The Nitinat Triangle is situated in an area of old-growth forest in the Hobiton-Tsusiat watershed, west of Nitinat Lake in Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park. This is one of the most scenic and remote canoe routes on Vancouver Island, and has also become one of the most popular paddling trips.
The gruelling 38-km circuit through the Nitinat, Hobiton and Tsusiat Lakes takes 4 to 5 days to complete, although the route contains less than 17 km of paddling water.
Extensive difficult portaging is required over the rough and often muddy portage trails that connect the Nitinat and Hobiton Lakes and link Hobiton to Tsusiat Lake. Paddlers must carry their canoe and gear over massive fallen trees under slippery conditions.
The Nitinat Lakes trip is a genuine wilderness expedition that presents a challenging excursion for experienced canoeists. Paddlers are required to be totally self-reliant and well prepared for backcountry travel and camping. Strength and endurance are necessary for the portage sections and for the tough battle against the strong thermal winds encountered on Nitinat Lake – there is good reason why the Nitinat is the best windsurfing lake on the island!
Nitinat Lake: The best launching point to start the trip is the boat launch at Knob Point Recreation Site on the northwestern shore of Nitinat Lake – camping facilities are provided.
Nitinat Lake to Hobiton Lake: This section of the trip requires overland portage, as the Hobiton River is a salmon spawning stream that is permanently closed to navigation by the Department of Fisheries. Handlining of canoes through this spawning channel is not permitted.
Hobiton Lake to Tsusiat Lake: This 1.6-km portage leg includes a 40 metre section through the bog midway along the trail. Portage your canoe to the bog, return for your gear and then continue across the bog toward Tsusiat Lake.
Tsusiat Falls to Nitinat Narrows: This section can either be paddled on the ocean under calm conditions, or portaged along the 7-km trail. The Nitinat Narrows must be navigated during the brief slack tide, or at the very beginning of the flood tide. Consult your tide tables for Tofino carefully, as the tidal Nitinat produces treacherous whirlpools in the Narrows that have previously claimed paddler’s lives.
Before paddling the Nitinat Triangle, canoeists must obtain a Park Use Permit from any of the three Registration Offices of the West Coast Trail, or by calling Pacific Rim National Park. The Nitinat Lake Visitor Centre, situated at the head of Nitinat Lake and operated by the Ditidaht First Nation, is the most convenient location for acquiring this permit. Those wishing to camp at Tsusiat Falls at the mouth of the Tsusiat River also require the permit, as the falls are part of the West Coast Trail.
Access to the region is via gravel logging road leading from the western end of Lake Cowichan. This point is reached by turning off Highway 1 north of Duncan and following either the north or south shore of Lake Cowichan. Follow the Nitinat Main logging road to the head of Nitinat Lake.