August 15-21/04 - Nanaimo River to Nanaimo Harbour. (Note: the above distance is round trip and factors in one way distances of 2 km on the river and 5 km to the harbour)
From the Living Forest Campground, just south of Nanaimo, located on the mouth of the Nanaimo River you can easily go South, up river, about 2 kms and of course tide levels permitting further. You can also head out to sea towards Nanaimo Harbour and Protection and Newcastle Islands. There is a small beach & boatlaunch on the riverside of the campground.
We spent a week here for our family vacation and since Seaward Kayaks is only 25 minutes away I used trailpeak's editor privileges to demo a couple of their boats; the Passat GT with centre hatch and a Chilco. I also had my canoe for this trip and it was out on the river daily as well. The campground rents kayaks and canoes to registered campers so there will be lots of company on the river and delta. The local Native band also runs its war/racing canoes out to sea and back up the river. Boy can they ever MOVE! I saw 6's 4's and singles while there.
Wednesday evening as the sun was setting and the tide fairly high, I saddled up the Chilco for a peaceful paddle out to the log booms in the bay. There was no wind and the water was like glass. Others were heading back in as I was heading out through the east channel which gets quite shallow and is not really navigable at low low tides. Out in the bay I snapped a few photos of the sunset. River otters were splashing on & off the log booms anchored out here. As it got dark I put on my LED headlamp as a navigation light to mark my position for others and headed back in throught the west channel which stays deep enough to use, even at low tide.
Thursday a.m., with the tide on the ebb and the wind in our faces, my buddy Pete & I, since we had the Seaward boats, climbed into the Passat (the original plan was to take my canoe to Newcastle Island) for a trip to Nanaimo Harbour. This took about an hour & was about 4-5 kms. We passed lots of log booms, once again noticing river otters playing about on them. There was a large container ship loading and a couple large cable laying boats that had been laid up & idled for about 2 years. Pulling into the marina under the Bastion Hotel we had a coffee and a piece of fish for breakfast at a small Trollers Fish 'n Chips restaurant right there on the floating dock. Since the tide had been on the ebb for almost 2 hours from when we set out we headed back by 9 a.m. The trip back went much faster with the wind at our backs (about 45 minutes) and it was fun surfing some of the waves that were about a foot & a half high. The Passat was rock steady the whole way - there & back! We headed back in through the east channel which was barely deep enough to navigate.
This is a nice paddle that is easy to average depending on wind. The sight seeing is interesting as there is a lot of activity in a working harbour - power and sail boats, float planes landing and taking off, ferry traffic to Gabriola Island to watch for. Another hazard to watch for is deadheads from the log booms and miscellaneous ocean debris. It would be easy to extend this paddle around either or both of Newcastle and Protection Islands, extensions that will add several more hours to this paddle.
The topo map that gets you the Nanimo River and Harbour on paper is 92G but it's mostly a Vancouver area map. Better would be Nautical charts 3443 (large scale), 3447 & 3458 (both smaller scale).
Getting there - Head South on the "Old" Island Hwy until you get to Maki Road. Turn left following the signs to Living Forest Campground. If you are coming from the Victoria end of the island just reverse this turning right at the signs for Living Forest Campground. You could also try putting in where the Hwy crosses the Nanaimo River but it looked like a scramble to get down to the water!
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