Kayak Trip Report
Gulf Islands to Prince Rupert, 2005
by Bob Saunders


Section 1 - Gulf Islands to Nanaimo (March 27 to April 1):  Bob Saunders, Susan Saunders, Deirdre Arscott, Bob LePage.
Section 2 - Vancouver to Port Hardy (April 7 to April 29):  Bob Saunders, Graham Brown.
Section 3 - Port McNeil to Bella Bella  (May 2 to May 18): Bob Saunders, Graham Brown, Elisa Hart, Chris Shank.
Section 4 - Bella Bella to Prince Rupert (May 21 to June 4):  Bob Saunders, Graham Brown.


Section 1
Village Bay (Mayne Island) – James Bay (Prevost Island) – Chivers Point (Wallace Island) – Pirates Cove Provincial Marine Park (DeCourcy Island) – Nanaimo

Section 2
Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) – Plumpers Cove (Keats Island) – Smugglers Cove – Quarry Bay – Scotch Fir Point – Willingdon Beach (Powell River) – Copeland Islands – Cortes Island – Sutil Point – Uganda Passage – Read Point – Hoskyn Channel – Surge Narrows – Okisollo Channel – Octopus Islands – Hole in the Wall – Calm Channel – Yuculta Rapids – Barber Passage – Dent Island – Cordero Channel – Hall Point – John’s Point – Crawford Anchorage – Blind Channel – Greene Point Rapids - Wellbore Channel – Whirlpool Rapids – Forward Harbour – Sunderland Channel – Johnstone Strait – Blackney Pass – Blackfish Sound – Plumper Islands – Pearse Islands – Alert Bay (Cormorant Island) – Malcolm Island – Deer Island – Port Hardy

Section 3
Between Port McNeil and Telegraph Cove – Alert Bay – Pearse Islands – Blackfish Sound – Swanson Island – West Pass – Village Channel (Native Anchorage) – Eliot Passage – Spring Passage – Retreat Passage – Health Bay – Cramer Passage – Echo Bay – Raleigh Passage – Penphrase Passage – Sharp Passage – Sutlej Channel – Greenaway Sound – Carter Passage – Wells Passage – Boyles Point – Shelter Bay – Southgate Group – Burnett Bay – Indian Cove – Indian Island – Anchor Bight – Cathcart Island – Extended Point – Open Bight – Fury Island – Blair Island – Addenbroke Island – Kwakshua Channel – Adams Harbour – Rattenbury Island – Breaker Group – Stirling Island – Nalau Passage – Serpent Group – Ronald Island – Spider  Island – Spider Channel – Swordfish Bay – (portage) – Cultus Sound – Kinsman Inlet – Sans Peur Passage – McNaughton Island – Dodwell Island – Campbell Island – Hunter Channel – Lama Passage – McLoughlin Bay (Bella Bella)

Section 4
Bella Bella – Dryad Point – Ormidale Harbour – Kynumpt Harbour -Seaforth Channel – Idol Point – Bullen Rock –Fisher Point – Balagny Passage – Reid Passage – Oliver Cove – Leighton Island – Lady Trutch Passage – Mathieson Channel – Symonds Point – Arthur Island – Rescue Bay – Jackson Passage –Finlayson Channel – Klemtu Passage – Split Head – Meyers Passage – Hartnell Point – Milne Island – Laidlaw Islands – Monk Bay – Dallain Point – Laredo Channel - Surf Inlet – Sager Islands – Campania Sound – Casanave Passage – Kayel IR 8 – Whale Channel – Taylor Bight – Gil Island – Fin Island – Cridge Island – Blossom Point (Farrant Island) – Hinton Island – Payne Channel – Union Passage – Grenville Channel – Lowe Inlet – Kumealon Island – Telegraph Passage – Kennedy Island – Marked Tree Bluff – Parry Point (Horsey Island) –De Horsey Passage –Inverness Passage – Porpoise Harbour – Port Edwards – Zanardi Rapids – Wainwright Basin – Morse Basin – Butze Rapids – Prince Rupert

Itinerary (locations WGS 84):

