There are many opportunities
for canoeing and kayaking in seawater and freshwater along the Sea to Sky region.
Aerial view of
Squamish at the head of picturesque Howe Sound, British Columbia
When flat-calm, Howe Sound is an inviting place to paddle, but beware the
outflow winds that build on summer days. The Sound is a channel for winds drawn
out to the ocean from cooler inland regions. Kayakers will have an easier time
of it than canoeists when the winds rise. It's worth heading offshore to enjoy
the views of the Howe Sound Crest and Britannia ranges that are not revealed from
The 1.2-mile (2-km) paddle north from Porteau Cove to Furry
Creek is a pleasant workout. Watch for pictographs painted on the rock face
on the north side of the small bay just past Furry Creek. (Keep an eye out for
errant golf balls that may shank your way from the nearby golf course.) Porteau
Cove, about 15 miles (24 km) north of Horseshoe Bay, is also a designated
Marine Provincial park, with sheltered moorage. The boat launch at Porteau
Cove Provincial Park is the only public one accessible from Hwy 99 between
Horseshoe Bay and Squamish.
For an extended
trip, launch from Lions Bay Marina and head 3 miles (5 km) across Howe Sound to
nearby Gambier Island. Tucked away from view just inside its sheltered
southeast corner is Halkett Bay Marine Park. A government wharf lies at
the end of the bay where a thick fringe of hemlock and second-growth fir shield
the shoreline from view. If you walk into the shade of the trees, you'll discover
a series of clearings linked by old logging trails that have assumed the character
of sedate laneways. You could camp here where there are several formal sites or
on a small island just offshore in the bay. The island boasts a small beach, above
which stands a clearing large enough for one tent. While on Gambier, follow the
old logging road that terminates beside the campsites at Halkett Bay west to Camp
Fircom, a half-hour walk. At first the road leads through the forest, but it descends
to the shoreline as it nears the camp, with a pleasing view to the south of
Hood Point on Bowen Island.
Four rivers merge into one at the northern outskirts of Squamish. The Cheakamus
and Cheekye join forces in quick succession, then the Mamquam swells the volume
in the Squamish just before its confluence with Howe Sound. There's good sea kayaking
and canoeing on the Squamish River almost year-round, though you must be
wary during high-water volumes. These traditionally occur during autumn storms
and spring snowmelt. Two of the best locations for launching and taking out are
beside the Squamish River dike on Government Road in the Brackendale neighbourhood
and at the federal dock at the west end of Loggers Lane in downtown Squamish on
the Mamquam Blind Channel. To reach it, follow Cleveland Avenue south from Hwy
99 through downtown Squamish to Vancouver Street. Turn left and drive two blocks
to the dock.
The advantage of launching from the dike is that you have
the current in the Squamish running in your favour. Drift downstream past the
Squamish Spit into Howe Sound with your binoculars at the ready. There's
always something to see along this stretch. If you launch from the federal dock,
be prepared to do some steady paddling around the Squamish Estuary to reach the
Spit. The afternoon winds tend to kick up quite a chop. Those with open canoes
should avoid Howe Sound during these times.
Of the four lakes in Alice Lake Provincial Park, Alice
is the one most suitable for paddling, especially canoeing (motorized boats are
not permitted on any of the lakes). There are launch sites at each end of the
lake beside the picnic areas.
Rough and ready Brohm Lake has a boat launch for hand-carried boats only,
located a short distance from the parking lot on Hwy 99. This diminutive lake
is ideal for a quick paddle and is primarily used by anglers.
in the Whistler region are often hemmed
in by thick forests. Paddling out on their open surfaces reveals views that are
restricted from shore. In fact, some of the best views in the area are reserved
for paddlers. On a clear, calm day, the surrounding peaks are so perfectly mirrored
on the lakes that you would be hard-pressed to tell the reflection from the original.
The best example of this is Callaghan Lake. Drive to the end
of the Callaghan Lake Forest Road and launch from the rough approach at lakeside.
Within minutes you'll have left the hubbub of the campsite behind and be drifting
over the deep, emerald-hued lake. Water temperatures are so frigid that algae
barely blooms, which accounts for the lake's exceptional clarity. It takes 30
minutes' solid paddling to reach the far end of the lake (about 1.2 miles/2 km),
much of which is not visible until you round a point of land in the lake's middle.
You'll spend most of that time with your mouth hanging open. (Fortunately the
insect population is sparser here than on shore.)
Looking across the
lake to the east, you'll see a panorama of peaks that extends from Whistler Mountain
south to the Black Tusk and beyond to the glaciated slopes of Mount Garibaldi
near Squamish. This is without question the most expansive mountainscape to be
found in Whistler. To the south is a formidable barrier of snow-clad mountains
that separates the Squamish and Callaghan Valleys. Chief among the peaks is Powder
Mountain, whose icefields form an unbroken white mantle. The flanks of Callaghan
and Rainbow Mountains dominate in the northwest and north, respectively. One or
two locations around the lakeshore suggest places to take a break, but the bugs,
at least until late August, will soon have you back on the water.
enthralling are the peaks and glaciers that reflect in Cheakamus Lake,
though the lake itself is more difficult to reach. If you have a lightweight canoe
or kayak you'll have no trouble making the 2-mile (3.2-km) portage from the parking
lot to the lake, particularly if you have a folding kayak or a two-wheeled dolly.
