It’s Official—This is the Rainiest Place in Canada
Got your umbrella handy? This remote Canadian destination holds the North American record for precipitation—seven metres of rain per year!
Vancouverites love to complain about the soggy weather, but imagine living in a place that gets four times as much rain. That would be Hucuktlis Lake (formerly Henderson Lake), a crescent-shaped body of water surrounded by mountains near the west coast of Vancouver Island. With average annual precipitation of 6,903 mm—yes, that’s almost seven metres—this fish- and wildlife-rich rainforest zone is on par with the rainiest parts of Costa Rica.
Hucuktlis (pronounced “who-chook-tlis”) Lake currently holds the all-time North American record for annual precipitation, set in 1997 with a staggering 9,307 mm over 252 rainy days that year. The area’s unique geographic features are thought to contribute to its heavy rainfall, with a chain of inlets connecting the lake to nearby Barkley Sound acting as funnels to pull warm, moist air inward from the Pacific. Much of the west coast of Vancouver Island also experiences a phenomenon called “orographic lifting”—prevailing winds move from west to east from the Pacific, and as they’re forced upwards over mountainous terrain, the rising air cools, condenses and forms rain clouds. This is why coastal mountains get soaked, while the air grows drier as it moves inland.
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But perhaps there is also another reason for Hucuktlis Lake’s prodigious downpours. Situated on the traditional lands of the Uchucklesaht Tribe, the lake’s most notable feature is the T’iitsk’in Paawats Protected Area, also known as Thunderbird’s Nest, where tribe members still carry out spiritual practices. A 2,300-hectare preserve of old-growth forests, mountains, bathing pools and waterfalls, this sacred ground is said to be the home of the last living Thunderbird, a supernatural being important to many Indigenous cultures, especially of the Pacific Northwest. The most powerful of all spirits, Thunderbirds control rain and thunderstorms, and according to some legends they produce thunder by flapping their wings and lighting by flashing their eyes.
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The lake was previously named after Captain John Henderson, a master mariner who helped establish the Port Alberni sawmill in 1860. In 2018, the name was changed to Hucuktlis, which means “place way inside” in the Nuu-chah-nulth dialect of the Uchucklesaht, a language that’s been rendered endangered by assimilative policies such as the residential school system.
Although the city of Port Alberni is just 25 kilometres away, Hucuktlis Lake remains fairly remote. Hilthatis (or Ehthlateese), the closest village, counts only three permanent residents. Thunderbird’s Nest is accessible by boat or trail, and visitors are warned to watch out for bears and cougars. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of a Roosevelt elk, one of the largest species of deer, which stands up to 10 feet tall. And you might want to bring your rain gear, too.
Now that you know the rainiest place in Canada, find out which city is known as the hailstorm capital of Canada.