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Bennett Bay | Blunden Islet | Brackman Island | Cabbage Island | Channel Island and Nearby Islets | D'Arcy Island | East Point | Georgeson Island | Georgina Point | Greenburn Lake | Isle-de-Lis (Rum Island) | The Islets | James Bay and Selby Cove | Loretta's Wood | Lyall Creek | Mayne Island | McDonald Campground | Mount Norman/Beaumont | Mount Warburton Pike | Narvaez Bay Day Use Area | The Outer Islands | The Penders | Portlock Point | Prevost Island | Portland Island | Prior Centennial Campground | Roesland/Roe Lake | Russell Island | Saturna Island | Shingle Bay | Sidney Spit (Sidney Island) | Taylor Point Day Use Area | Tumbo Island Day Use Area | Winter Cove Day Use Area
The Bennett Bay component of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is located on the Strait of Georgia shore area of Mayne Island. Its natural environment and undisturbed waterfront are combined with one of the finest sand beaches in the Gulf Islands. The beautiful peninsula (Campbell Point) features remnant old growth forest, a walking trail and superb views from the point across to Georgeson Island. Bennett Bay is a popular launch point for kayakers paddling along the North Eastern shores of the outer Gulf Islands.
Safeguarded by its inaccessibility, Blunden Islet off Teece Point on South Pender Island is a relatively undisturbed islet with typical coastal bluff vegetation including arbutus, Garry oak and old growth Douglas fir, and no evidence of invasion by exotic species. The sensitive ecosystem on this islet is being afforded the highest level of protection within the national park: authorized access only .
Donated to the national park reserve by The Nature Trust of British Columbia, Brackman Island had been an ecological reserve since 1989. The island is unique in that it has never been affected by livestock grazing, logging or settlement. There are pockets of old growth forest, some as old as 250 years. Thirteen rare plant species have been identified. This island is being afforded the highest level of protection within the national park: authorized access only .
The marshes and stands of Garry oak, arbutus and coastal Douglas fir on these islands are some of the most intact wetland and vegetation communities remaining on the Gulf Islands. The island is an important nesting site for Black Oystercatchers and Bald Eagles. Oystercatchers are particularly sensitive to disturbance by dogs and people walking along the shoreline: use an alternate route or landing area if you spot Oystercatchers on the beach. Marine access only, composting toilet, 5 wilderness campsites and no potable water.
CHANNEL ISLANDS AND NEARBY ISLETS
The Channel Islands in Captain Passage are important as seal and sealion haulouts and are also used for nesting by various bird species. The Channel Islands were used by First Nations as landmarks when navigating between islands, and for harvesting of marine mammals, shellfish, barnacles, chitons and sea urchins. The Red Islets, Bright Islet and Hawkins Islet located adjacent to Prevost Island feature relatively undisturbed coastal bluff and Garry oak/arbutus woodland. The sensitive ecosystems on these islands and islets are being afforded the highest level of protection within the national park: authorized access only .
With numerous coves, cobble beaches and a forest of arbutus and Douglas fir, D'Arcy Island's beauty belies its past history as a leper colony for Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. First Nations have a long association with this small island, reserving it primarily for religious practices. To avoid damaging sensitive habitats or disturbing cultural features, please camp only in the designated campsites. Marine access only - no potable water. Picnic tables, 7 wilderness campsites and pit toilets.
Set on sculpted sandstone cliffs, East Point became part of the national park reserve in 2006. Built between 1881 and 1887, the lightstation located here warned sailors away from the roiling waters of Boiling Reef just offshore. Nutrient-rich upwellings in this vicinity attract marine mammals and seabirds, providing excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
Georgeson Island is a beautiful sandstone ridge, clad in old growth Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak forest. Because of sensitive ecosystems, authorized access only .
Georgina Point—one of the newest additions to park—sits at the entrance to Active Pass. This popular day-use area, long managed by the Mayne Island Parks and Recreation Commission, provides spectacular views across the Strait of Georgia. It is one of the island's most treasured heritage places.
