Thanks to all who followed this series. For new viewers, you can start touring the Sunshine Coast,
British Columbia, Inlets from the beginning HERE.
I have now started another photographic tour that you can follow at:
From Agamemnon Channel we turn about and head home, slipping safely through the Skookumchuck Rapids, winding down Sechelt Inlet to Porpoise Bay and the Lighthouse Marina. This is the end of the tour and I’ll leave you with a few more photographs.
Thanks for participating and following along. I’ll soon be starting another blog a little closer to home – a photographic tour of our acreage. I’ll post the information here once I’ve started it.
Thanks again – Ken
Travelling 28 miles (45 km) south from Deserted Bay, passing more majestic scenery, brings us back to the ‘intersection’ of Jervis Inlet, Sechelt Inlet and Agamemnon Channel. There are just a couple of stops to see in Agamemnon Channel before returning home to Sechelt Inlet.
Agamemnon Channel is a 9.95 mile (16 km) narrow channel separating Nelson Island from the mainland. At the southern end it opens out into Malaspina Strait which lies between Nelson Island and Texada Island. Because of it’s narrowness Agamemnon is affected by the tides and, while they aren’t a problem for power boats, kayakers may want to check the tide charts before passing through. It is a much easier paddle when going with the tide rather than fighting it.
At the northern end of Agamemnon, on the mainland side, is the BC Ferry Terminal at Earl’s Cove. From there you can take a ferry to Powell River, BC. Very near to the ferry terminal are a set of pictographs thought to be the oldest pictographs in all the inlets.
5 miles (8 km) south of the Earl’s Cove pictographs are another set found in a cave about 15 feet above sea level.
Continuing south out of Agamemnon there are other pictographs to be found in the area as this was a major gathering place for the shíshálh (Sechelt) in the winter months.
Once leaving Vancouver Bay you enter into Prince of Wales Reach. Again the steep mountains make a dramatic backdrop. Moorsam Bluff on the right rises sharply 4900 feet (1500 meters) from the ocean. On the left are slightly lower cliffs and about 4 miles north of Vancouver Bay are another set of pictographs.
When we planned our cruise up Jervis Inlet our intention was to take it slowly and explore the inlet thoroughly. We travelled very close to the shore which was easy to do because of the depth of the water, cruising at about 4 knots (4.6 mph) and poked into every bay and crevice. We were fortunate with the weather because all of the Reaches have very few places to anchor, especially if any wind is blowing. I had read in boating guides of a couple of lesser known spots and they worked out well, but only because of the calm weather.
One beautiful spot was just past McMurray Bay on the west side of Prince of Wales Reach, 3 miles (4.8 km) past the pictographs. McMurray Bay is a beautiful little spot with enough room for one boat and when we arrived there was a boat already anchored. I had read about two small bights (bays) just past McMurray. One was to be avoided because of lots of rocks but the other was suitable for anchoring in calm weather and that’s what we did. It was a beautiful spot with great views up and down Prince of Wales Reach.
From Granville Bay, heading east 5.6 miles (9.2 km) you arrive on the east side of the mouth of the reaches of Jervis Inlet. Heading north you enter the deepest fjord in British Columbia, measuring 2402 feet (732 meters) deep. Quite dramatic when you consider some of the walls of the fjord rise over 5900 feet (1800 meters) almost straight up out of the water. Like the other inlets in the area, Jervis Inlet was carved out by glaciers following ancient river valleys to the sea. It is made up of three arms or reaches – Prince of Wales Reach, Princess Royal Reach and Queen’s Reach. Each reach makes an almost right angle turn from one to the other.
Princess Louisa Reach is a side inlet off Queen’s Reach. At the end of Princess Louisa Reach is Chatterbox Falls, a popular tourist and boater’s destination. Near to Chatterbox Falls is James Bruce Falls, thought to be the highest waterfall in North America at 2755 feet (840 meters).
Heading north up the mouth of Jervis Inlet 7 miles (11.24 km) you will find another set of pictographs about 40 feet (12 meters) above the waterline. Another mile further is the entrance to Vancouver Bay. On the north side of the bay is Marlborough Peak, 5905 feet (1800 meters). Turning into the bay offers a beautiful view of Mount Churchill, 6562 feet (2000 meters) and the Vancouver River Valley.
Vancouver Bay was another seasonal village of the shíshálh’s (Sechelt’s) and was known as Skwákwee-em. As with other village sites in Jervis Inlet, Skwákwee-em was located where there was a good beach, a supply of fresh water and favourable conditions to be able sustain a village i.e food supply and flat, open space. In the 1860’s European settler’s started to move in and Catholic missionaries arrived to ‘improve’ the lives of the locals. Unfortunately, one of the first things they brought was a smallpox epidemic that wiped out 90% of the native population. By the 1881 census only 167 members still survived. It was thought it was best to gather the remaining members to one central location (Sechelt).
