If you’re looking to rent kayaks and equipment this summer for your Desolation Sound adventure, it is important that you and every member of your group is familiar with - at the very least - introductory level safety requirements.

This includes self- and assisted-rescues, launching and landing techniques, and basic navigational awareness such as reading charts, understanding tides and current tables, and having access to reliable marine weather reports at every stage of your journey. 

Even in the relatively protected waters of Desolation Sound, dangerous paddling conditions can come up suddenly and without warning, putting yourself, your friends and your family at sudden risk of capsize. 

The following videos have been created by Powell River Sea Kayak staff to help illustrate important rescue techniques and considerations. Please note that watching these videos is merely designed to be a theoretical exercise, and a formal lesson in capsize/re-entry is highly recommended for all rental guests.






There are many opportunities for sea kayak lessons in most urban centres in British Columbia, Alberta and Washington State. It may also be possible to book a lesson with Powell River Sea Kayak before you set off, depending on guide and instructor availability. Please visit our lessons page for information.

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In 2013 the sea star population along the entire Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska collapsed. 

Species from the ubiquitous purple ochre star to the 24-armed predatory sunflower star and many in between quite literally disintegrated from the inside out. The mysterious epidemic has since been called ‘Sea Star Wasting Syndrome’ by biologists frantically trying to understand the disease, its causes, and its potential long-term consequences for these keystone species of the intertidal zone.

In certain areas, especially from Washington State south to California, sea stars vanished almost entirely from the ecosystem.

In British Columbia, and Desolation Sound specifically, we saw a huge decline in numbers of sea stars as well, though perhaps not to the same degree. 

The numbers of pink and purple ochre stars that were often found in huge numbers clinging to the rocks and cliffs of the intertidal fell drastically, but never completely disappeared from the landscape. 

Leather stars and vermillion stars - both of which were similarly decimated south of the border - continued to be present in Desolation Sound, and the leather stars even appeared to have usurped the purple stars as the most abundant echinoderm in some areas.

However, the sunflower star - the largest sea star in the world and one that preys mercilessly on other sea stars - as well as sea cucumbers and various nudibranchs - almost disappeared completely. In the three years from 2014-2016 not one sunflower star was reported by our guides in the Desolation Sound area.

After much debate, researchers now believe that unusually warm sea temperatures off the west coast made the sea stars particularly vulnerable to a virus that has been affecting the invertebrates in much lesser numbers for decades. The result, mass die off.

Five years on, how are things looking now?

Anecdotally, sea star numbers in Desolation Sound seem to be on the rise.

Clumps of ochre stars look to be expanding, and the number of visibly diseased and dying purple stars are much reduced. At the height of the epidemic whole swathes of the species could be seen disintegrating at a time, today you are far more likely to see colonies of healthy, strong ochres clinging valiantly to the rocky coast.

Research is also concluding that the worst of the die-off may have passed.

While numbers are not anywhere near their height of pre-2013, in most areas up and down the west coast populations are rebounding slowly.

This is incredibly important not just for the species itself, but for the entire intertidal ecosystem. Ochre stars are known as a ‘keystone species’, one which has a disproportionate effect on other organisms within the system. In areas that the ochre star has vanished completely, blue mussels - the ochre stars main food source - have taken over all the available real estate and crowded out most other species in the mid-intertidal. When ochre stars are present, they can keep the mussels at bay, and other species - from snails to limpets to habitat providing algae - can thrive.

There have even been sightings on our Desolation Sound Tours of juvenile sunflower stars, which goes to show the incredible resilience of a natural species, even in the face of catastrophic hardships.

We look forward to seeing more and more of all species of sea stars in a balanced marine ecosystem in years to come!

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While Powell River is fast gaining a reputation as being an outdoor adventure seeker’s paradise, there are other sides to the town’s renaissance in recent years that all visitors to this beautiful region should embrace and discover. In this edition we look at the arts and festivals on the northern Sunshine Coast that come alive during the summer.