A 69-hectare property surrounding Greenburn Lake on South Pender Island was added to the national park reserve in the spring of 2004. An additional 49.4 hectares to the south of this property was acquired last fall. Freshwater lakes are rare in the Gulf Islands. Greenburn Lake and its wetlands are vital to the recharge of the island's scarce water supply. The property also has high wildlife values and contains pockets of endangered Garry oak ecosystem. Studies are currently under way on the lake and wetlands. Visitors can hike up along the old access road to this picturesque lake surrounded by high bluffs. There are no visitor facilities at the lake. Bring your own drinking water. Fishing is not permitted.
ISLE-DE-LIS (RUM ISLAND)
This small island features a Douglas fir/arbutus forest and coastal bluffs, as well as vegetation that reflects the warm Mediterranean climate of the southern Gulf Islands, including prickly pear cactus. A trail circles the island and provides views of seals and otters at Tom Point, as well as of Haro Strait and the San Juan Islands. Rum Island's name derives from its former role as a liquor cache during Prohibition. This island is popular with kayakers who stop overnight on multi-day paddling trips, but plan to arrive earlier in the day as there are only a limited number of campsites (3 sites). Rum Island is connected to neighbouring Gooch Island by a gravel beach that is the best place to put a kayak ashore. Gooch Island is private property: please do not trespass. Marine access only, pit toilets and no drinking water.
Sprinkled throughout this area are a number of smaller islands and islets. The ecosystems of these islands are fragile and easily impacted. Some are important haulouts for marine mammals, others are key nesting sites for seabirds, including species whose populations are threatened or at risk. Visitors should exercise discretion when approaching these islets, and abide by the wildlife viewing guidelines. The islets in this area that are included in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve are the Dock Islet, the Isabella Islets, Imrie Island, Grieg Island and Reay Island, the Little Group, Sallas Rocks and Unit Rocks. The sensitive ecosystems on these islands and islets are being afforded the highest level of protection within the national park. Special Preservation Area: authorized access only except for Dock Islet which is available for day-use along its shoreline, as a place for kayakers to take a break on longer paddling routes. There are no services provided, however, and camping is prohibited. Plan your paddling itinerary to include those islands in the area where designated camping is allowed: D'Arcy, Portland and Rum Islands, Sidney Spit and nearby Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island.
JAMES BAY AND SELBY COVE
James Bay and Selby Cove are located at the northern tip of Prevost Island on Trincomali Channel, and are only accessible by water. The park lands form a narrow point adjacent to a deep cove with a shoreline that varies from steep rock faces on the Trincomali Channel waterfront to gently rising, shelved rock near Peile Point, to a gravel beach in James Bay. This open field campsite is popular with kayakers, and there is good anchorage in Selby Cove.
Newly transferred to the national park reserve from the Islands Trust Fund, the 38.7 ha Loretta's Wood property has high ecological values. Four provincially rare or endangered plant communities, one vulnerable plant community, and the red-legged frog—a COSEWIC-listed Species of Concern—occur here. The property also contains wetland and terrestrial herbaceous ecosystems, both of which have been identified in the joint federal-provincial Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory initiative. Although no services and facilities are currently provided, a trail system is under consideration for the future.
A trail descends from the Narvaez Bay Road to the mouth of Lyall Creek, passing through the forested heart of the island, and featuring a beautiful waterfall. Lyall Creek is one of the few remaining salmon-bearing streams in the Gulf Islands.
When a small group of volunteers began to restore a salmon stream on Saturna Island more than 10 years ago, no one could predict the future of the private land along the stream or the success of the group's conservation efforts.
Pacific salmon are remarkable for their ability to return to spawn in the streams where they hatched. A washed-out bridge and the culvert that replaced it kept the chum salmon from returning to Lyall Creek. Chum salmon—poor jumpers compared with the coho salmon and cutthroat trout with which they share the stream—simply couldn't make it to their spawning grounds. The chum salmon might have never had a chance to return without the efforts of Saturna Islanders. With support from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, they began in the early 1990s to incubate chum eggs in Lyall Creek and release the young salmon into the ocean each spring. By 2002, more than 400 salmon were returning to the stream. The volunteers helped by moving the adult salmon by hand across the still impassable culvert.
In 2003, the inclusion of the majority of the stream's watershed within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve brought additional technical and financial support for the restoration. That year, the Saturna volunteers, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Highways replaced the culvert and restored a damaged part of the streambed to a more natural state. More restoration work is planned for the future. See The Lyall Creek Story .
