Babcock Falls Hiking Route
- 1-2 Hours
- 2+km Return Distance
The Babcock Falls hiking trail leads for just over a kilometre through sub-alpine meadows to an attractive waterfall which plunges into a deep pool. The trail to the top view-site is easy but it is worthwhile, for those who are able, to scramble down to the base of the falls so as to fully appreciate this site (caution – this route passes above steep drop-offs). In mid to late summer, when creek levels are down and the water is not too cold, swimming in the pools below the falls is an invigorating experience.
Once at creek level below the falls, it is rewarding to follow a rough route past a rock overhang to the cliffs beside the falls, and to approach the base of the falls from the north side. When water levels are low it is also possible to explore downstream by scrambling down the huge blocks that have fallen down from the cliffs above, and which create smaller falls, pools and grottos.
Just to the right (north) of the falls, water seeps and drips from between the rock layers. In winter these freeze to form an array of splendid ice formations. Babcock Falls then become an attractive snowshoeing and cross country skiing destination, which is popular with ice climbers.
The sub-alpine meadows are perpetually moist. Many hikers walking the same trail would create boggy conditions which would make for an unpleasant hiking experience as well as lead to environmental degradation.
In 2014 the boardwalk section across the meadows was upgraded by volunteers of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society. Twenty-five sections were assembled in Tumbler Ridge, transported to the trailhead, flown in and dropped off by helicopter, and then joined, re-using parts of the original boardwalks as foundations. Proceeds from the Emperor’s Challenge Mountain Run were used for this project.
The moist meadows through which the trail passes are a blaze of colour in summer. Arctic Lupine, Mountain Monkshood, Subalpine Buttercup, Tall Larkspur, Tall Bluebell, Indian Paintbrush, White Bog-orchid and many other species fill this lush environment in between forests of Engelmann Spruce and Subalpine Fir. This is in contrast to the Lodgepole Pine forests which occur beside the drier sections of the trail.
The trail to Babcock Falls preceded the development of the Peace River Coal mine (formerly NEMI). The fact that the trail and mine have harmoniously co-existed is testament to the co-operation between volunteers of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, Recreation Sites & Trails BC, and the mining industry. At times volunteers from the mine workforce have taken on maintenance of the hiking trail, which has had to be rerouted a few times as mine development occurred. When enjoying the special wilderness ambience of Babcock Falls, it is easy to forget that a large coal mine is situated less than a kilometre away. Such constructive collaboration is typical of the historic relationship between volunteers, recreation and industry in the Tumbler Ridge area.
Because of the industrial projects in the area, a number of archaeological studies have been performed in the Babcock Creek drainage in the region of Babcock Falls. At least five sites have been discovered, including two that lie close to the hiking trail. Another of these sites is on the summit of a knoll that would have provided a good view of the surrounding terrain, and a further site is on Roman Mountain. The rest are on fairly level terraces above creeks, as these would have provided suitable sheltered localities for First Nations.
Typically these sites represent small hunting campsites, which may have been used by small parties travelling into the mountains to look for game such as caribou. Lithic scatters with quartzite flakes and side scrapers are some of the finds reported from the Babcock Creek sites. The absence of fire-cracked rock has suggested to some researchers that these sites may be as old as 5,000 years. Collectively, these and other sites in the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark demonstrate occupation of the region for the past 10,000 years.
High Energy Environment
Babcock Falls plunge over a cliff formed by a thick layer of coarse-grained sandstone and conglomerate. Rocks of this composition indicate that the sediments were laid down in a high-energy environment. Such an environment is unlikely to allow for the preservation of fossils other than large items such as tree-trunks. Casts of tree trunks can be found in some of the rocks below Babcock Falls.
A few kilometres away, close to the Boulder Gardens and Shipyard hiking trails, thinner-bedded, fine-grained rocks occur, deposited in lower-energy conditions. Well preserved fossils of large cones, cycads, theropod dinosaur tracks, bird tracks and invertebrate burrows have been identified and recovered from these rocks.
THE BOULDER CREEK FORMATION
The Boulder Creek Formation is comprised of rocks laid down as sediments in the Albian stage of the Early Cretaceous Period, about 99 million years ago. The area was then on the western edge of a shallow inland sea (Western Interior Seaway) that at times extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, effectively dividing the continent into two halves. Rivers flowing into this sea from mountains to the west deposited sediment in deltas, and the sea level rose and fell repeatedly. This led to what are now alternating layers of marine and non-marine (terrestrial) rock layers.
The Boulder Creek Formation consists predominantly of non-marine rocks, while the layers above and below it are of marine origin. Near-shore and shoreface deposits consist of massive, fine grained, well sorted sandstones. The non-marine part of the formation consists of sediments deposited in a coastal plain environment. These include mudstones and fine grained sandstones, which are locally replaced by sharp-based cross-bedded channel sandstones and conglomerates thought to be river channel fills. The rocks of Roman Mountain to the south are older still, and contain the terrestrial coal-bearing strata of the Peace River Coal mine.