The trail is only moderately difficult and as it is suitable for mountain bikes,
you should have little difficulty wheeling through the forest with a canoe or
kayak in tow. About 4 miles (6 km) long, Cheakamus is the largest lake in the
Whistler region; having gone to this effort, consider overnighting at Castle Towers
Creek or Singing Creek Campsites. Both of these streams enter the lake near its
east end, several hours' paddle from the rough launch and campsite at the lake's
Paddling is also the only means of exploring the Cheakamus
River's braided headwaters and sandy-shored delta. Watch for a giant, hollow black
cottonwood sticking up at the southeast corner of the lake. Looking up from the
lake you can easily pick out features such as the avalanche chutes on the south
slopes of Whistler Mountain. These are the same treacherous pitches that, when
snow-covered in winter, lure unsuspecting skiers and snowboarders out of bounds.
Follow along the bumps of Piccolo, Flute, and Oboe summits - the Musical Bumps
- as they lead to Singing Pass.
Kayaking on River
of Golden Dreams - Photo: Tourism BC
paddling on the River of Golden Dreams is a tradition that links today's
visitors with Whistler's past. The 'river,' also called Alta Creek, was
named by Alex Philip who, with his wife, Myrtle, ran the Rainbow Lodge at the
whistle stop of Alta Lake, the first commercial attraction in the valley.
From modest beginnings in 1915 until the Philips family sold the business
in 1948, Rainbow Lodge established Alta Lake (which officially changed its name
to Whistler in 1966, and became the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 1984) as
the pre-eminent recreation destination west of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies.
Ever the romantic, Alex renamed the creek to the River of Golden Dreams,
and sent many a honeymooning couple paddling down the gentle stream to Green Lake
and back to the lodge. This is still an attractive and mildly challenging canoe
paddle, particularly when water levels are high.
In summer, short portages
may be necessary to cross shallower sections. The fastest-flowing sections of
the river occur at midpoint, where the creek flows beneath the Valley Trail's
Twin Bridges - paddle hard in the sweeping S-turn that follows - and north
of the Hwy 99 bridge as the creek makes several sharp bends before entering Green
Lake. This last section is a pretty sight, indeed. A put-in/takeout is located
beside the Valley Trail's River of Golden Dreams Bridge, downstream
from the hwy. A large parking area and public phone are located beside the pedestrian
bridge. If you are not planning to paddle back to Alta Lake, this is a good place
to arrange to be picked up. Another plan is to leave a bicycle here before you
start; drive your vehicle and boat over to Rainbow Park, paddle downstream
to Green Lake, then ride back along the Valley Trail to reclaim your vehicle,
returning to retrieve your boat by driving west on Alta Lake Rd to Hwy 99, a short
distance north of the River of Golden Dreams. Canoes are available for rent at
Alta Lake at both Wayside and Lakeside Parks, and at Green Lake
near the outlet of the River of Golden Dreams. If you're looking for a little
lake to practice rowing or paddling on, boats and canoes are also available at
Alpha Lake Park, a family-oriented site in the Creekside neighbourhood.
Green Lake Park has a sandy beach from which to launch a canoe or kayak.
The park is located on Lakeshore Drive in the Emerald Estates neighbourhood near
the north end of Green Lake. Follow the signs to the boat launch on Summer Lane
from Hwy 99, then turn on Lakeshore to reach the park. (The vehicle boat launch
is also a good place to begin exploring Green Lake but lacks the ambience of the
park.) Water in Green Lake is often opaque due to the silt carried into it by
19-Mile and Fitzsimmons Creeks, two of its major tributaries. When ice-free, the
lake is a pronounced shade of green on all but the greyest days. Paddle directly
across the lake from the park to reach Parkhurst, the site of an abandoned logging
community. Follow south to reach some of the best beaches on Green Lake, located
north of Fitzsimmons Creek. The Green River drains out of the north end of the
lake. Its exit isn't that noticeable until you are almost drawn into it. Avoid
being caught in its current as this is a dangerous, swift-flowing river from the
flows through Paradise Valley, the Cheakamus River is a clear emerald colour,
except in those places where it billows with whitewater. The total length of its
run is just under 7 miles (12 km) from the put-in at the north end of Paradise
Valley Road to the take-out just above the Cheekye Bridge on the Squamish Valley
Road. Except for a rough, Class III section at the midpoint where Culliton Creek
enters the river, this is a consistent run with a predictably steady, Class II
descent. Water levels in the river are controlled by a BC Hydro dam farther upstream
on Daisy Lake near Whistler. A steady flow is guaranteed, as much for the health
of fish stocks in the river (a debatable point with local anglers) as for paddling.
