Driving along the road through Sooke, the average visitor wouldn’t know that just a few miles back of us, dramatic fault lines cleave the terrain. The accompanying illustration has had the fault lines accentuated by our photo technician Joan O’Donnell.
I’m the least likely person to know anything about geology, but I understand that at this cleft, the basalt of the Metchosin Igneous Complex is being dragged under Vancouver Island by the subducting Juan de Fuca plate. The fault line runs east from Sombrio and Loss Creek through the Leech valley and then veers southward before reaching Victoria.
Placer mining always attracts attention, and this route has been the focus of prospectors for more than two hundred years. It was the Spanish who sought gold at Sombrio in the 1790s, and much later, a couple of Brits, Arthur MacFarlane and his son Douglas joined the gold seekers, holding claims there up to the late 1960s.
We understand there are several weekend prospectors working claims at Loss Creek. Longtime woodsman Fred Zarelli, who flew fire watch over the area for Pacific Logging, recalls that they could easily see the fault indentation as they perused the terrain carefully, looking to avoid dangerous wildfires. The pilot was Bruce Payne, who flew the Bell helicopter at 3,000 or 4,000 feet for good viewing.
Gold claims abound in the Leechtown area and in Martin’s Gulch, but all in all, the atmosphere seems a bit quieter today than at some earlier periods when guns and threats made casual visitors leery of accidently getting in the way of another’s claim.
At the Sooke Region Museum and Visitor Centre, back in the 1980s we arranged field trips for staff so that we could offer information and directions to visitors. When Joan O’Donnell was preparing this image for the column, she reminded us that 30 years ago, as a greenhorn out from Scotland, how startled she’d been on our field trip. She recalled that as we were gathered picnicking at the confluence of the Sooke, the Leech and Wolf Creek, “This man armed with a rifle burst out through the underbrush and demanded to know what we were doing!”
The Leech Fault can still be counted on to attract dedicated gold seekers, members of Vancouver Island Placer Mining Association, who are busy planning a celebration for the 150th anniversary of Leechtown. My favorite memories of trips up to the Leech fault are warm sunshine, foxgloves, wigeons in the river and the calling of whisky jacks.
Sooke Region Museum