Extension Ridge: Nanaimo’s Abyss

July 27th, 2019

About 20 minutes into a little-known hiking trail in Nanaimo lies a geological wonder. Commonly known as “The Abyss” and located at Extension Ridge, this large crack in the earth has varied and mysterious stories attached to it regarding its origins.

The cause of abyss is debated, with some arguing it may have been created by a collapsed mine shaft built below, and others claiming it is an earthquake fissure. Either way, it makes an impressive impact on the surrounding landscape. At 16 inches wide, this crack in the ground is just big enough to fall into––so don’t let your pets or toddlers run loose!

It is uncertain exactly how old the abyss is, but it has been suggested that it could be an influence on the nearby petroglyphs found in Petroglyph Provincial Park, some of which date back over 1000 years. In many cultures, cracks or holes in the earth could lead to the underworld or to otherworlds, connecting the world of the living with that of spirits, so perhaps this area was thought to be a place of spiritual significance. The depth of the fissure also remains unknown.

Although hikers can reach The Abyss after only about 20 minutes down a 4.14 kilometre hiking trail (accessed from Harewood Mines Road), the rest of the trail offers stunning views of the Georgia Strait. Along this arbutus-lined path, other smaller fissures can be spotted. The hike is accessible in all seasons, provided there is no snow making the area slippery.

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