History of Siwash Rock

Photo credit: Flickr/Morisawa81

Photo credit: Flickr/Morisawa81

Siwash Rock is one of the most iconic of Stanley Park’s father figures. Located at a sharp bend between 3rd Beach, Prospect Point and the Lions Gate Bridge, Siwash is a rocky outcrop with a tough, twisted handful of Douglas Firs sprouting on top.

Long before Lord Stanley gazed upon the lattice of rocky shores, sandy beaches and giant cedars that make up our beloved park, Siwash Rock stood ‘like a noble-spirited, upright warrior” according to E. Pauline Johnson (aka Tekahionwake), the author of Legends of Vancouver.

Whether you choose to salute Siwash Rock as an interesting, coastal formation or a monument dedicated to a selfless father figure, it’s still one of Stanley Park’s most photographed and revered attractions.

The geological explanation for origins of this Vancouver icon says that Siwash Rock came to be thanks to a volcanic dike forming in the sandstone and mudstone that form the park’s foundation. Burning hot magma was forced upwards through a crack in the Earth’s surface creating an abstract-looking basalt stack. Tougher than the sandstone cliffs nearby, Siwash Rock is the only sea stack for kilometers around.

Photo credit: Flickr/keepitsurreal

Photo credit: Flickr/keepitsurreal

Members of the Squamish Nation have an equally riveting explanation of Siwash Rock’s origins. According to the Squamish historical accounts, Siwash stands as a testament to dedicated, clean fatherhood after the story of a man named Skalsh.

Thousands of years ago, a young chief named Skalsh married a young lady from B.C.’s north coast and they wanted to start a family. The night before Skalsh’s child was to be born, he and his wife swam in the waters of Burrard Narrows to purify themselves, as custom, in preparation for birth. When his wife crept into the forest of Xwayxway as the Squamish call Stanley Park, Skalsh continued to swim to purify himself and his family as his child entered the world.

Challenged by gods to stop swimming and move out of the way of their holy canoe, Skalsh continued to swim to purify himself for the sake of his family. To commemorate his bravery and commitment to family, the gods transformed him into stone when he swam back to shore, towards his wife and child at dawn. The rocky stand serves as a symbol of ‘clean fatherhood’ according to Johnson’s account of Squamish creation story.

So as we celebrate Stanley Park’s 125th birthday August 24 and 25, let’s also celebrate this millennia-old rock formation. Be it a result of subsurface rumblings or a father named Skalsh concerned for his young family, Siwash Rock is worth a visit and a bow.

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