March  27 Ferry from Vancouver to Village Bay (Mayne Island); kayak to James Bay (Prevost Island) - 48.50.414N  123.23.917W
March  28 James Bay, Prevost Island
March  29 Wallace Island (Chivers Point) - 48.57.348N  123.34.405W
March  30 - 31 DeCourcey Island (Pirates Cove Marine Park) - 49.05.695N  123.43.611W
April 1 Vancouver
April 2 - 6 Comox
April 7 Ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay); Plumper Cove Marine Park (Keats Island) - 49.24.274N  123.28.290W
April 8 Plumper Cove Marine Park (kayak to Gibson’s and back)
April 9 - 10 Smuggler Cove Marine Park - 49.30.720N  123.57.711W
April 11 Quarry Bay - 49.38.837N  124.07.253W
April 12 - 13 Scotch Fir Point - 49.44.524N  124.16.115W
April 14 - 15 Willingdon Beach Park (Powell River) - 49.50.886N  124.32.021W
April 16 Copeland Islands - 49.59.906N  124.48.173W
April 17 Cortes Bay Marina (Cortes Island) - 50.03.546N  124.55.709W
April 18 Octopus Islands - 50.16.314N  125.13.351W
April 19 Johns Point (Cordero Channel) - 50.26.756N  125.19.428W
April 20 D’arcy Point - 50.25.446N  125.41.874W
April 21 Forward Harbour (petroglylyphs) - 50.29.412N  125.42.041W
April 22 Near McLeod Bay – Gunner Point - 50.28.306N  125.57.286W
April 23 Bush Islets - 50.31.342N  126.24.590W
April 24 Boat Bay - 50.31.342N  126.33.885W
April 25 Pearse Islands - 50.35.108N  126.52.049W
April 26 - 27 Malcolm Island (Lion’s Park) - 50.37.432N  126.58.351W
April 29 Deer Island - 50.42.866N  127.23.138W
April 29 Port Hardy to Comox (hitch hike)
April 30 Comox
May 1 Port Hardy (Wild Woods Campground)
May 2 Pearse Islands - 50.35.108N  126.52.049W
May 3 Village Island (Native Anchorage) - 50.36.788N  126.33.842W  
May 4 Echo Bay - 50.45.026N  126.29.601W
May 5 Greenaway Sound Forestry Site - 50.50.175N  126.46.238W
May 6 Unnamed Bay near Lewis Point - 50.49.510N  127.03.867W
May 7 Shelter Bay - 50.58.622N  127.27.565W
May 8 - 9 Burnett Bay - 51.06.398N  127.40.095W
May 10 Anchor Bight (floating dock) - 51.16.792N  127.38.038W
May 11 - 14 Fury Island - 51.29.134N  127.45.635W
May 15 Adams Harbour (Calvert Island) - 51.41.028N  128.06.044W
May 16 Swordfish Bay (Portage) - 51.53.190N  128.13.934W
May 17 McNaughton Island - 51.58.585N  128.13.283W
May 18 - 20 McLaughlin Bay (Bella Bella) - 51.08.306N  128.08.607W
May 21 Oliver Cove Marine Park - 52.18.916N  128.20.924W
May 22 Rescue Bay (Jackson Passage) - 52.31.021N  128.17.052W
May 23 Klemtu - 52.35.880N  128.31.175W
May 24 - 26 Bella Bella (returned by boat to attend Potlatch)
May 27 Klemtu
May 28 Laredo Sound (near Indian Reserve 6) - 52.40.089N  128.55.656W
May 29 Surf Inlet (Sager Islands) - 52.53.976N  129.08.986W
May 30 Taylor Bight Whale Channel (Maple Point I.R.1) - 53.06.221N  129.12.356W
May 31 Union Passage (Tsimtack I.R. 7) - 53.23.006N  129.27.352W
June 1 Lowe Inlet (I.R. 3) - 53.33.712N  129.33.879W
June 2 Northness Point - 53.46.144N  129.53.042W
June 3 Kennedy Island (near Marked Tree Bluff) - 54.03.489N  130.09.200W
June 4 Prince Rupert

Notes about Itinerary

If we spent more than one day at a place it was generally owing to weather.  We had to wait several days in Comox awaiting favourable weather to begin the trip; weather days also at Smuggler Cove, Scotch Fir Point, Willingdon Beach Park, and Fury Island.  An extra day was spent at Plumper Cove because we, ahem, forgot our utensils and had to go into Gibsons to buy some to replace the ones we left behind.  Owing to the lost time at Fury Island we weren’t able to spend more time in the Hakai. We spent extra time in Bella Bella waiting for Chris and Elisa to catch the ferry back to Port Hardy.  We also returned to Bella Bella from Klemtu to attend a two day potlatch (incredible experience, BTW).  Spend an extra day or so at Burnett Bay and try to spend extra time in the Hakai/Calvert Island area.