Mayne Island's 21 square kilometres are home to about 900 people. The community has many services, including grocery stores, restaurants and pubs, a liquor outlet, service station, government docks, a bakery, deli and small art galleries. The island is also well known for its bird watching opportunities, and marine mammals can readily be seen off-shore. Cycling and kayaking are popular activities for visitors. An active Parks and Recreation Commission is working on an expanded trail system, enhancing their community parks, and developing and maintaining several heritage sites—such as Georgina Point Lighthouse and the Japanese Garden. Visitors are advised to make arrangements in advance for their accommodations. There are inns, bed and breakfasts, cottages and camping opportunities.
McDonald campground is located just a few minutes from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. Follow the signs from Highway 17. This campground lies at the edge of the town of Sidney, and is an excellent base of operations for exploring both the Gulf Islands and the Greater Victoria area. Municipal bus service is available into Sidney, Victoria and to the BC Ferries terminal. There are 43 vehicle accessible sites and 6 walk-in sites. Reservations can now be made by visiting www.pccamping.ca or call 1-877-737-3783
Visitors to this area of the park can enjoy a challenging shore-to-sky hiking experience up to the summit of Mount Norman (244 metres/800 ft). Your reward is a panoramic views from the highest point on the island. With good anchorage, mooring buoys and a sandy beach for kayakers to land, this area is a popular place to camp (11 campsites) and picnic for visitors touring the islands by boat and kayak. Fees for camping and mooring are charged May 15–September 30. Visitors can also access the national park reserve lands from Canal Road, a 15-minute drive from the ferry terminal. During the summer months, the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club provides information to boaters at a float at Beaumont through the park's Marine Host program.
MOUNT WARBURTON PIKE
The summit of Mount Warburton Pike provides breath-taking panoramic views of the southern Gulf Islands and the neighbouring San Juan Islands in the United States. At 397 metres (1,303 ft.), Warburton Pike is the second highest point of land in the Gulf Islands. The open, grassy slopes of the ridge are unique in the Gulf Islands, and the slopes and ridge itself are significant habitat for falcons and eagles. First Nations used this mountaintop for spiritual and sacred purposes. It was here spirit quest feathers (from eagles, owls and falcons) were gathered and people came for spiritual ceremonies and to camp. The road to the summit is unpaved, winding and narrow. The summit area is currently being rehabilitated. All vehicles, including bicycles) must remain within the marked parking area.
NARVAEZ BAY DAY USE AREA
Narvaez Bay is one of the most beautiful and undisturbed bays in the southern Gulf Islands. This area includes regenerating Douglas fir forest and Garry oak-arbutus ecosystems. Park at the gate at the end of Narvaez Bay Road, and walk past the gate and down the road to the bay. Be careful walking out on the rocky promontory, and stay well back from cliff edges: rocks may be slippery and the drop-off is significant. Stay on the main path to avoid trampling sensitive vegetation. Seven walk-in (1.7 km from trailhead) backcountry campsites are available.
THE OUTER ISLANDS
Fronting on the open waters of the Strait of Georgia, the Outer Islands are the last bastion against the urban metropolis of mainland British Columbia across the waters to the north. Facing the silhouettes of skyscrapers by day, and the sparkling lights of a big city by night, the Outer Islands are a serene contrast—so near to and yet so far from the frenzy of modern life.
These islands have always been important to those who travel the waters of the inland Salish Sea. They were used by First Nations as a launching area before they traveled into open water heading to the Fraser River. Similarly, miners headed for the goldfields of British Columbia's interior made Mayne Island their last stop, giving rise to the name Miners Bay.
The numerous small islets paralleling Mayne and Saturna Islands support an abundance of marine life and waterfowl. In days past, First Nations people made stinging nettle nets to hang across narrow gaps between islets to intercept migrating waterfowl. Codfish and their eggs were harvested in shallow areas. The herring fishery has also played an important role in the culture of First Nations. The method of fishing was a ritual undertaken with grace and skill. Paddling a canoe, the fisher would lower a rake which had pins of bones and in a gentle swooping motion would prick the herring and catch it on the sharp ends.
