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Upana Caves

The Upana Caves is a popular destination for explorers and is located 17 km northwest of Gold River on the Head Bay Forest Road (to Tahsis). Driving time is approximately 25 minutes from Gold River.

A written account of the discovery of Upana Caves has not been found. The first systematic exploration and mapping of the Upana Caves was undertaken by recreational cavers in 1975. Cavers named the system from the river that flows through one of the caves. Since 1975 the Upana Caves have attracted several thousand visitors. The underground sequences of the television series, Huckleberry Finn and His Friends, were filmed at the caves.

The cave interiors remain in a relatively undeveloped state. This means they are without the comforts of conviences of major North American caves. The individual caves vary in size from single rooms to branching passages of considerable length. The Upana Caves are actually comprised of several caves within one group. There are fifteen known entrances within the system. The combined length of the cave passages is appromixately 1,476 feet.

The individual caves vary in size from single rooms to branching passages of considerable length. The overall passage and room dimensions are comparable with other Vancouver Island caves.


To safely explore the caves you should never travel alone. You should also make others aware that you will be going into these caves and when you expect to return. You should carry a reliable source of light. A good light will help you to see the cave features and to watch your footing on uneven floors. While in the caves, watch for low ceilings and slippery conditions. A hard hat and hiking boots are recommended. The Caves are a year-round experience. No matter what the weather is outside, the temperature inside the caves average 7 celcius, so be sure to dress appropriately. There are many other things you should consider taking with you, like food, water, first aid and warmer clothing. You should also be aware that there is a chance that you will encounter bears or cougars inside the cave, so making noise to scare away these animals is important. Approaching these animals by suprised is not recommended!

Common Cave Questions:

1. How are caves formed?
Limestone solution caves are formed by the action of water which combined with carbon dioxide to produce a weak solution of carbonic acid. This acid, upon entering the underground, slowly dissolves the limestone to form passageways.

2. What living things are found in caves?
There are a number of animals which can spend part of their lives in caves. Salamanders, frogs, crickets, daddy-long legs, spiders and bats. Sometimes bears and cougars are known to pass through caves.

3. How many caves are known?
There are about 1,050 known caves on Vancouver Island. Most caves are found in the Quatsino Formation limestone deposits of Northern Vancouver Island.

4. What is a spelunker?
The term spelunker is often used in the USA to describe a recreation cave explorer. The term comes from the Latin word 'spelunca', which means cave. Canadian cave explorers are known as caveres.

5. What is the longest known cave?
The longest cave on Vancouver Island is Thanksgiving Cave near Tahsis with a mapped length of 7.6 km. Several other island caves exceed 2km in length.


Upana Caves Rec Site