Powell River is home to a large community of musicians and artisans - which should not be all that surprising when you consider the laid back vibe and natural beauty that surrounds the area year round.

Take a stroll up the shopping district of Marine Avenue before or after a meal at one of the town’s fine restaurants and hop into one of many of the area’s galleries, boutique clothing shops and used book stores.

Stores to look for include Artique - an artist’s cooperative that showcases the artwork of dozens of local artists - and Thick, a local clothing store with a huge reputation that stocks items bearing the artwork of a local screen-printer that showcases the Powell River area’s best natural assets and adventures.

The cafes of Basecamp, 32 Lakes and River City Coffee are also great places to view the work of Powell River artists while you sit an enjoy a fresh cup of locally roasted coffee!


Summer time on the Sunshine Coast is a time to celebrate - so it is no surprise that the cultural and music festivals in the Powell River area are incredibly numerous and popular!

  • The Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA) is held every June in Powell River, designed to prepare young musicians from all over the world for a career in music performance. Young and talented musicians are billeted in Powell River over 2 weeks and perform a number of concerts and performances for the public, culminating on opening night with the ‘Celebration of the Senses’ at Willingdon Beach.
  • International Choral Kathaumixw is a biannual event in which 1200 international singers, conductors and choir members descend on Powell River for a five day choral festival. Concerts, vocal competitions , conductor’s seminars and social events take place all over town.
  • The Blackberry Street Festival celebrates the ubiquitous and delectable blackberry, which grows wild and in abundance in Powell River during the summer months. This all culminates with a street party on the Friday night in which all kinds of blackberry themed foods, desserts and drinks are available.
  • The Sunshine Music Festival occurs every year on the Labour Day long weekend at Palm Beach, 15 minutes south of Powell River, with a focus on local Canadian musicians in a kid friendly atmosphere. The beach side setting is a beautiful place to enjoy great Canadian music as well as artesian markets, food vendors, and more.
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The many experiences of Cabana Desolation Eco Resort have been written about and covered on our website - kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, or simply ‘Chill & Immerse’ in Desolation Sound away from the cares and worries of city life.

However there are a few ‘outside the box’ adventures that - to the best of our knowledge - have yet to be fully explored by guests out at our island eco resort. 

Therefore, we’ve put our thinking caps on and dreamed up the 3 Best Experiences that Cabana guests could have, but are yet to happen:

1/ Climb Station Island

Station Island lies right off-shore from the Cabana Point, and is a common and popular destination for paddle boards and snorkelers. 

The island rises sharply out of the ocean into a steep dome with a gently rounded top. Eagles are often perched high up in trees on the bluffs looking out over the water. Seals lie in the sun on the shore, perched sometimes inelegantly on the rocky cliffs above the sea.

However, there is at least one clear path that we have determined to the top of the island, and we can only assume that the view upon reaching the summit would be well worth the strenuous summer hike up there!



2/ Snorkel Beneath the Southern Cliffs

The Cabana Point and the cliffs beneath Station Island are perhaps the two most convenient and popular places for guests to snorkel when staying at Cabana Desolation. Both are located close to the resort and offer easy access for snorkelers to view all manner of intertidal life such as sea stars, sea cucumbers, urchins, chitons and aggregating green anemones.

However, perhaps the best snorkeling found in the entire Desolation Sound area is found beneath the cliffs on the south western shore of Kinghorn Island. At low tides this environment is home to all the above mentioned creatures, as well as huge colonies of giant plumose sea anemones, leather and vermillion sea stars, and even the occasional nudibranch grazing beneath the weeds!

These cliffs can be accessed by kayak in about 15 minutes from Cabana Desolation and with a small amount of forethought and planning present an awesome potential half-day adventure. Pack your snorkel gear in the hatch of your kayak and paddle round to the cliffs, before jumping in and checking out the marine life right up and down the length of the cliff.

