Canoe-friendly fjords near Vancouver

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 15-21, 1996
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Canoe-friendly fjords near Vancouver

Canoe-friendly fjords near Vancouver
Question: I want to take my boyfriend out West for his 30th birthday. Can you suggest a good three-day canoe trip somewhere near Vancouver? We are of average experience and would like to bring a minimum amount of gear with us. There will probably be four couples going. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

Toronto, Ontario
[email protected]

Forested islands off Vancouver's coast make for scenic kayaking.
Adventure Adviser: You'll want to head out from Vancouver to Nootka Sound on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. Two hundred years ago, Nootka Sound was the only charted port between San Francisco and Alaska's Prince William Sound; before then, it was where Europeans met natives in the early days of the sea otter trade. These days, it's known for its canoe-friendly inlets and fjords, rugged rock shores, deep channels, and plenty of on-water solitude.

To get there from Vancouver, take the B.C. ferry to Vancouver Island and then drive north on Highway 19 and west on Highway 28 through Strathcona Provincial Park (plenty of accessible hiking trails just off the highway) until you hit the dock on Muchalat Inlet. Put-in there and paddle the 20 miles to Yuquot, an Indian village on the southwest edge of Nootka Island, or shorten the long slog up Tahsis Inlet by reserving space on Uchuck III. This former World War II minesweeper will collect you and your gear at the dock and drop you off anywhere that looks appealing.

Regardless of how you get there, check in with the Nootka Island's caretaker for permission to pitch your tents along the beach. Using Yuquot as your base camp, you'll have a whole slew of day-trip options among densely forested islands to choose from.

A few words of advice: Steer clear of the rolling seas near the mouth of the sound, and keep your field guides and binoculars in an accessible dry bag. The island and surrounding area are practically overrun with seabirds, songbirds, wolves, deer, sea otters, and the occasional black bear. And this is the Pacific Northwest, after all, so don't forget the raingear and waterproof tent with well-sealed seams. You may also want to wear a wetsuit in addition to your paddling jacket. Keep in mind that July and August are the driest months.

For local paddling tips, instruction, and gear rental, talk to the folks at Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Center on Campbell Lake, just outside Campbell River (canoes, $30 per day; 604-286-8206). If you're feeling squeamish about solo paddling, you can hire one of their expert guides for $180 (Canadian) per day. For ferry information and reservations, call 604-283-2325.

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