Vancouver Outdoors

Paddling
  |  Gorp.com
Kayaking at Indian Arm, BC
Kayaking at Indian Arm (Photo courtesy of Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre)

Sea Kayaking

Like Seattle to the south, Vancouver is a city that is set right in the water, and paddling will give you a loon's eye view of its harbors and inlets. For a major port, the city offers relatively clear and clean waters, and the outlying fjords, such as Howe Sound and Indian Arm, are magnificent.

In the city, you can rent a kayak or canoe year-round from Ecomarine Ocean Kayak on Granville Island—in the summer they also rent from Jericho Beach. The area around English Bay and the calm waters of False Creek provide an easy urban paddling break for Vancouverites, cheek-by-jowl with both wildlife and industry, and offers, as a bonus, an opportunity for breakfast or lunch at any of the excellent eateries of Granville Island.

Further east is Indian Arm, an 18-mile glacial fjord extending to the northeast from Burrard Inlet, which takes the adventurous paddler into the mountains of the Coast Range, past harbor seals and waterfowl, waterfalls, and old-growth forest of Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar. Put in from Deep Cove, in the easternmost part of North Vancouver, and, whether you're going for a short paddle or a weekend camping trip, you'll very quickly find yourself in the wilderness. Bob Putnam, manager of the Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre, says, "We're fifteen minutes from downtown Vancouver, but as soon as you leave the cove you'd think you were in the Queen Charlotte Islands. It's wilderness, and the mountains come right down to the water." Twin Island Provincial Park is a marine park in Bedwell Bay on the eastern side of the fjord: two low, rocky, lightly forested islands, with small beaches and wilderness camping on Big Twin Island. There is no camping on Racoon Island or Little Twin. Round-trip from Deep Cove takes about three hours of easy paddling.

To the west, Howe Sound is a classic coastal paddling experience, with soaring mountains on one side and seal colonies relaxing among the islands on the other.

From West Vancouver, in calm weather, you can paddle across Howe Sound to Bowen Island, where you'll find Crippen Regional Park, a medium-sized preserve with good day hikes and beautiful Killarney Lake. Other recommended excursions are routes along Gambier Island and Anvil Island in the northern half of the Sound. Launches for these trips are at Porteau Cove and Port Mellon. To get the most out of any Howe Sound experience, plan on an overnight trip. Many campsites are available on the larger and smaller islands here. Generally, Howe Sound paddles are easy and okay for beginners.

Further from the city, the inlets of Vancouver Island await to the west. The hundreds of Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia are also great for getting lost in. For paddlers who want to enjoy particular paddling destinations in the Strait—places like Sunshine Coast, Jervis Inlet, or Desolation Sound—but don't have time to kayak or canoe all the way from Vancouver, the Horshoe Bay ferry (just north of the city on Highway 99) offers service to many points in the Strait of Georgia, as well as on Vancouver Island.

Whitewater/Freshwater

Runoff from Vancouver's mountainous watershed boils through its canyons all winter, so that most of the area's rivers can be run all year, though they get a bit low in August. According to local author Charles Montgomery, "snowmelt makes springtime flows particularly wild."

The Capilano River is known for its suspension bridge, spawning salmon, and temperate rainforest scenery. During the winter, it also rages for expert whitewater paddlers, while in the summer it's a perfect introduction for novices. The Capilano is rated at a Class III. The Coquitlam also has some good rapids; the river lies east of Port Moody and passes through sections of residential Vancouver on the way its mouth along the Fraser River. The Coquitlam also passes through Coquitlam River Park, which features walking trails through old growth forest.

The Seymour River, which enters Burrard Inlet at the Second Narrows Bridge, is a good run within city limits. In the lowest three miles, beginners can navigate rock gardens while drifting past quiet neighborhoods. The Seymour is a Class I to Class II paddle. Also in the easy float caption is much of the Fraser River, the broad waterway that divides central Vancouver from the city's southern section.

North of the city, the Squamish River runs from the mountains just west of Whistler out to Howe Sound. As it travels through ancient British Columbia wilderness, the upper Squamish poses a major challenge, with Class IV rapids and unpredictable character. The lower Squamish mellows out into a Class I+ to Class II run except during floods, when it can be dangerous.

A little less than an hour east of Vancouver on Highway 1, the Chilliwack River south of Chilliwack draws whitewater fanatics from all over. The upper Chilliwack runs from Class II+ to Class IV, with six miles separating the Slesse Creek put-in and the Tamihi Bridge take-out and some great rapids in between. The lower section, between Pointa Vista and Vedder Crossing, is an easier Class II.

The Powell Forest Canoe Route is a 35-mile-long circuit (plus 5 miles of portage) that takes you through eight lakes strung across the coastal temperate rainforest for which the province is famous. The put-in at Lois Lake lies an hour-and-a-half northwest of Vancouver off of Sunshine Coast Highway 101. The length of the paddle makes it a challenge for anyone; the density of the forest will also test your camping skills. The full circuit includes Lakes Lois, Horseshoe, Nanton, Ireland, Dodd, Windsor, Goat, and Powell.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Vancouver

$237-$272
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#1
L'Hermitage
$306-$427
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#2
Fairmont Pacific Rim
$189-$293
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#3
Pan Pacific Vancouver
$261
Average/night*
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  
    •  

#4
Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver

advertisement

Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »