Many years ago there were some bridges across the creek near the confluence of the Tranquille River and Watching Creek. We could drive down to the flats above the creek, then hike a loop route along the lava cliffs, crossing the creek twice. Today both bridges are gone. The old vehicle bridge across the Creek had been built to bring prospectors materials across from Watching Creek or along the Tranquille River. It had deteriorated somewhat before a large spring flood took out the last moorings of the bridge. Farther downstream, a footbridge had been constructed to link the two sides of the river’s trails, but another flood washed out the moorings and it was swept downstream and broken apart. Today the trails go to the river’s edge and invite a river crossing.
Our favorite way to do this hike is to bring old shoes and wade through the river twice to take in the big loop trail, but this can only be done after the spring flood has subsided and the river warms up. For the rest of the year, hikers have to stay on one side of the river or the other. Watching Creek had a small footbridge across it a short ways upstream from the confluence when we were last on the east side.
Watching Creek has had a number of mineral claims over the years. Prospectors have panned and mined the river banks for a century. BC Lapidary Society members have mined the banks of the creek. Rock hounds and gold panners still visit the creek every year. Multi-hued reddish layered lava cliffs frame the sides of Tranquille River both upstream and downstream from the confluence. Some large hoodoos can be seen on both sides of the river.
There are two separate access points for the Watching Creek Trails.
Watching Creek Forest Service Site is small area on a flat grassy bench. Turn right down the signed side road which can be a bit rough. Park anywhere on the flats. The main trail is a double track heading north, then it switches back down to a forested shoreline area. Recreational vehicles camp on the bench and sometimes tents are pitched down by the river. It is a popular spot for a daytrip or a swim on a hot day. Another single track trail follows the cliffs south before coming to a gully. The trail winds down the gull to the rivers edge. This is where the footbridge used to be. If you wade across, you can pick up the trail on the other side by following a game trail to the top. On this side of the river, there are a number of good spots for photography of the red lava rock, hoodoos, and Tranquille River.
The other access route is a rough side road that can be seen on the right just past Tranquille Crossing. Follow this road southeast for 2.5 km back to the bank above Watching Creek. Trails from the end of the road lead to the confluence of Watching Creek and Tranquille and along the river to several viewpoints, down to a footbridge across the creek, and beyond. One trail follows Watching Creek along the south side. The best trail is the one that follows the lava cliffs south above Tranquille River. Follow it out as far as you can go and then back.
We return to Watching Creek every year. We enjoy the canyon when the spring melt swells the river. Wildflowers and waterfowl can be seen as we explore. We avoid the lower area right after the river goes down because mosquitoes breed in the flood pools, but we return in the summer to wade in or cross the river on a not day. Rock features in the canyon are frequent, and with such steep sides, the best views are found in the river, using river shoes to get to the best spots.
On the map, side roads are orange and hiking trails are black.