The Medicine Bowls, also known as the Browns River Falls, are located
on the Browns River, approximately 16 km (10 miles) north-west of
To get there, drive from Hwy 19 and take the Piercy Road exit. From
Courtenay, take the turnoff to Forbidden Plateau Road, and then
take the overpass crossing Hwy 19.
After travelling on Forbidden Plateau Road for around 8 km (5 miles),
there is an unmarked turnoff to the right as Forbidden Plateau Road
curves sharply to the left. Take this gravel road. Drive approximately
1.6 km (1 mile) to the end of this dead-end road where there is
an undeveloped parking lot and turn-around in the bush. Do not take
any low-clearance vehicles on this road as it is full of potholes,
is very rough and has some narrow sections along the route.
Once parked, look for a river stone memorial cairn placed here after
two tragic deaths that occurred on August 25, 2001. This is the
start of an unmarked trail that will take you to the Browns River
and the site of the Medicine Bowls, usually a 10-15 minute walk
along a dirt path, travelling through a maze of other lesser trails.
There is a quote on the river rock memorial cairn that sums up all
of the dangers that can occur at the Medicine Bowls when swimming,
"These Waters Can Rise Quickly And Unexpectedly; Beware Of
Dangerous Undercurrents." Not only can the water conditions
be lethal here, but the rocks and paths that intersect the area
around the Medicine Bowls are unmarked, slippery, and very steep,
so be careful when visiting. Numerous people have drowned at the
You Own Risk
Swimming is at your own risk and it is definitely not a place for
non-swimmers, older people, small children, or those who are not
sure of their footing or balance. The rocky bluff next to a sometimes-torrent
Browns River is extremely slippery and when visiting, please consider
wearing a Personal Flotation Device and helmet.
There are three main pool areas with waterfalls at the Medicine
Bowls. The farthest up-stream one is generally referred to as Upper
Pool, the middle one Deep Hole, and the furthest downstream, Peter
Pan. Generally speaking, the only time available to swim at the
Medicine Bowls is in late July and August, but even then, the Browns
River could rise at any time and prove to be lethal, so caution
must be exercised at all times.
The water at the Medicine Bowls is fed by run-off from the snow
pack of nearby Paradise Meadows and meanders through an area with
not much direct sunlight; therefore, the temperature tends to be
on the cold side. You might consider bringing a wet suit if you
plan on going for a swim. For people who prefer warmer water, try
the much more accessible swimming area at Nymph
Falls Nature Park on the Puntledge River.
on Medicine Bowls