Paddle over with a friend and take turns minding the kayaks, or tie your boat to your ankle and take it with you as you explore. Getting back in is the fun part, and an opportunity to practice your self-rescue skills!

For the especially adventurous, taking a paddle board round instead of a kayak could turn the activity into a full-day expedition! Continue on your way after your snorkel by completing a circumnavigation of the island and discover eagle’s nests and curious seals before returning to the resort the long way.


3/ Paddle Board Amongst Magical Phosphorescent Plankton

A highlight of our Cabana Desolation packages in recent years has been the magical light-show that occurs in the ocean on the darkest of nights produced by minuscule phosphorescent plankton.

This phenomenon lights up the water when disturbed like stars in the night sky, and often surprises Cabana guests with its abundance and brightness. 

The bravest souls take the opportunity to don a wetsuit and swim amongst the lights, yet a fantastic way to experience this wonderful event without the need for submersion in the middle of the night is to grab a paddle board and hit the water!

Every stroke of the paddle emits a sharp burst of light, while a trail of stars are left in your wake. If you’re lucky, a seal may swim beneath you, its body illuminated in the depths below!

Desolation Sound is full of intriguing history, rich in culture, and breathtakingly beautiful. 

Naturally there has been many words written about it, from George Vancouver’s 1792 journal to more modern accounts of hippies and draft dodgers. Then, of course, you have the deep well of oral myth, history and belief handed down by generation after generation of indigenous Canadians over thousands of years.

For those guests of ours that like to read up about a destination before they travel, or even during while traveling itself, here is our list of the top 3 books written about Desolation Sound to pack neatly into your dry bag and bring on your kayak adventure.

1. Adventures in Solitude: or What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck by Grant Lawrence
In the 1970’s, a Vancouver based property developer named Lawrence bought a large parcel of land adjacent to Grace Harbour in Okeover Inlet with the intention of subdividing the land and selling pieces of paradise to nature-starved city dwellers, making a tidy profit in the process.
In reality, it proved more difficult to move the raw land than he thought, and while the sales did start to happen, the clientele that moved in and settled next to the Lawrence family cabin were a little less straight edged than initially desired.

What followed - especially for Lawrence’s son Grant, the author of the tale and current anchor on CBC radio - was a series of transformative life experiences that unfurled themselves every summer during family vacations to Desolation Sound. 

In a hilarious and rolling fashion, Grant tells the story of his progression from bright eyed young city boy learning to fish and survive in the woods under the tutelage of his hippie philosopher teacher Russel, to a reluctant and dismissive young musician that had little time for the outdoors. 

Finally, the tales come full circle during adulthood, and Grant rediscovers his love for Desolation Sound and the Canadian wilderness, returning to his family cabin and his eclectic neighbours again each summer with old friends and a new family of his own.

Adventures in Solitude is a fairly quick read that links a lot of old history in the area, from Vancouver’s voyage to tales of hippie communes and draft dodging Americans, with outright hilarious personal tales of his own adventures in his summer paradise in Desolation Sound.
2. Desolation Sound: A History by Heather Harbord
This one is for the history buffs. 
Heather Harbord’s exhaustive history of Desolation Sound and the surrounding inlets, islands and passages covers everything from indigenous settlers and their culture through to European discovery and the present day.

Each chapter focuses on a specific area of Desolation Sound, meaning that you can bring the book with you and use it as a reference material, flicking the pages to learn about the history of each place you paddle during your trip. 

And what a history! Learn about the most famous residents of the Sound, such as Joe Copeland at Portage Cove, the old Confederate Army colonel that used to meet the Union Steamship when it made its rounds playing the bugle and decked out in his complete army uniform, or Phil Lavigne in Prideaux Haven, who moved to the area in the early 20th Century after having “supposedly killed a man” back in Quebec, and lived there until his death in 1946.

The later chapters touch on the newcomers to the area in the last few decades, focusing on the Okeover and Malapina Inlets where our office and base of operations is located. While nowadays the residents are mostly retirees or oyster farmers, Penrose Bay was once the homestead of Nancy Crowther, the famous Cougar Queen of Okeover Inlet, who is said to have shot over 20 cougars in her lifetime protecting her livestock and way of life before modern times!

