouse and the distant Olympic Mountains in Washington State in Portage Regional Park, View Royal, B.C. This park lies along the north shore of Esquimalt Harbour and is along the portage route between the harbour and the Gorge Waterway. The portage route encompasses several roadways although the distance is about six hundred meters from shore to shore. This six point two hectare community park is bordered by residential homes and businesses on its east and west sides while the northern perimeter is formed by the Island Highway. Thetis Cove beach and Esquimalt Harbour are on the south side.
The CRD Rail Trail lies beside the VIA rail tracks and divides the park into an eastern and western portion. The western side of park is larger and has the majority of the trails as well as the playground and beach. The pedestrian pathways form about two kilometers of trails through the Douglas fir, Garry oak and woodland shrub forest. Enjoy the thimbleberry, blackberry and snowberry bushes as well as salal, ferns and mosses. Many bird species use this parkland as well including great blue heron, turkey vultures, common ravens, northwest crows and northern flickers. This makes it a popular place for local birders as well as dog walkers, hikers and those who enjoy a stroll in the urban forest. Richards Island is part of the parkland and is accessible by private vessels, like kayak, paddleboards or canoes. There are shallow rocky reefs around this island that has small Garry oak and Douglas fir trees. Thetis Cove has an average depth of about a meter with the deepest water along the western side of the cove near Dyke Point.
The partial paved and gravel trail to the beach starts near the town hall building and is about one hundred and seventy meters. The washrooms are also near here. There is a flight of about twelve steps down to the dirt and wood chip trail which branches south to the Thetis Cove beach and east toward the Rail Trail. The beach trail crosses over an ephemeral stream during its one hundred meter length. Thetis Cove beach is a mud flat beach area and is best accessed at higher tides. The eastern woodland trail also has some with steep stairs that makes wheelchair access difficult although the Rail Trail can be used with relative ease. A fire hydrant in the forest marks the junction of the trail which branches to the beach and to the Island Highway. There are benches and picnic tables in several locations in the parkland. A shell midden was revealed by a seasonal storm several years ago. A sign marks this location where the organic debris may depict over five thousand years of periodic usage by humans. Thetis Cove beach, at low tide, is a mud flat with a few small areas of fine sand. A secondary access directly to the mud beach is from Thetis Cove Green Space using a steep fifty meter long trail. This green space is found along View Royal Road between homes 101 and 95.
Geographical location N48° 27’ 06” W123° 26’ 1”
Portage Regional Park can be reached from the Trans Canada Highway also called Hwy 1. Turn south onto Admirals Road at the McKenzie Avenue-Admirals Road junction. Continue along Admirals Road across the bridge over the Gorge Waterway. Turn right onto the Island Highway and pass under the railway bridge and take the next left onto View Royal Avenue. The Four-Mile Pub and Restaurant is located at this intersection. The main entrance and parking area for this park is on the west near the View Royal Town Office on View Royal Avenue. Additional routes in the park are from along the Island Highway and from the CRD Rail Trail. The eastern side is accessible from Glentana Street near Ethos Place, Falstaff Place, Aldersmith Place and Hallowell Road. City buses travel along the Island Highway and View Royal Avenue.
Several documents have been produced for the Town of View Royal about this park and provide a worthwhile read.