Saturna Island was and still remains an important and special place for First Nations. The island had affluent permanent village sites particularly on the east and west shores of the inlets. People lived in large cedar bighouses built using corner cedar posts. In some places, these posts still stand.
The Penders—North and South Pender Islands—were once one island connected by a narrow strip of land. A canal between the islands was dredged in 1903 to allow boats to make a speedier passage to the outer Gulf Islands. Rejoined again with the building of a one-lane bridge in 1957, the two islands are now home to a combined population of around 2000 permanent residents, the majority of whom live on North Pender.
There are a variety of accommodations available on the Penders including inns, vacation cottages, bed and breakfasts, resorts and marinas. The Driftwood Centre on North Pender is the islands' commercial hub and Parks Canada’s field office is located at Roesland. A Customs point of entry is located at Bedwell Harbour (Poets Cove) on South Pender Island.
Portlock Point/Richardson Bay surrounds the 1895 Portlock Point lighthouse on three sides, protecting the most visible part of Prevost Island seen by ferry passengers as they exit Active Pass on the way to Victoria. The shoreline of Richardson Bay on Prevost Island provides a good alternative to the nearby islets for a break for kayakers on longer paddling routes. NO SERVICES.
National park reserve lands are located on both the north and south shores of Prevost Island. The majority of the island, however, remains in the hands of the descendants of Digby de Burgh—the man who bought the island in the 1920s. They continue to farm and raise sheep on the island. The island is largely unchanged from what would have existed a century ago, and contains large cedar and arbutus groves.
First settled by Kanaka (Hawaiian) immigrants in the 1880s, Portland Island's history is primarily agricultural—some plants and trees still exist on the island, reminiscent of this era. The island was presented as a gift to Princess Margaret in 1958 to commemorate her visit to the province. In turn, she returned the island to British Columbia as a provincial park in 1967. Now part of the National Park Reserve, the island features cliffs, protected coves and sand beaches. The island was once the site of a First Nations village, but now the shell midden beaches ringing the island are the most visible reminder of their presence. Please do not disturb midden sites. During the summer months, the Royal Victoria Yacht Club provides information to boaters at a float in Princess Bay, through the park's Marine Host program. Marine access only. Wilderness campsites with picnic tables but no drinking water is available at three locations. Princess Bay (open field, composting toilet), and Arbutus Point (6 designated sites, composting toilet). Perimeter and mid-island trails available.
PRIOR CENTENNIAL CAMPGROUND
Set in the shade of a thick forest of ferns, cedar, fir, maple and alder trees, this small campground has 17 drive-in campsites. Reservations are accepted by visiting www.pccamping.ca or call 1-877-737-3783. The campground is a great base from which to explore the rest of The Penders. There is a short 1 km walking trail in the campground.
This former cottage resort harkens back to a time when families came back year after year to enjoy the beauty of the Gulf Islands and to take part in the many things that island life had to offer. Once a farm, it was further developed in the 1920s with the addition of a general store and marine fuel station. Eventually resort cabins were added. The resort ceased operation in 1994. A short trail leads out to a viewpoint on Roe Islet. The Pender Islands Museum Society offers a glimpse into the islands' past at their museum located in the original 1908 farmhouse. Roesland's previous owners were granted a life tenancy when these lands were purchased for the park, and still live on a portion of the property. Please respect their privacy and the posted boundaries.
Covered in mostly second-growth Douglas fir forest, the uplands above Shingle Bay adjacent to Roesland protect a rarity in the Gulf Islands—a natural freshwater lake. A short trail system leads up to the lake. Fishing is not permitted in Roe Lake.
Settled by Hawaiians as early as 1886, this small island at the mouth of Salt Spring's Fulford Harbour is blessed with many of the natural features typical of the southern Gulf Islands. Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak dominate the forest cover. Stands of shore pine rim the island's outer edges. Open meadows of native grasses host yearly bursts of camas lilies and a variety of other wildflowers. The original house dates back over a century. The island has a small salt marsh. Marine access only. Pit toilets and loop trail– no drinking water. The historic Kanaka house can be found via a side trail that leaves the northeast portion of the loop.