Total travel days:

Section 1. - 4 days
Section 2. - 17 days
Section 3. - 13 days
Section 4. - 11 days

Notes about Camping

Marine Provincial Parks vary from very good camping with picnic tables and outhouses such as Plumper Cove, Chivers Point (Wallace Island), Pirates Cove (DeCourcey Island) and Copeland Islands to mediocre facilities at James Bay (Prevost Island) and Smuggler Cove (pretty cove, though) to non-existent facilities at Oliver Cove, Jackson Narrows, Union Passage and Lowe Inlet.   In the Octopus Islands we stayed at a privately owned open style cabin – no windows or doors - on Island 1076.  I’m not certain if we were allowed to stay there but apparently it is used by many people visiting the area – the cabin is decorated with many folk art natural sculptures made by visitors).  We saw only two groups of kayakers the entire time we were out (2 people at Wallace Island and a Nols group at Shelter Bay).  I would think in the summer sites at some of these parks would be at a premium.

Indian Reserves generally provide very good camping although without any facilities. I.R 3 at Lowe Inlet is particularly beautiful; I.R. 7 in Union Passage also quite nice.  Note, however, that Indian Reserves are private lands.

Favourite camps and areas: Copeland Islands (entire area very beautiful), Surge Narrows to Dent Rapids, Bush Islets, Pearce Islands, Deer Island (sandy beach, protected shelter to cook in), Shelter Bay (sandy beach, well protected), Burnet Bay (two camping areas at south end, one at our spot just north of the creek entering on the south side of the bay, the other just inside Bremner Point on the other side of the creek – this is the most protected area to land and launch; there is a small cabin at the far north end of the beach), Indian Cove (lovely lunch spot, camping possibility as well), Open Bight (sandy beach, protected with camping possibilities), Fury Island (beautiful shell beach and a cabin you can stay in), the Hakai area, Fisher Point (look for old totem poles here), Jackson Passage, Meyers Passage, Laredo Sound to Gil Island (look for Janie Wray and Hermann Meuter and their Cetacealab at 53.06.147N 129.10.889W –very interesting and committed whale researchers).  The area near their cabin is quite good for orcas and porpoises, see  http://www.whaleresearch.ca/index.htm. The nearby native outpost at Kayel IR 8 used by residents of Hartwell Bay during the spring seaweed season is also quite interesting and the people friendly and welcoming), Union Passage, Lowe Inlet (a definite must if you use Grenville Channel – beautiful campsite near the waterfall).  You can follow a trail to the falls and to the lakes above the falls.  Finally, DeHorsey Passage to Port Edwards is interesting and the route to Prince Rupert via Zanardi Rapids, Wainwright Basin, Morse Basin and the Butze Rapids is much more interesting than the west side of Kaien Island to Prince Rupert.

Quarry Bay was a forced camping site, but turned out to be interesting – lots of old mining equipment.  Scotch Fir Point also a forced landing place, but the area was also quite pretty, camping on an old road near the point (the land is private, but the caretakers were understanding). The next day we walked the road then hitch hiked into Powell River when we reached the highway (about 5 kms) while waiting out weather. Willingdon Beach also a forced landing owing to weather (nice camping but the only place where we had to pay - $16/night.).  Forward Harbour has interesting petroglyphs at the end of the bay; we stayed with the people trying to develop the area – nice people but a daunting project ahead of them.  The harbour is well protected and out of the way with a pretty backdrop.  Boat Bay is the site of an orca research observation shelter – no one there in May, but Johnstone Strait near Robson Bight is unbelievably busy during summer and camping spots could be hard to find..  A nice trail from Boat Bay leads to other observation areas. Alert Bay (Cormorant Island) and Sointula (Malcolm Island) are well worth the visit.

Strong winds forced us into Swordfish Bay instead of going around Superstition Point.  The portage is the easten most of the three bays at the end of the inlet.  It is about 250 metres to the other side.  We camped at the portage; however, a nicer campsite is on Cultus Sound at 51.53.811N 128.13.971W.

Notes about the Route

There are a number of ways to travel through the Inside Passage but I would note that the shortest way isn’t necessarily the most interesting way.  Having more time available will allow one to have a more interesting and rewarding trip.

Having canoed from Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert  (1997) and now kayaked from the Gulf Islands to Prince Rupert, IMHO, I think I am able to offer some suggestions regarding Inside Passage routes.  If you are beginning the trip in Washington I would suggest going through the San Juan and Gulf Islands to Nanaimo and then, if the weather was favourable, crossing the Strait of Georgia to the mainland via Lasqueti and Texada Islands.  If the water was too rough or you felt uncomfortable about making such a long crossing so early in your trip, I would take the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) and continue from there.  The east coast of Vancouver Island from Nanaimo to Campbell River is basically one long housing project with very little or no wilderness feel to it.  The mainland side feels less crowded, has a more interesting coastline and better camping opportunities.

