For those seeking access to a landscape of quiet inlets and a bountiful array of islands — all tucked safely within the shadows of BC’s high coastal peaks — Desolation Sound provides the appropriate canvas.
Below is some of the paddling detail and park info. If you’re just hungry and thirsty, the bottom of the page is where you’ll find the beer and breakfast.
Desolation Sound Marine Park offers some spectacular campsite locations. The launch point of Okeover Arm provides access to the park from the eastern side of the Malaspina Peninsula. From Okeover, access to two of the marine park camp locations are within a few hours paddle. This can be especially beneficial when a Saturday morning scuba dive in Powell River runs a little longer than expected… and thus, kayaks get launched just before 6pm. (not highly advised) For beginner paddlers, Okeover Arm is an ideal launch site since it begins the journey in a relatively protected inlet.
As the Saturday sun fell behind the peninsula we navigated our way beyond oyster farms to the mouth of the Malaspina Inlet. An upbeat two hour paddle left us at Hare Point campground just as night was falling. Being that the trip took place on a weekend with expectedly poor weather and subzero nights, it was only our blood orange Marmot tent that occupied a platform. Campsites would undoubtedly be much livelier throughout the park in warmer months. With nobody by ourselves and the stars, a chorus of owls lulled the night to a close. The photo below was taken in the early morning at Hare Point looking south-east down the Malaspina Inlet, perfectly capturing one of the most refreshing outdoor mornings in recent memory.
Hare Point at 7am acted as a bird sanctuary. A scrappy group of trees on the smaller of the Josephine Islands was clearly a training ground for two fledgling eagles. Meanwhile Scoters and Murrelets washed in the morning water and beat their wings against the calm surface as they launched themselves into the morning sky. The lone call of a loon capped off nature’s idealistic audio file.
The Curme Islands:
From Hare Point our plans were to exit the protected Malaspina Inlet and head towards a small island group in the heart of Desolation Sound and the beginning of Homfray Channel. In only about two hours on the water we had exited the inlet, directed the kayaks north-east, and were arching around the south-eastern end of Mink Island. The seeming implausibility of a more impressive camp location was immediately put into question as the boats glided through a small opening in an oyster filled bay. There is little need to explain the the Curme Islands in too much text because it simply does not do the justice as images. (though images themselves barely suffice)
Our final day involved doubling down distance-wise, and retracing our path back to Okeover Arm. There seemed to be an opportunity to take a more direct route via a portage across – you’d never guess – Portage Cove. This portage would have given access to Wootton Bay and a channel connecting back to the launch. We never got a firm answer about the feasibility of the portage, and well before that option was seriously considered we had elected to power through the longer paddle. (primarily due to our lack of desire to mess around with repacking the kayaks in the cold, brisk morning)
As every good adventure should end we were left with the appeal of going deeper and further into the coastal maze. Personally, a six or seven day paddle in the area would be ideal — and leave room for sufficient exploration. That said, three days were enough time for the park to showcase its breadth of beauty.
One of the most important aspects of preparation for our five week paddle along the BC coast is getting an accurate measure of the time required to paddle a certain distances over a day, a week, a month. First hand accounts of previous trips have been a great resource, but without a doubt our primary resource will need to be personal experience.
Over the two and a half days we estimated a rough paddle distance of about 40 kilometres — give or take 5 kilometres. (taking into consideration our generally erratic steering and curiosity inspired detours) It should be noted that the paddling was done in exceptional conditions, especially in the protected waters of Malaspina Inlet. On the Saturday and Sunday we comfortably paddled about 9 or 10 km each day in only about two hours, while the Monday morning escape covered about 17 km in three and a half hours. We had averaged roughly 5 km/h, albeit in ideal conditions. Rougher weather would have undoubtedly slowed our pace to closer to 3 or 4 km/h. Not overlooking the ideal conditions that we experienced, our early estimations are that 20 km/day with three to four hours on the water is a very attainable and scalable distance over a number of weeks. Without a doubt we could have stayed on the water for five to six hours and nearly doubled our distances. (something we did on a previous kayak trip in the Haida Gwaii – read here!) Much the same, there will be inevitable roadblocks on our journey to Alaska, with severe storms, currents, and tides playing key factors in travel efficiency. We can full well expect these events to slow some days to only a few kilometres on the water, if any at all. A heck of a lot more investigation needs to be done on this matter but Desolation Sound was a great first training ground for the summer journey to come.
Points of interest:
Last but not least, a few locations to get you going on a similar trip! Below are a few spots we deemed worth mentioning. Beers, boats, cinnamon buns…
This may be painfully obvious, but it is definitely worth the shout out nonetheless. Just off the Langdale ferry is the first and only beer stop you’ll need for your time on the Sunshine Coast. Get to the farm before it closes. *Pro-tip – growlers nestle themselves well into a kayak’s bow hatch.*
A phenomenal little cafe tucked away in the small coastal town of Lund. Home of the infamous Blackberry Cinnamon Buns since 1991. (When the buns are as old as you, you know they’re the real deal.) An ideal pre or post paddle treat and relax spot. (maps)
Not the first time we’ve been here and certainly won’t be the last. A five minute drive off the of the main Powell River drag and you’re treated to a classic brunch. Can’t say no. (maps)
Salish Sea Dive:
A quick scoot up from The Saltery Bay ferry will take you to Powell River. There is a dive shop — Salish Sea Dive — that can point you in the right direction for a salty submergence. Our dive didn’t exactly coincide with a time of year for optimal visibility. With runoff from the spring melt clouding the waters along the shore, we were left with visibility comparable to the aliens in Arrival. (though Mermaid Cove was still a fantastic dive site)
Nonetheless, any chance to get well beneath the surface is one to be taken in our opinion. Email Gary if you’re keen! firstname.lastname@example.org
Powell River Sea Kayak, Ecomarine:
As long as you’re planning this adventure in the summer season Powell River Kayak would be the most convenient place to gear up. In our case, with kayaks coming from Vancouver, we were on our own. The only requirements here? A car that can handle some weight on the roof, confidence in your boat strapping capabilities, and a bargaining strategy for BC Ferries as to why your car is not an ‘oversized vehicle.’ If you’re planning this trip in the offseason then Ecomarine in Vancouver will do you well.
That’s all folks! Any questions/thoughts/recommendations!? email@example.com