Father Paul Durieu converted the remaining band members to Catholicism and started the now controversial residential school system. In 1904 a residential school was built in Sechelt and native children were taken from their homes to attend. The children were only allowed to speak English (even to their parents) and weren’t allowed to go home. Parents could have a supervised visit only once a week for an hour or two. The school operated right up to the 1960’s. All traditional native artifacts were destroyed and native ceremonies were banned.
In the meantime, the new white arrivals realized the economical benefits of the old growth timber all along the inlet shore. Logging camps started up and the most logical sites were the Indian villages. In most cases the native habitations were razed and the camp was built over the site. Sympathetic attitudes towards native culture was sadly lacking during this period. I’ve read accounts of logging companies bulldozing and flattening 30 foot middens to build camp work yards. Skeletons and artifacts from native burial sites and villages were taken with little thought and sold or given to museums. This continued right up to 1960 when the British Columbia Archaeological & Historical Sites Act came into law.
In Vancouver Bay the first logging camp was started in 1889. By 1905 there was a narrow gauge railroad running up the Vancouver River Valley to haul out logs. Between 1926 and 1930 more than 700 men with their wives and children were living in Vancouver Bay. By 1980 the logging was done and the valley is quiet once more. Vancouver Bay is still part of the shíshálh (Sechelt) reserve system and in 1983 a native healing centre was started there.
Heading down the east side of Hotham Sound 4.7 miles (7.6 km) brings you to the Harmony Islands Marine Park. These are a cluster of four small islands, two privately owned and two belonging to the park. In the channel between the islands and the mainland there is plenty of room to anchor and stern tie to shore and it can be quite a busy place in the summer. The largest island has a grassy area for camping and it is a great place for kayaking, snorkeling and swimming. Towering over the islands is 4600 foot (1400 meter) Mount Calder. The park is a wonderful place to take in the vistas of Hotham Sound.
A mile south of The Harmonies is Friel Falls which plummets 1,475 feet (450 meters) down a sheer cliff onto the shore. Very dramatic, especially during the spring melt and after heavy rains.
Two miles (3.4 km) further south is Granville Bay, the site of a lovely old homestead dating back to 1898. This belonged to the Hollingsworth family. At one time there were extensive gardens and apparently Mrs. Hollingsworth would play piano and entertain the local loggers and miners in grand style. In recent year it had become an oyster farm but it was no longer working when we passed through.
In the main body of Jervis Inlet, heading north, you have the choice of going up Hotham Sound or the reaches of Jervis Inlet. When we did our initial cruise we headed to Hotham Sound first.
From the mouth of Hotham Sound to the end at Baker Bay is approximately 8 miles (12.8 km) and it is a quite sheltered, beautiful cruise. Coming around Syren Point you look right up the Sound to two bays at the end – Lena Bay is on the right and Baker Bay is to the left. It is a very dramatic sight with the Parker Mountain range towering 3600 feet (1100 meters) on the west side of Baker Bay. We anchored in Baker Bay which proved to be a bit tricky. Some books say that it is not advisable to anchor there because of poor holding conditions but I had read an account of an old timer on how he had done it and it worked for me after a couple of tries.
In 1912 a copper mine was started at 1500 feet above the bay. In three years, 330 feet of tunnel had been dug but not enough mineral was found to make it viable and the mine closed in 1916. There is a very overgrown road that heads toward the mine site but we never made it to the mine and I’m not sure if you can get to it.
We did explore the unusual dry river bed that runs up the valley. This was July and near the ocean a wide fan of rounded large river rock fanned out through the trees, quite a distance from the main river bed, indicating that large and powerful amounts of water carried the rocks there. However, when we walked the river bed we had to go up more than a mile before we found any water flowing at all and even then it was just a small stream. The only way to account for the size of the river bed is a heavy snow melt in the spring.
On the east side of Baker Bay is a wonderful lagoon, easily accessible by kayak. When the tide is low the water warms up and it is a great place to swim. The sheer towering cliff overlooking the lagoon makes an impressive backdrop.
After going through the Skookumchuck Narrows and passing the community of Egmont there is a ‘crossroads’ of inlets. Behind you is Sechelt Inlet, ahead is Jervis Inlet, to the left Agamemnon Channel and to the right Hotham Sound and the entrance to the reaches of Jervis Inlet.
