Colliery Dam Falls Photo Tips

Just a few meters from the noisy Island Highway you’ll find this stunning secluded waterfall that for some bizzare reason never gets mentioned in any of the tourism promotion for Vancouver Island. I guess it’s because the City of Nanaimo would rather NOT draw attention to this gorgeous little slice of paradise because they’ve all but auctioned it off for destruction.

It just so happens that this beautiful waterfall is part of the Colliery Dam Park in South Nanaimo, a lovely recreation area for families and nature lovers. Here are my Colliery Dam Falls photo tips.

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Colliery Dam Falls Photo Guide

Colliery Dam Falls is actually pretty small as far as waterfalls go. In the summer it’s reduced to more of a cascade than a roaring falls, either way, it offers really great photo opportunities and is probably the easiest waterfall to access on all of Vancouver Island.

Top Photo Tips

  • Waterfalls usually look better when in shade. If you prefer bright light directly on the falls you’ll need to come at mid morning or midday depending on the season.
  • Bring a polarizing filter to minimize water reflections and allow for longer exposures to capture the movement of the water. A polarizer will also give you more saturated colours.
  • Obviously a tripod is essential for long exposures.
  • Bring a rain cover if your camera is not weather sealed as there may be spray.
  • Bring a friend or let people know where you are going. Climbing slippery rocks can be dangerous.
  • Come in summer for a soft cascade of water.
  • Come in Autumn as the falls are flanked by maple and alder trees which offer nice reds and yellows.
  • Come in the depths of winter for a semi frozen falls with stunning icicles and frost.
  • Bring a lens cleaning kit, this is a waterfall, your lens will get some wet spots at the least.
  • Get close up to the falls and concentrate on a point of interest. An aperture of f/11 to f/8 will give you a lots of depth of field and maximize sharpness.
  • Focus on static plants or rocks, you cannot focus properly on a stream of water.

Getting There

Driving – From the main Island Highway 19 towards South Nanaimo take a turn on to Fifth street and then turn right on to Wakesiah Ave followed by another right on Nanaimo Lakes Road. Colliery Dam Park is on your left about 500m up the road. It is well sign posted.

The Trail – From the car park, take the trial to the right which is parallel to Nanaimo Lakes Road. Within a few meters you’ll be greeted by the old man tree on your left close to the waters edge. Here he is.

Colliery Dam Photographers Guide - Old Man Tree

Continue along the trail until you cross a wooden foot bridge. Turn right after the bridge and follow the trail down near the river bed until you reach the tunnel under the highway. Go under the tunnel and at the other side of the tunnel you can either walk along the river bed or take a small trail to the left. Stay on this trail for a few meters and you’ll reach the falls.

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If you’d like to know more about Colliery Dam and the preservation society check out their site Save Colliery Dam.

Published by Gavin Hardcastle

Gavin is a professional landscape photographer from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC. He teaches photography workshops all over the world and writes extensively about his experiences on location. You can read his photo guides and tutorials here at


  1. Beautiful photos! However, the waterfall nor the upper dam was included in the dam removal plans.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this – had a visit today. The water flow is minimal but still shot a few of the falls – your angle above is certainly the best. Also found some nice compositions of the huge maple growing on the bank as you climb up to the top of the falls as well as some nice shots up at the top.


  3. I feel fortunate that I came across your site especially in light of the fact that my wife and I plan to take some time and drive up the island this coming summer. We have been spending 12 years in Birch Bay, WA escaping the horrid Arizona summers and are always on the prowl to find tips on places to photograph from the locals. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the info and especially the directions to the Falls as I would not have found it without you guidance. I’ve post the two snaps I took on my blog here:


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