Slung high above the Capilano River, the Capilano Suspension Bridge in British Columbia takes visitors on a breathtaking journey through the top of North Vancouver’s old growth forest.
A B.C. attraction since 1889, when it was built by engineer and Vancouver park commissioner George Grant Mackay, the massive suspension bridge was originally constructed from cedar plank and hemp rope.
Thankfully, the bridge has been upgraded from the original wood and rope, and today it can hold the weight of 97 elephants (or over 4000 beavers). Because the bridge’s only supports are on either end, it sways and bounces when visitors walk across it, adding to the thrill of being suspended 70 metres above the ground.
The the name Capilano is actually a First Nations name belonging to the Squamish Nation and was originally spelled Kia’palano, meaning “beautiful river”.
Kia’palano was the name of a great Squamish chief who lived in the area in the early part of the 1800s. Over time “Kia’palano” was anglicized into “Capilano”: a word that has become the namesake of the bridge, the park in which it stands, and the river it’s suspended over.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has expanded from a single suspension bridge to destination for outdoor exploration. The park now includes a Treetops Adventure – 7 suspended footbridges offering views 110 feet above the forest floor – and a new Cliffwalk, which follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs, platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure.
Visit during the holiday season for Canyon Lights, when hundreds of thousands of lights are lit throughout the park including the suspension bridge, Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk, the rainforest and canyon. The park’s eight 250 years old Douglas-firs will be lit above and below the collars, making them the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world.
There are also guided history and nature tours, a story centre, totem (story) poles, Kia’palano – where visitors can learn about the lives of BC’s First Nations people and the historical connection between First Nations’ culture and the natural world – plus shopping opportunities and restaurants on site.
Lead photo by Capilano Suspension Bridge Park