When Captain Vancouver surveyed this area in June of 1792 he did so by a 25 foot rowboat launch and a crew of thirty. They had left his ship near what is now the US border and had rowed up the coastline, charting along the way. When Vancouver saw the entrance to Jervis Inlet he was hoping he had found the Northwest Passage. As exploration of the area began a strong rain and wind came up and they made a run up Jervis Inlet, ignoring Sechelt Inlet entirely. Finally, after rowing 40 miles (65 km) up the twisting inlet they reached the end and, much to Vancouver’s disappointment, he realized he hadn’t found the Northwest Passage.
Heading 4 miles (6.4 km ) north of the mouth of Narrows Inlet brings you to the Sechelt Rapids or as it is more commonly known, the Skookumchuck (Chinook for rough water) Narrows. Twice every day the tide rises and falls and the water in Sechelt, Narrows and Salmon Inlets either flows in or out of the narrow channel at the Sechelt Rapids. Eight small islets located in the channel make the passage even more restricted for both boats and water. At the narrowest point it is only about 400 feet (125 meters) wide and on a 9 foot tide change an estimated 200 billion gallons of water passes through the rapids creating dangerous standing waves and whirlpools. The water can attain speeds of up to 16 knots (18.4 mph, 37 km/h) and sometimes the difference between water levels on either side of the rapids can be 6.5 feet in height.
Needless to say, a great deal of caution is needed when traversing the rapids. It is necessary to know when slack tide (the brief period of calm between tide changes) is so that you can make it through the channel safely. Numerous boats have been lost at the Skookumchuck, the latest in 2009 when a tugboat pulling a barge through the rapids capsized.
Our first experience going through the Skookumchuck was the day after we took command of our boat, Jazz Age. We picked up the boat in Gibsons, BC, 14 miles down the coast from Sechelt. We had obtained moorage at the Lighthouse Marina at the head of Sechelt Inlet so we needed to bring the boat up the coast 53 miles (83 km), pass through the Skookumchuck and go 18 miles (30 km) to the end of Sechelt Inlet. I had about 20 minutes training running the boat so it was somewhat daunting, especially with the Skookumchuck in the back of our minds. The trip up the coast was beautiful and other than the alternator falling off, uneventful. By the time we reached the Skookumchuck it was too late to go through that night so we found a dock and waited until the next morning.
The dock we tied up to was 3000 feet from the entrance to the rapids and we had a peaceful, calm evening watching the sun go down. In the middle of the night we woke to some very unusual noises. I got up and found the bay we were in was a swirling, boiling mass of water. The current was pushing the boat up against the dock and it was so powerful I couldn’t have moved the boat if I wanted to. It wasn’t causing any problems so we went back to bed. It was very impressive though.
At 9:00 am it looked fairly calm over at the rapids so we thought we’d bite the bullet. All was quite glassy calm until we got right into the entrance and then water developed the look of a light boil. We were just a bit too early but since our boat only travelled 7 knots (8 mph) at top speed and the tide was flowing in the right direction, I figured it was probably best just to carry on. We got through okay though often at a 45 degree angle off where the bow should have been pointing. Jazz Age was 36 feet long and heavy but the power of the water was very impressive.
We have been through the rapids several time since then and each time it has been dead calm.
For those adventurous spirits the rapids have become a popular spot for whitewater kayakers who surf the standing wave that forms off Roland Point. The rapids are also a very popular diving spot because of the abundance of sea life but obviously your timing has to be right!
As mentioned in the prior post, the Tzoonie Narrows is only about 80 feet (25 meters) across. With two tidal changes a day a lot of water passes through the channel but it is almost always clear sailing as the current only reaches 4 knots (4.6 mph) at the maximum. However, kayaks and canoes may need to choose the right time to pass through as it could be a tiring paddle. Once through the channel you are in upper Narrows Inlet and the scenery can be breathtaking. In the glassy calm reflections in the water are amazing, along the shoreline they often look like native designs.
The inlet is 5.2 miles (8.4 km) from the Narrows to the head and varies from 1500 feet (458 meters) up to 3000 feet (914 meters) wide. The mountains on either side rise steeply up to 5,250 feet (1600 meters). Mount Drew at the end of the inlet is 5,900 feet (1800 meters). At times it feels like you are boating through the Rockies.
At the end of Narrows Inlet is the Tzoonie River. For many years this site had been a logging and booming operation but I believe that stopped in early 2000. Kayaking is great here and you can make it quite a way up the Tzoonie River depending on time of the year. Though we never tried it, you can anchor and stern tie on the north side of the bay and enjoy the incredible view up the Tzoonie Valley.
This area was also a seasonal village of the Tahw-ahn-kwuk (Tewankw), one of the four groups of the shíshálhs (Sechelts). In very cold weather the waters of the upper inlet can freeze so the villagers would move to warmer climes to the south for the winter.
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