The takeout at the bridge is next to the SunWolf Outdoors Centre on the east bank
of the river. Caution is suggested should you wish to paddle below this point.
Boulders pushed into the river from the nearby Cheekye River have created a drop
below the bridge that may be more than less-experienced kayakers or rafters can
best whitewater kayaking around Whistler happens on the Cheakamus River. Put-in
points include the upper section of the river accessed from the Cheakamus Lake
Road and the Whistler Interpretive Forest's Riverside Trail, as well as on lower
stretches of the river near its confluence with Callaghan and Brandywine Creeks
near the Cal-Cheak Forest Recreation Site.
There are four lovely lakes
in the Pemberton region that paddlers
will find attractive - Birkenhead, Anderson, Lillooet, and Joffre. Joffre is the
junior member, while 3.5-mile-long (6-km) Birkenhead is somewhat larger. The other
two are much bigger, and much breezier. All of them are sequestered among the
peaks that range through this heavily mountainous area. Of the four, Birkenhead
Lake is the most welcoming for a quiet sojourn around its shoreline. Launch
from the dock at Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park and
paddle south. A surprise awaits you, as it does on many mountain lakes: Tenquille
Ridge's white-walled flank, hidden from view at the dock, begins to reveal itself
to the west, while the mountains that hem Anderson Lake begin to appear in the
north. Late spring, when the surrounding snow-topped peaks reflect on the lake's
surface, is one of the best times to visit here.
Anderson Lake lies at the north end of the D'Arcy-Anderson Lake Road. There's
a boat ramp here next to Heritage Park, where those with boats on trailers
can put in. Steel-grey Anderson is a large, rather forbidding lake to paddle,
with few places to land, particularly along its west shore, where the BC Rail
line runs. Lillooet Lake is equally large, but has a friendlier appearance.
It must be the colour that makes a difference: milky green when seen in full sunlight,
a deep jade colour towards dusk. There's a boat launch at the Twin One Creek
Forest Service Recreation Site about 6 miles (10 km) south of Hwy 99. An alternative
approach is to launch a hand-carried boat from a rough site beside the Birkenhead
River Bridge on Hwy 99. The river flows into the north end of Lillooet Lake, where
a delta of soft silt is steadily deposited by the nearby Lillooet River. An attractive
destination to head for is the sandy beach at Strawberry Point Forest Service
Recreation Site. Allow an hour to make the 2.5-mile (4-km) paddle journey one
Lillooet Lake are the three small Joffre Lakes. Two of them require a challenging
hike to reach, but Lower Joffre Lake is just minutes from Hwy 99 at the
Joffre Lakes Provincial Recreation Area trailhead. Not many visitors make
the effort to carry a small boat through the forest to the lake, but those who
do are treated to the finest landscape surrounding any lake in the region. Not
only is the lake fantastically coloured - shades of turquoise and aquamarine -
but it is also surmounted by the massive Joffre Glacier Group. On a clear day,
time seems suspended as you paddle here in absolute stillness.
The Lillooet and Birkenhead Rivers have been providing sport for whitewater kayakers
since the invention of fibreglass. The Lillooet can be treacherous, owing to the
numbers of submerged sweepers brought down into the river as a result of logging
and slope instability, particularly in the Meager Creek drainage. The Birkenhead
is much more predictable and also more pleasantly landscaped.
Lillooet River system runs for almost 120 miles (200 km) with Class II-III
water throughout. Runs include a 3-mile (5-km) stretch on the Upper Lillooet River
between the put-in at riverside on the Upper Lillooet Forest Road north of Pebble
Creek and the take-out beside the Meager Creek Forestry Road bridge. A lengthier
stretch of paddling runs for 9 miles (15 km) between the bridge and takeouts at
the km 23 or km 25 markers on the Upper Lillooet Road.
Birkenhead River provides more challenging Class III-IV kayaking in tighter
confines as the river runs for about 3 miles (5 km) between the narrow bridge
over the Birkenhead north of Owl Creek on the D'Arcy-Anderson Lake Road and another
bridge near Mount Currie on the road that leads to the Pemberton Sportsmen's Wildlife
Association fish hatchery. To find the takeout, turn east onto a gravel road on
the south side of the train tracks as the D'Arcy-Anderson Lake Road leaves Mount
are many terrific rivers for whitewater paddlers to play in around Lillooet,
and one of the very best is the Bridge River. Featuring Class III+, IV,
and V water, with easy portages around the headiest sections, the Bridge demands
that those who paddle here be advanced kayakers. The put-in is at the confluence
of the Yalakom and Bridge Rivers north of Lillooet, from where it's a 16-mile
(26-km) ride to the Fraser River. The Bridge offers everything an expert paddler
can hope to find: fast water, raging rapids, hair-raising drop-offs, and challenging