3. The Curve of Time by M. Wylie (Capi) Blanchett
This British Columbia classic is one of the most famous and beautifully written accounts of life on the BC coast in the years of the first half of the 20th Century.

Moving to Vancouver Island in the 1920’s from Quebec, Capi found herself a widow with 5 children when her husband died tragically in a boating accident. 

Instead of packing it in and returning to Quebec, Capi instead embraced the wild west coast, taking her young family each summer on extended sailing trips up and down the coast in their 25 foot boat. She chronicled their adventures in a series of intensely beautiful vignettes that eventually came together to form The Curve of Time. 

The tales that Capi tells, from adventures over a period of some 15 years, all blend together into a timeless and almost dream-like story that draws the reader right into the landscape and the personalities of the time. You really get the sense of adventure that this young family lived each summer, from the concerns and cares of the mother to the wide eyed delight of the children at discovering for themselves the unique and wonderful nature of coastal British Columbia.

While the stories in The Curve of Time take place up and down the inside of Vancouver Island and into the remote Central Coast, much of the adventure occurs in an around Desolation Sound and the Strait of Georgia. The family meets old Phil Lavigne in Prideaux Haven, searches for seahorses in the Salish Sea, and experiences haunting visions at abandoned cabins on Quadra Island to the north.

The Curve of Time is a must read for anyone visiting Desolation Sound, and for indeed for anyone interested in life on the British Columbia coast back when it was still regarded by the rest of the country as the ‘wild west’.



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Cabana Desolation is located in the heart of Desolation Sound - and for most paddlers, the vast majority of the area’s features, lakes and hikes are accessible on day trips from the resort.

One destination in the Sound that is accessible to just about everyone, however, is the funky, historic boardwalk village of Refuge Cove. 

The village is found on West Redonda Island, comfortably within an hour’s paddle of the beach on Kinghorn Island, and many of our guests - both guided and unguided - choose to spend a relaxing half or full day exploring the unique and charming community.

First settled in 1913, the hamlet became a popular settlement and a school opened the following year, quickly followed by a general store and post office, thus making refuge Cove the social and commercial hub of Desolation Sound.

Settlers would sell fruits and vegetables through the store to the marine traffic that plied the route up and down Lewis Channel, transporting loggers, cannery employees and the mail service, among other things, up and down the BC coast.

Socially, in the 1950s the cove had a population of over 50 people living on float houses, boats, barges and cottages on the shore, and on Saturday nights people would flock to Refuge Cove from other corners of Desolation Sound for dances and social gatherings.

All this changed in 1958 however, when the dynamiting of ‘Ripple Rock’ off Campbell River (with the largest non-nuclear explosion in the world at the time) made Discovery Passage the preferred route for traffic. By 1971, the population of Refuge Cove was just six people.

Today, Refuge Cove has undergone a renaissance of sorts, and the summer months bring in all manner of tourists in the sailboats, yachts and kayaks. The store does a roaring trade, as does a coffee shop, bookstore, and gallery with gift shop that showcases the work of local artisans and artists. 

Standing on the boardwalk and closing your eyes, you can feel yourself stepping back in time to the heyday of Refuge Cove, rubbing shoulders with burly gyppo loggers, fishermen, hippies and draft dodgers before the old way of doing things slowly changed and the modern world started creeping in.

And being just a short paddle from Cabana Desolation, Refuge Cove is a great opportunity for our resort guests to experience not just the physical beauty of Desolation Sound and the BC coast, but also get a feeling for some local history and culture of this fascinating landscape.

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While the majority of our multi-day tours are 4 or 5 days in length - giving our guests a nice balance between an active and a relaxing kayak vacation - we often get asked as guides what lies beyond Desolation Sound, down the passages and waterways that lead north right into the heart of the Coast Mountains.

