Festive lights put the forest in perspective

250-year-old Douglas firs get gussied up for the first time

Old growth Douglas fir trees tower overhead and the Capilano River rushes below, but you’d barely know it in the dark. Add a million twinkling lights and the nighttime forest is a spectacle to behold.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park switched on its 12th annual Canyon Lights display last week and the West Coast rainforest is now aglow for the season. For the first time, the eight 250-year-old Douglas firs that make up the park’s Treetops Adventure attraction have been lit from the ground up to 200 feet up with white lights.

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“It looks unbelievable and beautiful,” says Stacy Chala, communications manager at the park. “It makes you realize how small you are as the trees go up so much taller than where Treetops Adventure is.”

When visitors look up from the viewing platforms or the seven footbridges that connect the giant firs, they will be able to see just how high the trees reach.

“They've illuminated the top branches with these massive LED lights to give it a kind of candle feel,” Chala describes. “You really do feel the rainforest.”

Meanwhile, guests can also take in the changing light display that illuminates Capilano River from the suspension bridge and Cliffwalk, and kids may be enticed by the holiday craft station, cookie decorating, scavenger hunts and singalongs.

Chala says the lights in the canyon are improved this year.

“We have lights down by the river that illuminate the river as it flows by with colour-changing lights so you can see the motion of the water,” she explains. “Now when you're crossing the bridge you can see how high you are and you can see down to the river below.”

Work on Canyon Lights gets underway in January each year. That’s when organizers purchase new lights and map out the design. The 12-person decorating team starts on Labour Day weekend. Some ascend the trees by rope to hook lights onto the highest branches; others ride a manlift 130 feet up in the air; and some stay closer to the ground, decorating the buildings and landscape.

“It is spectacular and the whole forest is just very elegant and sparkles. Lots of whites and creams. It looks great,” Chala says.

She is often asked just how many lights brighten the park, but it’s a question she can’t answer.

“We've never counted, but I can definitely say it's well over one million.”

This year’s display will stay open for an extra month due to demand. Partial proceeds from admissions are donated to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund for Burn Camp, as well as fire and burn education in schools throughout B.C. With the festival extension, Chala is hopeful the park can up its annual contribution to the fund from $30,000 to $40,000.

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park runs daily until Jan. 28, 2018 (except Christmas Day when the park is closed). The park is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and holiday activities start at 4 p.m. Visit capbridge.com for ticket info. 

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