The Lakes

Sea Kayak Powell River, Harwood Island and the Powell
Forest Canoe Route on the West Coast of British Columbia,

Powell River

Powell River acts as an excellent starting point to many adventures. Our most popular destinations are either north, south or west of Powell River. There are, however, some very interesting paddling opportunities near Powell River itself.

Those with little time but looking to put on a few miles in a kayak may want to check out the old floating warships right in front of Powell River. These hulking, concrete ships were used during WWI and WWII and have been since used as a floating breakwater for the mills log dump. Paddling up to these huge ships provides a humbling and intriguing look at the past. An added bonus in the spring is the addition of sea lions. Every year, without fail, a combination of over 50 California and Stellar sea lions haul out on the logs to fatten up before heading off to the rookeries. Please remember, when viewing sea lions, if you get so close as to cause them to flee to the water - you're too close! Besides, their immense size may cause you to gladly keep your distance.

Harwood Island

An excellent day paddle option near Powell River is to circumnavigate Harwood Island. This culturally significant island is viewed directly across from Powell River and provides a wonderful experience that includes interesting geology, beautiful sandy beaches and lively marine gardens. One can launch from either Powell River or from Gibsons Beach - about a 10 minute drive north of town. Harwood Island is uninhabited and is also a Sliammon First Nation reservation.

Experienced paddlers may paddle the 12 mile circumnavigation in a day. All paddlers should keep a close eye and ear to the weather as this destination has excellent exposure to the Straight of Georgia.

Powell Forest Canoe Route and The Lakes

Many visitors are attracted to Powell River's magnificent ocean frontage - and for good reason. However, if you were to take the ocean away, the amazing system of freshwater lakes behind Powell River would be an attraction in itself!

With over 20 lakes behind Powell River's varied backcountry setting, the experiences are seemingly endless. The diversity is awesome. For example, the fjord of Powell Lake cuts for over 30 miles into mountains which rise as much as 7000 feet out of the water. To provide another perspective on the size of this lake, there is an island further up the lake called Goat Island. This island has a lake on it - big enough to land a float plane! On the other side of the scale is Duck Lake. As with many of the lakes behind Powell River, Duck Lake is connected to several other lakes via channels of water that are shrouded in brush and rainforest. Duck Lake is tiny compared to Powell Lake and instead of steep mountains, the experience is more of bull rushes, birds and beavers as you paddle into the channels of water connecting other nearby lakes.

The Powell Forest Canoe Route is one way to experience the diversity of the lakes behind Powell River. This semi-circle route connects a total of 12 lakes through well-built portage trails. Small wooden bridges provide easy crossings of creeks and swampy ground. Canoe resting racks are spaced conveniently at approximately 4 to 5 minute intervals.

Here are a few other considerations:

  • There are 20 campsites located along the route with most of them only accessible by foot.
  • The total paddling distance is approximately 57 km.
  • Many side trips can increase the total distance (up to 150 km).
  • The total distance of the portages is 8 km.
  • The route can be done in parts since all the major lakes have road access.
  • The starting point for the route is at Lois Lake - approximately 20 km south of Powell River and then another 7 km into the backcountry along Canoe Route Main and then Branch 41 road. (follow the signs).
  • Logging roads mean logging trucks - don't just head out onto a logging road without first inquiring into safe access. Call 604-485-3132 for more info.

If you are into freshwater fishing - fly fishing, trolling...whatever it may be, then this is an undiscovered paradise. In an area where salmon fishing dominates the fishing scene, those who prefer a more peaceful experience of quiet lakes shrouded in thick rainforest will be pleasantly surprised. The local lakes team with Cutthroat and Rainbow trout as well as Kokanee salmon. While boats ply the saltier waters in a vain search for the elusive salmon, the freshwater fisherman will be busy landing 4 and 5 pound trout.

Most of the lakes are quite accessible - either by vehicle or sometimes on foot along a short path. For those looking for a very unique and great experience, choose one of the more "hidden" lakes and portage a small kayak or float tube onto the lake. You will no doubt be the only one there and perhaps one of the few to experience your hidden gem.