Inevitably the conversation turns to whether we run guided trips into these remote regions, and what these trips entail compared to the 4 and 5 day offerings that are so enjoyed by our guests year after year.

The answer, of course, is that we do run longer trips ‘into the mountains’, and our guests - and our guides - love them! 

The Desolation, Mountains & Islands Loop is a 7 day, all-inclusive guided camping tour that starts and ends in Okeover Inlet, passes through Desolation Sound, and loops around the massive landmasses of the Redonda Islands immediately to the north, paddling through such remote and enticing areas such as Homfray Channel, Pryce Channel, and the enchanting turquoise waters of Toba Inlet.


From Desolation Sound the tour moves on into Homfray Channel, right in the shadow of the towering Coastal Mountain range. Our camp in this area is often right beneath the iconic Mount Denman itself - that unique, tooth-shaped peak that stands out so drastically in photos of Desolation Sound.

At this point, civilization has been left well behind, replaced by the remote and the wild. 7000 feet peaks rise almost straight up our of the deep, wide channel. The steep banks are clothed in thick, impenetrable rainforest that provides essential habitat to eagles, murrelets, deer and black bears. Water cascades down rugged valleys and spills into the ocean in a couple of wide, open bays that are perfect for camping - the only real places to pull out and rest in this rugged landscape.

Eventually, the water takes on a lighter, bluish hue and we approach the pinnacle of the tour - Toba Inlet. Here we are literally paddling right into the Coast Mountain range, underneath towering waterfalls that crash into the sea and pulling up for lunch on sandy beaches next to salmon bearing streams that feed a healthy population of Grizzly Bears in the spring and the fall - even the possibility of viewing one of these magnificent creatures from a kayak is enough to send a chill up the spine!

We return to Desolation down either Waddington or Lewis Channel, each of which provides unique, rarely experienced paddling for novice kayakers.



What to Expect?

Compared to our 4 and 5 day Desolation Sound Tours, these trips are obviously more remote in nature. 

We break camp almost every day - though we do usually plan one base camp at the mouth of Toba Inlet so we can explore the waterfall and the Brem River in one day, weather and group dynamic can always lead to changes in plan for the safety of the group.

Total paddling time per day is again more than our Desolation tours, but not by a huge amount. While our Desolation Sound tours will usually average around 4 hours of paddling time each day (not including a break for lunch), our Mountains tours are more likely to run to somewhere between 5 and 6 hours of paddling between camps. As before, the days are usually broken into two sections with lunch in between.

Finally, though not a hard and fast rule, the Mountains tours tend to have more of a ‘group effort’ kind of feel - with everyone pitching in to help where they can, be it moving boats, hauling gear, setting up camp and even helping your tireless guides was the dishes in the evening!

More Information

To read more about this exciting tour with Powell River Sea Kayak, check out the tour page on this website. 

In 2018 we are running three Desolation, Mountains & Islands Loop trips - minimum participants pending - over the long weekends at the beginning of July, August and September. To check availability and book now, head to our booking screen and select the dates that work best for you.

Finally, we are happy to answer any questions you may have about any of our tours, rentals and Eco Resort accommodations. Give us a call at 604-483-2160 and we will be more than happy to help!

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Our waterfront location on Penrose Bay in Okeover Inlet is a beautiful and historic place to launch for your sea kayak adventure.

Few people know - until they arrive - that the bay was originally homesteaded in the 1920s and was the home to one of the greatest personalities on the BC coast - Nancy Crowther, the Cougar Queen of Okeover Inlet.

Nancy’s family moved to Okeover when she was four years old, and after her parents died in the 1960s, Nancy continued to live on the property for more than four decades, alone, with only her goats and her dogs for company.

That she was a strong-willed survivor is obvious, however her fame grows from a far more astounding series of events - over the course of her life and in the protection of her livestock, Nancy Crowther shot and killed over 20 cougars on her property, the first of which she took down at only 13 years of age!

