One of the greatest natural shows in British Columbia occurs twice daily in Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park in Egmont at the north end of the Sechelt Peninsula on the Sunshine Coast.
One of the largest saltwater rapids on Canada’s west coast, Skookumchuk Rapids boil as huge volumes of water force their way through Skookumchuck Narrows.
A 4-km walking trail leads from the outskirts of Egmont to viewing sites at North Point and Roland Point. This is an easygoing ramble without much diversion except where it skirts Brown Lake. Depending on the motion of the ocean, viewing is at North Point during a falling tide and at Roland Point on a flood tide. The two points are separated by a short distance only. At low tide, the bays around both points display astonishingly colourful and varied forms of marine life.
From the two viewing areas in the 40-hectare Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, you will witness the awesome power of the incredibly turbulent tidal rapids. The word Skookumchuck means “strong water” or “turbulent water” in Chinook. The rapids are fascinating to watch at the change of tide as the flow of saltwater switches, reversing the direction and power of the rapids. The flow of the Skookumchuck Rapids can reach up to 14 knots in spring and summer. On a 3-metre tide, 200 billion gallons of water flow through the narrows connecting the Sechelt and Jervis Inlets.
In order to fully appreciate this natural phenomenon, visitors should plan their outing to coincide with the change in tides. The most dramatic motion, when billions of gallons of water are sucked into cavernous whirlpools and whipped up into standing waves, occurs an hour after slack tide when the ocean is rising. Best viewing times are posted at the beginning of the trail, on BC Ferries and at Visitor Centres along the Sunshine Coast.
At low tide, the bays around both points display astonishingly colourful and varied forms of marine life. Giant barnacles, colonies of starfish, sea urchins, and sea anemones thrive in the nutrient-rich waters, whose strong tidal currents deter predators and enable the resident creatures to grow to extravagant sizes.
The hiking trails are well maintained, wide and comfortable to walk – a pleasant outing enhanced by the moving display by Mother Nature. The round trip hike from the parking lot at Egmont to the rapids is 1.5 to 2 hours (8 kms). There are public toilets at both ends of the trail.
Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park is located at the north end of the Sechelt Peninsula on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. From Madeira Park travel 20 minutes north on the Sunshine Coast Highway 101 toward Earls Cove. Take the Egmont Road to the Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park parking lot, located just before the community of Egmont.
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