Category   Canoeing & Kayaking - Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands B.C.
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Sea Kayaking: The IslandsWhitewater Kayaking: The Islands

Vancouver Island's vast number of lakes, rivers and ocean inlets are a perfect pleasure to explore by canoe. The large, relatively isolated lakes of the north and central portion of the island are enclaves of solitude, where the only sound you'll hear is the call of a loon or the splash of a jumping fish. Experience breathtaking views and abundant wildlife as you glide silently, effortlessly, through morning mist and dense evergreen forests.

A kayaker at Robson's Bight observes the federal guidelines by waiting for a pod of Orcas to pass
Plan day trips near your campsite or challenge the Lakes of the Sayward Forest Canoe Route on an exciting 5-day adventure. Canoe campers travel by canoe and are self contained for overnight stays.

Victoria: Paddling within Victoria's Inner Harbour and the Gorge, a meandering waterway that leads from Victoria's upper harbour through a landscaped urban environment, before widening into Portage Inlet, is a favourite destination for canoeists and beginning kayakers.

Elk and Beaver Lakes, 8 miles north of Victoria on Hwy 17, offer plenty of opportunities for canoeing with a number of good launching points. Brentwood Bay and Tod Inlet offer sheltered waters and interesting coastlines to explore.Explore the shoreline at Cadboro Bay or paddle through the middle, experiencing small waves and currents from the protection of the sheltered bay.

Thetis Lake in View Royal provides freshwater paddling for those with hand-carried boats. Launch from the main beach and explore the many bays and small islands that characterize the lake. A narrow channel connects the two halves of the lake system, just wide enough for a canoe or kayak.

Matheson Lake in Metchosin is set in a steep-sided, heavily forested environment, 26 km southwest of Victoria, at the foot of Mount Matheson. The park is a paddling destination for those seeking a serene, cloistered environment.

Witty's Lagoon west of Victoria offers yet another perspective on the coastline. A long swath of sandy beach curves gently along Strait of Juan de Fuca. Witty's offers an interesting and accessible paddling destination, but be sure to pay attention to the tides.

James Island shelters the waters of Cordova Channel in front of Island View Beach Regional Park. A boat ramp is conveniently located at the entrance to the park. Paddle over to nearby James Island, and from there to Sidney Island and beyond.

Cowichan Lake, located west of Duncan on Hwy 18, is another favourite destination - the 43 km long lake is ideal for canoeing.

Nanaimo is a canoeist's delight, with two excellent harbours and Newcastle Island Provincial Park between them. Paddlers will enjoy Pipers Lagoon and Quennell Lake; these waters are ideal for all skill levels, as are the waters of Nanoose Bay, north of Nanaimo.

The Gulf Islands lie snug in the Georgia Strait, between the mainland and the eastern side of Vancouver Island. Those who venture out on the water are rewarded with sheltered provincial wilderness campsites on several marine park islands. It's difficult to overstate how pleasant it is to stay at any of them. Most of the year, those who make the effort to paddle beyond the federal docks soon have the ocean to themselves. Come warmer weather and mellower seas, hundreds of visitors a day flock to Marine Provincial parks, such as Jedediah Island Provincial Park, which nearby Lasqueti Island residents refer to jokingly as 'Club Jed.' Not that there isn't plenty of room; its just that from October to May, it feels truly luxurious to have so much space in which to play. Part of Jedediah Island's charm is that it is not easy to reach. The best approach is from Lasqueti Island. Plan on taking six hours to paddle the 18-km route from False Bay on Lasqueti to Jedediah Island.

For those who journey past the south end of Lasqueti Island, there's good reason for putting ashore at Squitty Bay Provincial Marine Park. Not only is there freshwater from a pump in the park's picnic area, there's also an interesting adjacent ecological reserve. Walk out on the headland to a rock cairn, from where you look southeast to Vancouver and distant Mount Baker, and west to the Comox Valley, surmounted by the white expanse of the Comox Glacier.

There are several places around the northern straits where an open canoe is just as handy as a kayak to reach one of the Marine Provincial parks. For example, you can paddle from Denman Island to nearby Sandy Island Provincial Marine Park. Although it's possible on a calm day to launch from the wharf at Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island, cross Baynes Sound to the west side of Denman, and then make your way north to the park, you can reduce your travel time by taking the 10-minute ferry ride to Denman, then launching from here. Paddling distance from Denman's ferry dock to Sandy Island is about 10 kms.

As you make your way you may be accompanied by seals, dolphins, or loons. Tall blue herons stand posted like sentries on the rocky outcroppings exposed at low tide. A long spit of land - Longbreak Point, curves out from Denman towards Sandy Island and provides a calming breakwater.

Port Alberni: Hikers can rent canoes, or bring their own, and paddle the full length of Great Central Lake, then hike to view North America's tallest waterfall, Della Falls. Sproat Lake lies 8 miles west of Port Alberni on Hwy 4 - warm waters ideal for swimming and canoeing.

Campbell River: The Sayward Forest Canoe Route situated within the Sayward Forest covers almost 30 miles of lakes and creeks. Excellent road access to most of the lakes within the canoe route allows a variety of put-in and take-out points. Upper Campbell and Buttle Lakes, situated in beautiful Strathcona Provincial Park, offer outstanding wilderness scenery and another favourite destination for canoeists.

The beautiful setting of Megin Lake in Strathcona Park, north of Tofino on Vancouver Island
The islands of Quadra, Cortes, Read, Sonora and Thurlow are spread out before Campbell River. Canoeists of all skill levels can spend an afternoon or several days just cruising around or exploring these spectacular islands.

Schoen Lake Provincial Park, north of Campbell River, is known for its beautiful lake under the summit of Mt. Schoen. Paddlers will enjoy exploring the area - spend the night at one of the wilderness campsites.

Pacific Rim National Park: Here you will encounter the untamed wilderness of Vancouver Island. The Nitinat Triangle boasts an unequalled chain of lakes, and presents a challenging excursion for experienced paddlers.

Sunshine Coast: The Powell Forest Canoe Route encompasses over 80 km of canoeing and 11 km of portages. Canoe racks are provided in many places along the portages. The eight lakes may be circumnavigated in either direction, however Lois Lake to Powell Lake is preferred.

Copeland Islands Marine Provincial Park and Savary Island both lie offshore from Lund on the Sunshine Coast's Malaspina Peninsula. You can see the white sand beaches on Savary beckoning in the distance while the Copelands lie out of sight to the north. To reach Savary, paddle south from Lund along the peninsula's shoreline to the closest point to Savary, then paddle west for 30 minutes, or about 1.6 km.

To reach the Copelands, head north from Lund, hugging the steep-sided coastline. Marine traffic in Thulin Passage can kick up a sizeable chop; thus, it's best to set out as early in the day as possible before many large pleasure craft begin to ply these waters. Pick your opening and paddle hard to cover the 1 km between the peninsula and the most southerly island in this chain. Once in the vicinity of the Copelands, you'll find sheltered paddling that you'll have to share only with the numerous seals that haul up on little islets when not fishing for their next meal.

Paddling is possible year-round, but best from March to September. Winds are gentle in the morning and pick up in the afternoon. Canadian regulations require kayakers have with them certain safety equipment, including a personal flotation device, a whistle, a bailing device, 15 metres of floating rope and a spare paddle. For more information contact the Canadian Coast Guard.

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