In the fall of 2018, BC Provincial Parks will begin a project to replace and widen the failing boardwalk at Hot Springs Cove. Located on the West side of Vancouver Island, this remote park site was originally accessible only by boat. Today, a number of Tofino based tour operators bring large numbers of visitors to this park by seaplane and high-speed tour boat. The 2 km (1 ¼ mile) boardwalk, from Maquinna Marine Park dock to the hot springs, has hundreds of individually carved planks commemorating boaters’ visits to the park and hot springs. The long history of carved boardwalk planks holds an often surprisingly artistic dated chronology of boat names, dates, and trivia.
History of Carved Planks at Hot Springs Cove
A long time ago, when boats were wood or steel, boaters came to enjoy the hot springs at Hot Springs Cove. The 2 km trail from the anchorage area to the hot springs was a rustic muddy trek. Locals and visiting boaters over time constructed the first boardwalk path by voluntarily bringing individual planks to add to the growing boardwalk. Reportedly, the very first planks were hand-split from sections of logs on-site. Boat names, dates, and messages were inscribed on the planks; and thusly, the record of this unique boardwalk was created.
After a number of years — probably about the time the first fiberglass boats appeared — the original boardwalk and planks needed to be replaced. The boardwalk was rebuilt with all new 2×6 planks and the history of the first planks went with it. However, the tradition of carved planks with boat names didn’t die. Very soon after the construction of the new boardwalk, carved boat names and dates began to appear once again.
It’s okay to Carve the Planks – But Don’t Pick the Flowers
In the more recent past, BC Parks facilitated carved boardwalk planks. BC parks had been providing plank dimensions for those who wanted to pre-carve a plank and leave with park rangers for later installation. To make it even easier, BC Parks sold bare planks which you could carve and leave with them for installation. This is one of those rare instances where it was okay to leave your mark at a park.
As access by seaplanes and tour boats brought increasing numbers of visitors, carved planks appeared from other than boaters. In 2012, a romantic suitor had a carved plank placed on the boardwalk that read “Clara, Will you marry me?” For those who immediately ask the question; it is reported that Clara said “yes.”
Where are the artfully carved planks going?
We at Waggoner Guide learned of the boardwalk replacement project during the summer of 2017 and at that time, the future plans for individually carved planks were undetermined. Following the suggestion of the Waggoner Guide team, BC Parks intends to consolidate the best planks and re-purpose them in a special feature within the park. Plans include interpretive signage capturing the history of the carved planks.
Will the Carved Plank Tradition Live-On?
The answer is, NO. Today’s safety and construction standards preclude future carvings along the boardwalk. BC Parks expresses their appreciation and thanks to the public for participating in the past boardwalk program. The Waggoner Guide team is appreciative that BC Parks is preserving this piece of northwest boating history.
Visitors will continue to have access to the park and hot springs during construction.