Despite her reputation, and her propensity to meet trespassers on her property down the barrel of her shotgun, Nancy was a kindhearted and immensely intriguing individual that came to epitomize the modern day view of a self-sustaining, early 20th century homesteader on the BC coast.

The original cabin still stands on the property, lovingly preserved by Adam and Laurie Vallance, the owners of Powell River Sea Kayak, and the original orchard from Nancy’s days still produces various kinds of fruit, from apples to crabapples to pears, that are turned into jams and preserves and used on our kayak tours and at our eco resort in Desolation Sound!

Currently, Grant Lawrence at CBC radio (author of the best-selling Desolation Sound based ‘Adventures in Solitude’) is producing a series of short podcasts about Nancy Crowther called ‘The Cougar Lady Chronicles’ and presenting the stories each weekend on North by Northwest.

The chronicles are each about 5-10 minutes in length and relate stories about Nancy taken from first person accounts, old letters and archives, local myths and legends, and the memory of Grant himself, who met Nancy and her dogs, goats and shotgun at eight years of age as his family attempted to launch their rowboat into Okeover Inlet from her property without her permission.

To listen to Part 3 of the series, follow this link. The chronicles begin at 1:47:50 in the audio. To listen to past instalments click the link to North by Northwest at the top of the page to be taken to an episode index, and be sure to follow along in the future for further tales of Nancy Crowther and the cougars of Okeover Inlet!

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In previous editions of this blog we've focused on some awesome destinations in Desolation Sound for kayaking - including the Best 5 Day Kayaking Route and the Top 3 Freshwater Lakes in Desolation Sound.

However, there are always those that look beyond the boundaries of the Sound, down the passages that lead into the mountains and wonder … what’s down there?!

Therefore, today we are going to introduce an incredible ‘destination less traveled’ that can be accessed through Desolation Sound for our rental guests that want to truly get away from it all and experience the immense, raw beauty of the mainland fjords and coastal mountains of British Columbia: Toba Inlet.

As you paddle north from the Curme Islands and Prideaux haven in Desolation Sound you enter long, deep Homfray Channel, which bisects East Redonda Island and Mount Addenbroke on the west and the mountainous mainland on the east. 

Here, civilization is left behind and replaced with the remote and the truly wild. Granite cliffs rise straight out of the ocean and lead to icy peaks thousands of feet above. Dotted amongst the cliffs, the occasional pebble beach is flanked by the seemingly impenetrable rainforest. 

Waterfalls, lakes, mountain peaks, thick forest, protected bays, sandy beaches and salmon-bearing rivers are the ecosystems that provide habitat for all manner of wildlife up here: from eagles in the tallest trees, to seals and sea lions perched on rocky points, to deer and bears roaming the woods, to orcas, dolphins and porpoises exploring the ocean world below.


The jewel of this area, of course, is Toba Inlet. Paddling in the turquoise blue water, flanked on either side by peaks of over 7500 feet, literally cutting right into the mountain range you have been skirting for the last couple of days, is a thrilling experience. From the peaks, colossal waterfalls crash with tremendous force into the sea and send their spray out over the inlet. 

There are few places to camp here, and some planning is required. The sandy beach and wide bay at the Brem River is a stunning and remote spot, but is prime grizzly bear territory, and so most paddlers opt to make a base camp somewhere close to the mouth of the inlet, such as at Walsh Cove, and then day trip into Brem Bay, past the largest of the Toba waterfalls, and lunching there before returning to their safe (bear-free) camp in the afternoon.

Returning to Desolation Sound and Okeover Inlet, kayakers can choose to paddle down either Waddington or Lewis Channels, checking out other, remote destinations not usually experienced by Desolation Sound paddlers such as Pendrell Sound and Teakerne Arm.

All in all, a typical group will require about 7 days to complete a loop to Toba Inlet and back from Okeover Inlet. It goes without saying of course that when paddling in remote areas, paddlers need to have the required level of knowledge and experience, including competent rescue and self-rescue techniques, the ability to read charts, tides and the weather (including using a VHF radio) and have multiple options available for contacting the front country should something go wrong.

