Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island is one of the most beautiful parks in the Southern Gulf Islands, and incorporates the largest provincial campground in the Gulf Islands.
Ruckle Park features beautiful ocean views from the day-use area and along the trails, as well as scenic pastoral views of the neighbouring farm. In addition to its natural beauty, Ruckle Park is an area rich in cultural history.
Henry Ruckle emigrated from Ireland to Ontario, then California, before finally homesteading on Salt Spring Island in 1872, marrying Ella Anna Christensen in 1877. Their descendants have farmed the Salt Spring property for more than a century and, although they donated most of their property to the province for a park in 1974, the Ruckle family still raises sheep on private land near the entrance to the campground.
Continuous use of this land for farming purposes from the 1890s until today makes the Ruckle Farm the oldest continually operating farm in British Columbia. The heritage farm features a number of old farm buildings, including a barn, a forge, the old pig sty, and the original homestead residence. The big orchard barn has open access, with the schedule posted at the site. Other buildings are available for viewing from the outside only – visitors are not permitted inside.
The old homestead was built by Henry Ruckle prior to bringing his bride and her son Alfred to the farm in 1877. Their three children, Ella, Agnes, and Daniel Henry, were all born there. In 1931, Gordon Ruckle, grandson of Henry and Ella, inherited the house and lived in it with his wife, Lotus, and their children, Gwen and Henry. In 1967, shortly after electricity was installed, they moved to the Queen Anne house near the ark entrance.
With its seven kilometres of shoreline, rocky headlands and tiny coves and bays, 486-hectare Ruckle Park provides hours or even days of enjoyable exploration. A mixture of forest, field and shore habitats makes it one of the most productive wildlife viewing areas on Salt Spring Island. On shore, birdwatchers can often catch sight of cormorants, grebes, guillemots, eagles, owls, grouse or quail. Deer are frequently sighted, particularly at dawn and dusk.
Watch for sea lions and killer whales out in the sea, and mink and river otter cavorting along the shoreline. Tidal pools are filled with a brightly-coloured world of crab, mussel, limpet, oyster, sculpin, and starfish, and strong tidal currents create the environment for rich kelp forests offshore. Kelp forests are important feeding areas for fish and attract many birds and mammals.
Scuba divers frequent the waters off Ruckle Park, drifting among the castle-like caves or floating above the bountiful ocean floor, where they will find a profusion of Plumose anemones, sponges, nudibranches, octopi, seastars and giant barnacles. Beaver Point, with a rich subtidal fauna, is popular for scuba shore dives. Low tides also reveal a tremendous amount of intertidal life.
Beaver Point used to be the island’s oldest link with the outside world. Beaver Point Wharf was built by Henry Ruckle so that Beaver Point pioneers could have easier contact with Vancouver Island. Before the steamer service began in 1889, Salt Spring Islanders had to row to Vancouver Island for supplies. By 1900, there were six sailings per week, including two mail deliveries. The government purchased Mr. Ruckle’s wharf in 1904 for $400, rebuilt it in 1910, and then again in 1925.
The wharf housed a general store, post office, and the residence of Mr. and Mrs. William Patterson from 1915 until the 1950s. When the ferry service moved from Beaver Point to Fulford Harbour, the Patterson business moved with it, and the wharf and building were dismantled in 1960.
An extensive trail system exists at Ruckle Park, with more than 15 kilometres of hiking and walking trails. A shoreline trail runs from the heritage farm area right through to Yeo Point, along with other inland trail routes that range from easy walks to more difficult hikes. Detailed park trail maps are located at information shelters and convenient points along the trails.
There are 78 walk-in seaside campsites. Campers can pitch their tent in the grassy meadow overlooking Swanson Channel, then lie back and relax, watching pleasure boats and ferries sail by in a stately and colourful parade. The park features an interesting blend of easily reached sites in a wooded setting, with North Pender Island on the far shore. The walk-in campsites are accessible over level ground from the parking lot. The distance varies based on the site selected, ranging from 3 minutes to double for the farthest sites.
There are 8 vehicle accessible sites. The RV sites are nestled amongst trees and are comparable with those provided in all BC provincial parks, but they don’t provide the open-air ambience, fresh breezes, and fabulous views available to the tents pitched along the rocky shoreline. All the basic amenities are provided, some with wheelchair access. There are 6 pressurized drinking water stations throughout the campground and day-use areas. Note that the water system is shut down during the winter season.
Fees for full services are charged from March to October. A park host is available from June to mid September. Reservations are not accepted for individual campsites at Ruckle; all campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Simply select a vacant spot, set up camp, and wait for the park operator to drop by in the late afternoon to collect the camping fee. Winter Camping at the 8 vehicle accessible campsites is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The park has a day-use picnic area. Continue straight on the main park road past the campground turnoff to the day-use parking lot.
Rum runners were known to frequent the area in and around the park in the nineteen twenties to hide their contraband as they tried to smuggle it across the US border into the San Juan Islands.
Ruckle Provincial Park is located on Salt Spring Island in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, 6 miles (10 km) west of Fulford Harbour at the end of Beaver Point Road. Back packers and outdoor enthusiasts who arrive on the island normally hike or cycle the route from the ferry terminal to the park.
BC Ferries run several services throughout the year to Salt Spring Island from Vancouver (Tsawwassen), Victoria (Swartz Bay) and Crofton on Vancouver Island.