From Cortes Island I would suggest continuing around to Quadra Island to Hoskyn Channel and follow the same route as we did (Surge Narrows – Okisollo Channel – Octopus Islands – Hole in the Wall – Calm Channel – Yuculta Rapids – Barber Passage – Dent Island – Cordero Channel).  Seymour Narrows and Johnstone Strait is the main shipping route and can be quite busy.  The Surge Narrows to Cordero Channel has a more wilderness feel to it and furthermore is quite safe at slack water.  At Surge Narrows we arrived at Peck Island about an hour or so into the ebb and had no problems negotiating the extreme west side of the Narrows (these were neap tides however).  The water between Peck and Stuart Island was a bit too fast for us by that time.  We rode the ebb to Octopus Islands, and the next morning we hit Hole in the Wall at slack, and reached Calm Channel before the turn.  We waited for the next slack by crossing Calm Channel and visiting the abandoned and derelict native village of Church House.  We only had a short wait at Stuart Island Resort.  We left there about 1400 hrs, followed the Stuart Island side to Big Bay, passing through Barber Passage and reaching the divide between Yuculta and Dent Rapids about 1440 hrs (about 10 minutes before the turn to ebb at Yuculta and 10 minutes after the turn for Dent).  We caught the ebb and had no problems staying on the east side of Dent Island to Cordero Channel though a narrow channel which was beginning to flow moderately fast for the last 100 metres.  We also passed through the Greene Point Rapids and Whirlpool Rapids at slack and had no problems with them.

I can’t remember where I read this but owing to the large volumes of fresh water entering Johnson Strait as well as wind patterns and the resulting current patterns, I believe the preferred route is on the east side (mainland side) of the Strait. Blackney Pass, Blackfish Sound, Weynton Passage and Pearse Passage should all be treated with respect.  They can be rather tricky at maximum current.

Shelter Bay can be reached either via the Broughton Archipelago or by continuing north to Port Hardy and crossing Queen Charlotte Strait using the Bell/Gordon Islands, Deserters and Millar Groups.  I have taken two different routes through the Broughtons and won’t recommend one over the other; however I did enjoy going through Carter Passage.

Burnett Bay can be reached either by staying on the outside of Bramham and Fox Islands or by timing ebb and flood and using Schooner and Slingsby Channels and visiting the Nakwakto Rapids.  Both times I have used the outside, as the currents weren’t favourable for us to use the Schooner/Slingsby route.

From Fury Island I would recommend Kwakshua Channel and visiting the north end of Calvert Island and exploring the Hakai area instead of continuing up Fitzhugh Sound and Lama passage to Bella Bella.  Namu is interesting, but the Hakai and the northern part of Calvert are much more beautiful.

From Bella Bella I would again suggest Seaforth Channel to Mathieson, Jackson Passage and crossing Finlayson Channel to Klemtu. Griffin Passage to Sheep Passage is interesting but heavily logged inside the passage. Princess Royal Channel (Graham and Fraser Reaches) do not compare with the beauty of the west side of Princess Royal Island (Laredo Channel).  We used Meyers passage to reach Laredo Sound, but heading south from Klemtu and using Higgins Passage between Swindle and Price Islands might be an attractive alternative.  We followed the western shore of Princess Royal Island to Gil Island (very nice), but Janie and Hermann at the Cetacean Research Station highly recommended the west side of Campania Island.  The west side of Campania sets you up nicely for Principe Channel (which we used in 1997).  I can’t recommend Principe over Grenville (which we used in 2005) – I thought Grenville would be a bit tedious with a less wilderness feel to it, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.  I actually quite enjoyed it, and Union Passage and Lowe Inlet are worth the visit.  Principe allows you to more easily visit Kitkatla (using Ala and Petrel Channels) and the Kitkatla Inlet area. It may be subject to stronger winds but we had strong winds on Grenville as well.  Principe has a more wilderness feel to it.  The west side of Porcher Island apparently is quite beautiful as well.  Grenville Channel is the most direct route to Prince Rupert.  Owing to weather we crossed to De Horsey Passage from Kennedy Island and used Inverness Pass to reach Port Edward.   This was quite pleasant but the beauty of this route was being able to reach Prince Rupert via the Zenardi Rapids, Wainwright and Morse Basins and the Butze Rapids.  Without any planning whatsoever we managed to hit these at exactly the right times.  Highly recommended and much more interesting than the usual west side of Kaien Island approach.

Keep safe and have fun!



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