However, with proper planning and vigilance, a trip to this incredible and humbling destination is an incredible experience for intermediate and advanced kayakers that are always on the lookout for more adventure!

For those who are intrigued by the thought of paddling in this remote area but are concerned that they do not have the required knowledge or experience, Powell River Sea Kayak runs all-inclusive 7-day kayak camping tours into Toba Inlet and looping around the Redonda Islands. Check it out and get excited!

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For the uninitiated, it’s easy to confuse the two kinds of otter we have here on the west coast: the river otter, and the sea otter. They’re a similar size, they look somewhat similar, and both are found in the ocean (though the river otter spends more time on land, sea otters almost never leave the water).

Not so much in the Strait of Georgia, however, where we sea otters haven’t been spotted (bar a couple of sightings off the coast of Victoria) in over 100 years. Ergo, every otter sighting must be a river otter.

That is until this past June, when whispers of sea otter sightings off Mittlenatch Island and the southern reefs of Cortes Island starting making their way to our ears.



But first, some history…

You see, the sea otter trade on the west coast, like the beaver trade in the interior of Canada, was one of this country’s first instances of mass resource extraction. Sea otter pelts contain an incredible 1 million hairs per square inch, which made them incredibly attractive, and profitable, to European traders - great for them, bad for the otters. 

First Nations peoples up and down the coast would trap the otters and sell the pelts to the traders, often for minuscule reparations, and in turn the Europeans would return to Europe with the pelts or sell them to Asian markets across the Pacific for incredible sums of money at the time.

By 1930, the sea otter had almost been extinguished from Alaska to California, and had been completely extirpated from BC waters. In 1788, when Captain Cook first bought pelts from natives in Nootka Sound, it is estimated that their population just on the west coast of Vancouver Island was around 300 000.

While sea otters were never as abundant inside Vancouver Island compared to the outside coast, one primary source that attests to their being here during earlier times is the log from Captain Vancouver’s naturalist Archibald Menzies, made during Vancouver’s voyage of 1792 through these waters in an attempt to find the North West Passage. 

Menzies remarked on multiple occasions that the sea otters they encountered both in the ocean and hanging as pelts around First Nations camps were fewer and inferior to those found on the outer coast - but that they did exist - and his account mentions them with more and more frequency as the voyage entered the Johnstone Strait and reemerged into the Pacific Ocean via what we now call Queen Charlotte Strait.

Understanding, as we do know, the incredibly important role the sea otter, as a ‘keystone species’, plays in the greater west coast pacific ecosystem, 89 sea otters were reintroduced to the waters off Vancouver Island between 1969 and 1972 from a population that had survived in Alaska.

And over the last 45 years, this small colony of otters has grown to repopulate much of its previous range in British Columbia, with numbers in 2008 on Vancouver Island alone of more than 5000 otters!

However, none have returned to the inside waters of the Salish Sea.




Until… now?

The ‘Wild Ocean Whales Society’ publishes a weekly update of whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings in the Salish Sea (click here to check them out, we recommend it) - and in July 2017 we noticed some very interesting sighting information: sea otters were being observed, by multiple parties, just off Cortes Island!

This is very exciting for us here in Desolation Sound, with these sightings occurring in very close proximity to where we operate our kayak tours in the greater Desolation Sound area! The potential, continual presence of sea otters in the area definitely bodes well for the species in the Salish Sea in the future.

And why not?

With a diet that heavily includes sea urchin, we’ve often said that it can’t be a lack of food that has kept the sea otters from repopulating these waters. The warmer climate and water temperature may have played a role in the slow return and the smaller historical population of these incredible marine mammals (1 million hairs a square inch, remember?) but perhaps the lure of an easy meal is pulling a few of the more adventurous otters towards new feeding grounds.

Either way, we’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on developments of these reports going into next season!

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