A spectacular wilderness setting for scenery and fishing
Darkis Lake is a picturesque little lake immediately adjacent to Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island. Although it is not a protected area, it is completely undeveloped. Access to the lake is via a short trail from the Buttle Lake campground. There is no road access. The trail is fairly good, involving a minor climb over a ridge. It is not passable for those in wheelchairs or who have mobility problems. Boats are rarely seen on the lake owing to the difficulty in moving them to the lake. Water craft on the lake are usually only canoes or kayaks. The quality of the water is excellent. Summer water temperatures are warmer than most lakes in the area due to the shallow conditions. After May, very little snow melt water enters the lake. The lake is fed by rainwater, of course. Much of this water falls in the autumn, winter and spring months. Precipitation at Darkis Lake is quite heavy at perhaps 120 inches per year. Usually very little rain is experienced in July, August and September. In fact, there may be a risk of forest fire in the area during the hottest and driest summers. Buttle Lake is used to fill water bomber aircraft when fires break out on Vancouver Island. Since Darkis Lake is so close to Buttle Lake and has good access for ground-based fire fighters, any fires that occur in the area are likely to be quickly extinguished.
Visitors to the lake enjoy a peaceful experience that is seldom found anywhere. Due to the lack of a boat launch ramp, power boats are unknown on Darkis Lake. Boating is an activity that is usually enjoyed instead on Buttle Lake. That lake is much larger, is serviced by roads and has several boat launches. Luckily Darkis Lake is so small that it can be successfully explored by non-powered boats. Boaters can expect windy conditions at times, usually late in the summer days. This is not normally dangerous as the lake is so small that rough water is unlikely. The shoreline is always quite near to the Darkis Lake boater. Proper precaution should be taken by all who venture on the water. This includes the wearing of life jackets. Cell phones do not work at the lake since there are no facilities installed within about 25 miles of the area. Visitors to the lake should ensure that others know they are travelling to the lake. If there is no one nearby to advise, there is usually a park host at the campground who can be notified. A note describing the intended journey to the lake, and the expected return time, can be left at the host site if the host is away.
Darkis Lake is less than 1000 meters by 100 meters and is roughly rectangular. It is a shallow lake which contains some old logs. While these would be hazards to speedy vessels, they are not normally a problem for canoes or kayaks. The western side of the lake is at the base of a small mountain. Another mountain is due south of the lake. The north and east terraine is merely hilly. The primary source of water for Darkis Lake is from the nearby mountains. No sizeable streams enter or leave the lake. There are fish in the lake which are best taken by light weight fly fishing gear. There can be bothersome mosquitos or flies in the area, but less than at Buttle Lake. The water in Buttle Lake was quite low until 2010 which allowed a substantial number of insects to breed at the muddy shores. 2010 saw a great increase in water levels which has reduced the insect population. Darkis Lake is not known for aquatic problems such as leeches or parasitic organisms.
Although Darkis Lake is not in the nearby Strathcona Park, it is undeveloped and serves as an unspoiled habitat for wildlife. Bald eagles, gulls and loons are commonly sighted near the lake. Larger animals in the area include deer, squirrels, chipmonks and raccoons. There have been bears near the lake in the past but they are unusual. There is little for them to forrage at Darkis Lake. Due to the proximity to the Buttle Lake campground, bears in the area may be wary of humans. This cannot be assured, however. As is the case in the British Columbia wilderness, visitors to Darkis Lake should always remember that they might encounter a bear. Proper attention is a must. If a bear is spotted at Darkis Lake, visitors should practice bear avoidance and protection protocols.
The vegetation at Darkis Lake is typical of the central Vancouver Island area. Trees are primarily evergreen fir, spruce, balsam or pine. There are some additional types of trees such as Alder. The undergrowth is quite thick with huckleberry, Oregon Grape and salal. Travel through the bush in the area can be difficult, except for the access trail, of course. A forest fire swept through the area in the past leaving some dead trees, especially to the north west of the lake.
The geology at Darkis Lake is also typical of central Vancouver Island. It is generally quite rocky with little soil. To the east of the lake, the ground contains more broken and low-lying material. The west and south are fairly mountainous. The steepness of the mountains inhibits vegetation mainly because of the inability of soil to accumulate. The ground appears to have been uplifted by ancient geologic activity. The lake is not too far north of the Myra Falls area which is known for mineralization. A mine is still active at Myra Falls. Darkis Lake may be explored for minerals as it is outside of the provincial park. There does not seem to be any significant evidence of prospecting exploration, however.
Darkis Lake is a beautiful setting that is just minutes away from the busy Buttle Lake campground on the all-weather access trail. Anglers can try their luck on both Darkis and Buttle from shore in places but small boats will help when fly fishing. Despite the proximity to the campground, it is little visited by tourists. Most visitors report that they had the entire lake to themselves. The peaceful surroundings offer a chance to relax and enjoy some quiet time. The highway to Gold River is fairly close to the lake which does mean that an occassional vehicle sound is heard. Visitors are much more likely to hear sounds from eagles or gulls.