Artlish River Cave

Horne Lake Caves

Useful Information

Location: North of Zeballos, Vancouver Island.
From Nanaimo, head north on the Inland Island Highway to where it connects with Island Highway at Mud Bay. Continue through Campbell River to Sayward to the gravel road turn-off for Zeballos which is about 50 km away. The round trip of 350 km takes seven to eight hours.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: none, bring complete caving gear.
Guided tours:
Address: Vancouver Island Nature Exploration, 140A Harbour Road, Coal Harbour, BC, V0N 1K0, Tel: +1-250-902-2662. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


~1976 start of commercial tours.
30-APR-1996 designated as a provincial park.
1997 park boundaries legislated by their inclusion in a schedule to the Park Act.
2000 Monitoring revealed problems associated with visitor use.


Artlish River Cave is one of the largest caves on Vancouver Island, and in terms of flow volume and passage dimensions, it is the largest active river cave system in Canada. The Artlish River flows completely within the cave for about 350 m, leaving no flow at the surface. This hydrologic system consists of several different caves, and includes also Black Hole Cave, which is an older and higher - now dry - level of the cave. The valley has about 20 known caves.

The caves can be visited through guided tours, the park has no marked hiking trails and the trails to the cave entrances are not marked or maintained. The Artlish Caves Provincial Park has the mayor goal to protect the South Fork of the Upper Artlish River with its spectacular and unique karst features. But the secondary goal is to present the park to the general public. The problem is, to do this without causing damage to the caves. As a result two caves were identified for careful management, the Artlish River Cave and the lower section of Black Hole Cave. Both will be equipped with a sort of trails, markings which would guide cavers and thus spare the fragile areas of the cave. The number of visitors which is acceptable was set to 500 per year and a maximum of 20 per day.

The road to the park is a very bad single lane road built for logging. The trail from the end of the road to the cave is 25 minutes. In March 2003 the owner of the road, the Canadian wood company Canadian Forest Products (CanFor), removed a bridge over the North Fork of the Artlish River, which makes it necessary to walk now 45 minutes to the cave. This caused a mayor drop in visitor numbers.

At the moment it seems that there are no guided tours by any tour operator. But four cave trekking operators used the park since 1976, so it seems they wait until the Park Service has decided how to develop the park. The last we know is that Nimmo Bay Resort had an exclusive permit for cave guiding in Artlish River Cave Provincial Park in 2005. The guiding was done by Rob Countess from Vancouver Island Nature Exploration. Unfortunately his website is defunct and we are not sure if there still are guided tours at the moment.