Above: A view of the Millstone River Side Channel. Photo by Cole Schisler.

By Sports and Lifestyle Editor Cole Schisler

The best time to explore Nanaimo’s nature is after a good rain.

Bowen Park is a perfect place to start. Feel the soggy squish of fallen foliage underfoot as you walk alongside the Millstone River Side Channel among tall pines, hemlocks, and shedding maples. Stop and enjoy the sound and breathtaking view of the rushing Millstone River.

While Bowen Park feels as though you’ve lost yourself in a lush forest, the park and the river have actually been highly curated.

Millstone River originates at Brannen Lake and runs into Nanaimo’s inner harbour, spanning 26 streams, 16 tributaries and eight lakes. In 2007, the City of Nanaimo established the Millstone River Side Channel in Bowen Park to sustain stocks of Coho Salmon that migrate along the vast body of water.

The riverbed is on conglomerate and sandstone, which had to be blasted to ensure it was deep enough for the salmon. The city also laid gravel and cobble so the riverbed would be rough enough for salmon to make their way up the river. They added large stumps and logs to create pools which serve as salmon spawning areas.

Salmon began to use the channel the first day it was opened in the fall of 2007. Along with Coho Salmon, the channel is also home to Cutthroat Trout, Steelhead Trout, and various aquatic insects. The Millstone River Side Channel was built so well it appears as if it has always been a part of Bowen Park.

Aside from the side channel, Bowen Park boasts a beautiful rhododendron grove, a serene duck pond, open sports fields, tennis courts, a lacrosse box, a disc golf course, volleyball courts, two playgrounds, and covered picnic shelters.

Bowen Park spans 36 hectares along Bowen Road, and has two parking lots: one at 500 Bowen Rd. and the other on Wall St. across from the Nanaimo Curling Centre. From Vancouver Island University, it is a six-minute drive, a 30-minute walk, or a 10-minute bike ride.

Cole is a second-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in creative writing, minoring in political science. He has an interest in all things exciting, mundane, or otherwise. He hopes to one day become an author, actor, comedian, editor, and rapper, while moonlighting as an astronaut.