Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park:
An Idyllic 4-day Canoe Trip
Leaving Porpoise Bay
At Piper Point
A harvest moon rising over the mountains
Packing up the TentSechelt Inlet is a fjord with character. The first thing you notice is the backdrop—lush forests and towering mountains. Then, you hear the float planes taking off and landing in Porpoise Bay. As well, houses line the first 5 km on the west side and 10 km along the eastern shore. Looking more closely at the lush forests, it becomes obvious that almost the entire valley has been logged. Most has grown in, though the new growth is obvious, and there are several new clearcuts. You’re likely to see barges move up and down the inlet, ferrying machinery to job sites at the heads of Salmon and Narrows Inlets, two offshoot fjords of the main one. However, compared to Indian Arm in North Vancouver, boat traffic is minimal. We could easily count the number of power craft that we saw in the distance each day, far fewer than what we might see in an hour in Indian Arm. And boat wake was almost non-existent. So, a big part of Sechelt Inlet’s character is the ongoing industry, including three fish farms near Salmon Inlet on the west shore, a handful of oyster farms and an ongoing sea-side logging operation either side of Piper Point.
While industry may detract from some feeling of remoteness, the inlet still has a wild feeling. Mountain views are everywhere, and the fishing must be great as seals abound. The bull kelp we often saw must be helping the fish, as young fish hide in its forests. Many other species of marine mammals visit too, though sadly, we did not see any. We did see birds of many species (belted kingfishers, surf scoters, mallards, loons and all manner of ducks and gulls, etc.). As we approached Halfway Beach for a break, the call of the loon broke the stillness.
We did briefly see a marten, a cute and furry weasel-like land animal scurrying along shore. Oyster and clam shells littered the beaches and although they were hidden from view, we know there are ochre sea stars (still recovering from the awful wasting disease that decimated their population) because we saw a sea gull chewing on one. Moon jellies were a constant presence.
Dancing Moon Jellies
As we paddled on our second day, still on glassy water, we passed lovely Arbutus trees, with their smooth reddish bark, lining the cliffs.
Paddling on Glass
Soon we spotted Halfway Beach camp, with its large, gently rising pebble beach lined by Douglas fir trees and views down Salmon Inlet. It also has a creek and a lovely rock outcropping to sunbathe on. Those Doug fir trees are magnificent. You know you’re in the presence of these giants when you find their cones on the ground. Their unique cones have three-pointed bracts sticking out of the scales. (Did you know that Douglas fir trees aren’t true fir trees at all? They are in the pine family and false hemlock genus).
Views from Halfway Beach
Tzoonie Narrows Campsite
Arriving at Tzoonie Narrows Campsite
It is small but cozy and has a grassy field that makes for a lovely place to relax and watch the wildlife just in front of us. We enjoyed watching surf scoters, aquatic birds that gather in large numbers every Fall. The 50 or so in front of us would be calmly paddling along and suddenly get spooked and take off in a panic in a cacophony of flapping wings and caution cries only to land 100 metres away and repeat the process. Thankfully, they quietened down at sunset.
Noisy Surf Scoters
After another peaceful sleep, we rose with the sun, packed up, ate breakfast and headed five kilometres back up the inlet, again on glassy water! As we left, KJ demonstrated a graceful wet entry into the loaded canoe.
A Graceful Wet Entry
At the confluence with Sechelt Inlet, we turned back south towards Porpoise Bay, where we had put in, 25 kilometres away. Just five kilometres in the opposite direction lay Skookumchuck Narrows where the water rushes through at 16 knots. Kayakers play there, but it’s not a place for an open canoe! (We did visit there on another trip and managed to arrive at slack tide.)
We passed a couple of fish farms on the opposite shore and soon came to Salmon Inlet and a campsite at Kunechin Point. This camp is situated just behind some islets, which are home to dozens of seals. It’s is also the site of the former Canadian destroyer HMCS Chaudiere, which was deliberately sunk to serve as an artificial reef for scuba divers. The campsite sits high on a bluff with commanding views south and east. In fair weather, it’s spectacular—not so friendly during a storm, as it is exposed to the wind.
Rolling a Fully-loaded Canoe into the Water
Later in the afternoon, we crossed Salmon Inlet. In summer, that would be foolhardy, as the wind whips out of the inlet after noon, creating large waves, but that day, the water was glassy, and the two-and-a-half-kilometre crossing was uneventful. The wary seals, who can be quite territorial, often escort paddlers out, but they left us alone. As we left, we squeezed through the Islets.
Once across Salmon Inlet, we followed the pretty eastern shore, passing a few oyster farms in the bays. Very soon, we arrived at our final campsite and the end of an easy 16-kilometre day. Like Halfway, Nine Mile Beach is wide, has a gentle sloping pebble beach and is split by a creek.
Nine Mile Beach
We were happy we brought extra layers of clothes because after the sun went down, temperatures dropped below shorts and flip flop temperatures. This was October, after all. By ten o’clock, we were cozily tucked away in the tent serenaded by the hoots of a nearby owl.
On our last day, our only goal was to make the ferry, which we had reserved for mid afternoon. Purposefully, we chose to camp at Nine Mile, because it’s just nine miles from Porpoise Bay. We dawdled our way out of camp that last morning as we enjoyed breakfast by-the-sea.
Breakfast by the Sea
Like all the other campsites, this one has a pit toilet and cleared areas for tents and a lockable steel bear box to keep food away from brown bears to reduce the chance of habituating them to our presence.
KJ’s Nine Mile Beach Video Tour
Jeff Getting into the Canoe from the Water
Heading south, we again paddled on unbelievably glassy water, coasting idly past the pretty Lamb Islets and the tidy community of Tuwanek. That place is also the end of the road from Sechelt and has a beach for easy boat launching and a few free parking places for those paddlers who want to avoid Porpoise Bay. Pedals and Paddles also rents kayaks there.
As we entered the final bay under landing float planes, the wind suddenly rose to a gale-like 3 knots (lol), but just as quickly died, and we cruised into the dock well before noon.
Approaching Porpoise Bay Dock
After packing up the car and driving to the ferry, we had plenty of time to stop in nearby Gibson’s Landing for a bite of lunch at Molly’s Reach, site of Beachcomer’s, CBC’s hit TV series from 1972-1990, before boarding the ferry for home. All in all, a perfect fall trip!