Historical Communities
Island Wildlife
First Nations Communities
Unique Landscapes
Vulnerable Ecologies

Della Falls from back in the trees

BC Archives image of Della Falls
BC Archives image of Della Falls
BC Archives image of Della Falls
Della Falls from below
Della Falls
Distant shot of Della Falls

Della Falls

Central Vancouver Island

Located in a remote region of Strathcona Provincial Park, Della Falls is the highest waterfall in Canada, tumbling more than 440 meters over steep cliffs. Situated among three mountains, Big Interior, Mt. Septimus, and Nine Peaks, Della Falls is fed by Della Lake, a short way upstream, and after the falls, continues down the mountain as Drinkwater Creek. Accessible by backcountry trail only, the falls are popular with hikers, and the 16km trail to the falls is considered one of the finest on the Island. In order to access the trail it is necessary to cross Grand Central Lake, and in the last year or so, several bridges on the route have washed out, leaving the route trickier than normal.


The discovery of Della Falls is attributed to Joe Drinkwater, a trapper and prospector who built the first rough trail to the falls, and named them after his wife, Della Drinkwater. An eccentric character, Drinkwater discovered gold at a nearby creek (since named Drinkwater Creek) and elected to do the prospecting himself, without alerting other miners on Vancouver Island. He developed the majority of the mining infrastructure in the area, setting up storehouses, sluiceways, and an aerial tramway for crossing the creek. After the limited amount of gold was extracted from the area, Drinkwater left, leaving behind the trails, and much of the mining equipment.


49°27’14”N 125°32’03”W


Though some people point to other waterfalls in BC that are higher, Della Falls are generally considered to be the highest in Canada due to their relatively unbroken fall. Any other set of falls that competes for the title has distinct stages, with areas of running water, and though Della Falls does not fall straight down either, it has no flat water separating stages, and thus Della is the highest continuous waterfall in Canada.

The feeding body, Della Lake, is nestled in the high valley between Big Interior Mountain and Nine Peaks. The creek proceeds less than a kilometer to the north-east, before dropping off the falls into the canyon containing Drinkwater Creek. Beginning at an altitude of 1083 meters, the creek accepting the water is situated at 614 meters, resulting in an incredibly steep segment of terrain, even when the waterway is not actively falling.




The original path to the falls is still utilized as the main trail. The suspension bridges and tramways have been replaced with modern bridges to make the path safer, and seasonal maintenance is undertaken, as the trail is frequently blocked by treefalls and rockslides. The trail itself follows Drinkwater Creek, making use of an old railbed, before climbing up the side of the canyon to multiple viewpoints. The falls themselves can be accessed, although few attempt the trip to the top as there are no formal trails, and the route is extremely dangerous. The main hike is considered of moderate difficulty, and is 14km long from the access point, on the remote end of Great Central Lake. In order to reach the access point, and the small base camp located there, a boat must be hired to cross the lake, and during the summer months, daily trips are available.


Web site ©: The Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research (ICOR) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada.