Narrows Provincial Park
passes through a cool, humid forest of giant Douglas fir, red cedar, and
Western Hemlock. The shadowed
undergrowth is crowded with huge ferns, and saplings drip with bright
green goats beard (a northern cousin of Spanish moss). Stumps over 6-foot
high and three-men-wide litter the forest floor. Brown Lake, one of
hundreds of inland lakes that dot the coastline, tempts one to stop and
lay in the thick soft undergrowth, but the real destination is the rocky
overlook of Skookumchuck Narrows, one of one of the Sunshine Coast's most
dramatic natural phenomenon.
violent Sechelt Rapids at Skookumchuck Narrows results from reversing
tidal rapids famous for their spectacular whirlpools and whitewater and
are considered among the fastest in the world. Current speeds during large
tidal exchanges can exceed 16 knots (30 mph).
Here, a narrow neck of the ocean known as Skookumchuck Narrows ("strong
water" in Chinook jargon) connects Jervis Inlet and the strait of Georgia
(see map of the Sechelt Penninsula) to land-locked Sechelt Inlet. Because
of the restriction, the difference in water level from one side of the
rapids to the other sometimes exceeds 2 metres!
Click small map to see a larger map of the Jervis Inlet and the Strait of
sure to check for the daily tide with one of the tourism offices that are
well-signed in each village along the coast. The tides vary widely in
height, and your goal is to be there when the tide is highest. The area is
unique in having two high tides every 24 hours. The day we were there was
lower than normal.
While Canadians are about the "hikingest"
people we've ever met, and trailheads were numerous throughout our tour,
our schedule meant we had few opportunities time-wise to hike
into the vast forested mountains and forests all around us. Thus we very much enjoyed our 4 km trek through Skookumchuck
Narrows Provincial Park. Recreational trails for back-packing 1-14 days
abound throughout the Sunshine Coast.
Shadows under these grand trees are unnaturally deep, so when a tree
has fallen and a ray of sun bursts in, it is a dramatic moment.
Note the cluster of
needle-like debris at the right side of this giant forest slug....
debris is actually the TAIL of the slug.
Ferns, giant slugs and hanging moss
are all indicators of a rain-forest like environment. It's fun to discover
this in such a northern locale. It could almost be Louisiana! On a similar
note, a local mountain guide suggested that the vast northern boreal forest
competes with the tropical rainforests for the title "lungs of the earth."
I hadn't heard that claim before.
This northern cousin of Spanish Moss
(photo right) is not a parasite. The forests are cool and humid enough
that the moss can extract nutrients dust particles and moisture in the
Loggers in the 1920s couldn't be bothered with the slightest
imperfections in the lumber, so these giants were often cut six or more
feet above the foot of the tree. The loggers made cuts in the logs for
"springboards" to stand on so they could saw the tree above the point
where the tree became perfectly straight and tall. The stump in photo,
left, clearly shows the springboard notch.
Directions to Skookumchuck Narrows
Provincial Park from Hwy 101
Follow Highway 101 north, past Garden Bay and the Pender Harbour area and
take Egmont Road. To reach Sechelt Rapids at the Skookumchuck Narrows you
will need to walk an easy 4 km trail past Brown Lake. The
opportunity to walk among ancient stumps and old growth cedars was a high
point of our trip. The day we visited, the tide at the Narrows was at a
relatively low point so the walk was great. Be sure to carry water with
you on the hike (and all hikes).
Earls Cover Ferry Terminal to Saltery Bay, Powell River, Lund and
Map of the Sunshine Coast of
Click to enlarge.
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