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Geological Gems to Explore on the North End of the Island

Abby Twyman
October, 2019
Today is: April 15th, 2024

There are many amazing and beautiful things to see on Prince of Wales Island, and a must-do for any visitor to the island is to take a day trip up to the North end of the island to explore Beaver Falls Karst, Cavern Lake, and El Capitan Caves. A two-hour drive (1.5 on pavement and 30 minutes on well-maintained gravel) will take you back in time to when our island was first coming out of the Ice Age and the land formations began being shaped by tens of thousands of years of flowing ice and water.

Beaver Falls Karst Trail Sign Post

Beaver Karst Falls Trail provides an interpretive experience for visitors of all ages and abilities.

Beaver Falls Karst Trail - For Everyone

The Forest Service has done an amazing job creating an interpretive site which is accessible to everyone no matter their age or ability level. This 0.7 mile boardwalk trail takes you on a journey through the muskeg (mossy area full of peat covering limestone bedrock below) into the land of the karsts (what's left behind after the water has done it's work). The sinkholes and caves visible from the trail were formed by acidic water from the muskeg trickling and flowing down and through cracks and crevices. Near the end of the trail is Beaver Falls which plunges down into a large pool and then flows down into a cave which can been seen down into further down the trail. It's well worth the time to check out this gem of a geological formation.

Cavern Lake Trail Head

Make a quick stop at Cavern Lake and hike through the short cave between the lake and the creek if the water is low.

Cavern Lake and Cavern Creek - For Most

The area around Cavern Lake and Creek has not been developed aside from a parking area and a sign, but for those able to handle a short hike this is a cool stop between your visit to the Falls and the Caves. The lake is beautiful and drains through a cave into the creek. When the water is low, visitors can walk through the cave between the creek and the lake! Please take precautions when doing this to ensure your own personal safety... emergency services are not easily accessible in this area.

El Capitan Trail

It's a long way up to the top of the El Cap Trail, but well worth the trek!

El Capitan Trail and Caves - For Adventurers

The last stop on your day trip is one that requires leg strength and stamina to trek the trail (which is mostly stairs) and reservations to fully explore the caves (visitors without reservations can enter the mouth of the cave only... which is still worth the hike). This multi-room cave system is the most profound example of the geological gems to be found on the island. It's a local treasure which is valued for it's archaeological as well as it's geological significance. The word on the street is that the Guided Interpretive program currently available through the Forest Service is at risk of being defunded, which would close the cave to residents and visitors... if you're interested in learning more and getting involved in preserving this geological gem for future generations, please contact the Forest Service on Prince of Wales Island.

The North end of the island has many adventures available to explore for visitors of all ages and ability levels... so as you're planning your trip, make sure that it's on the itinerary! Happy Traveling!



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