From secluded coves along the shoreline to clifftop views and magnificent surrounding forest, Thetis Lake has it all. It is an ideal place to paddle and a great destination for cyclists. Thetis Lake exemplifies the best of Victoria’s lakes for lake enthusiasts of all types, with opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, hiking, and fishing.
The trails around the lake’s beaches, cliffs, and secluded coves lead through Garry oak ecosystems and Douglas fir forests, providing a chance for all to connect with nature in its finest form. There are few, if any, cities in Canada with such easy access to a lake that has as much personality as Thetis Lake.
A short walk from the main parking lot at the end of Six Mile Road is the sandy Main Beach, which bustles in the summer. There are washrooms and changing facilities, picnic tables, a water fountain, and sometimes food vendors.
Often overlooked, the second parking lot on the southwest side of Lower Thetis has a smaller, shadier beach called the West Beach by the CRD and the Dog Beach by locals. This beach is ideal for launching small boats or letting dogs get into the water.
From an ecological perspective, Thetis Lake is surrounded by mid-growth hemlock, cedar, arbutus, and Douglas fir trees. In the springtime watch for wildflowers in the hills nearby, including shooting star, white fawn lily, and spring gold.
Creeks & Watershed
Thetis Lake is part of the Craigflower Creek watershed. Water from Thetis Lake passes through Prior Lake before joining Craigflower Creek, eventually emptying into Portage Inlet.
The woods near what is now known as Thetis Lake were long used by the Indigenous people to hunt deer, bear, and elk. They would also harvest clams from the inlet below and would steam, mash, cook, and roast the indigenous sprouts and berries found in the undergrowth for food.
Credit for the thriving ecosystem surrounding Thetis Lake is given in no small part to the Thetis Park Nature Sanctuary Association. The association was formed in 1957 and is the first formal nature sanctuary in Canada.
Thetis Lake was named after a ship in the British navy – the HMS Thetis. The ship was sent to protect British rights to gold found in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) in 1852. Thetis Island and Thetis Cove were also named after this ship.
Thetis Lake once played a supporting role in the City of Victoria’s water supply. In 1864 the Spring Ridge Water Company laid log pipes to transport water from Elk Lake to the city, and Thetis Lake was then connected to the system in the 1870s as a reserve supply. This network was later replaced by water transported from Sooke Lake in the early 1900s.
Over the years the parkland at Thetis Lake has seen a patchwork of additions and extensions, with thanks to the efforts of the Capital Regional District and local conservation groups.
Did you know?
Although Thetis Lake was originally one lake, it was separated into two when a dike was installed to create access for a fire road. In later years, a culvert was installed under the dike to link the two lakes again, allowing paddlers to explore both lakes. As such there is some debate over whether this is one lake or two – the BC Geological Survey states that the official name of this waterbody is Thetis Lake, but that the feature type was changed from “lake” to “lakes” in 2003.
For trail maps, access information, and much more, get your copy of the Lakes of Victoria, BC guidebook.