Photo: Paradise Lost

Walking on the bottom of Buttle Lake on Vancouver Island feels like walking through a graveyard. Instead of crosses and marble markers, there are one-ton giant stumps left as tombstones, their rings dating their origins back some 900 years.

More than six decades ago these trees were cut down to make way for BC Power Commission’s Strathcona Dam, harnessing a watershed more than 1,400 kilometers square. Today, that denuded forest floor is visible only when water levels are especially low. Usually canoeists only catch a glimpse of the ancient ghosts below as they paddle on the surface above.

I’ve put my canoe in the water here at the southern end of Buttle Lake many times. Each time I’ve been humbled by the giant firs on the shore at the access, and then by the apparitions that pass beneath my boat. Yet, it was when the lake was low that the most striking photos I have taken here were created.

I had come here to paddle and found a nearly dry basin instead. It felt unreal to be standing on ground that is sometimes several feet under water. Equally…



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