Almost half of Saturna Island is protected within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. If you are planning to stay overnight on the island, be sure to make arrangements in advance. There are several accommodations options, from rustic cabins to bed & breakfasts to inn-type lodgings, but they are limited in number. Garbage disposal is a costly service for islanders because garbage must be shipped off-island. Please don't litter, and be prepared to take any garbage you generate off-island with you for disposal.
Saturna Island Tourism Association
Sitting below Roe Lake, this newly acquired property connects to existing park lands and includes over 335 metres of waterfront. The area includes a beach with views of Captain Passage and nearby islets, a small waterfall, wetland, creek and artificial pond. The property hosts the remnants of the Shingle Bay fish reduction plant that operated intermittently between 1927 and 1959. It served as an important part of the local economy, employing 15 to 20 men at a time, mainly Pender Island residents. It was supported by the store and gas service at Roesland.
With good anchorage, and a light gravel beach for kayakers, this area is the park reserve’s newest camping area. Ten rustic campsites are available from May 15 to September 30. Visitors can access via Shingle Bay Road, a 10 minute drive from the Otter Bay ferry terminal with a short trail access from the parking area.
SIDNEY SPIT (SIDNEY ISLAND)
This popular island is accessible by a seasonal walk-on ferry service – please call 474-5145 for schedule and fees; http://www.alpinegroup.ca/companies/sidneyspitferry.php, and by boat and kayak. Sheltered anchorage is available on the west side of the spit. Mooring and docking is also available. Camping (27 walk-in sites – approximately 1 km from ferry dock) camping reservations available through the Parks Canada Reservation Service or by calling 1-877-737-3783. Group camping and group picnicking are also available – reserve at 250-654-4000 or 1-866-944-1744 (for groups between 15 and 30 people). Visitors camping on the island must be registered at a designated campsite before the last ferry leaves for the day. There are thousands of metres of beach for sunbathing and beach walking. (Note: Drinking water is available, but may have a high sodium content and should not be consumed by persons with kidney or heart ailments.)
Backed by towering bluffs, its tidal flats and salt marshes teem with birds and marine life. Located on the edge of the Pacific flyway, the island attracts large numbers of shorebirds during the spring and fall migrations. The inner lagoon, hook spit and the vegetated centre of the main spit are particularly sensitive ecosystems. To protect them, land access is limited to a narrow strip along the outer edge of the hook spit, and visitors should keep to the sand edges of the main spit. Boats (including kayaks) are prohibited from the lagoon. On the northwest side of the island was a large First Nations settlement as well as campsites and places of cultural and spiritual significance. They fished in this entire area year-round, and shellfish, medicines, berries and plants were harvested on the island.
In years past, the island has been farmed and also seen industrial development: between 1906 and 1915, the Sidney Tile and Brick Company operated on the island. Broken red bricks abound on the shoreline and in the underbrush, and remnant works can be seen in the camping area.
TAYLOR POINT DAY USE AREA
This strip of virtually undisturbed old growth forest of Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak running north from Taylor Point to the vineyard is one of the longest uninterrupted stretches of protected shoreline in the southern Gulf Islands. The cliffs are part of the rare coastal bluffs ecosystem in the Gulf Islands. At Taylor Point, the remnants of a farm with its old stone house and nearby sandstone quarry are reminders of one of the island's past commercial enterprises. There are currently NO SERVICES at Taylor Point. The adjacent lands are actively farmed and grazed: please respect private property and always keep your dog on a leash to avoid harm to livestock. ( NOTE : A trail has not yet been developed to Taylor Point, although hikers occasionally flag their own routes along the cliff edge. These are not designated trails and their routes, close to the cliff edge, may pose dangers to hikers.)
TUMBO ISLAND DAY USE AREA
Tumbo Island has recovered well from the fur farming, timber harvesting and coal mining activities that highlighted its rich and varied past. Today, the island is largely forested with old growth Douglas fir and Garry oak meadows. Tumbo Island derives its name from the landform that gives it its distinctive shape—a tombolo. A tombolo is a sandbar extending outward from shore connecting with an island—or from island to island as it does here. First Nations found a safe harbour on Tumbo Island when hand trolling for fish offshore in their canoes or on their journeys across the Strait. The island remains an important spiritual place to this day.
Tumbo Island can be visited by kayak or by dinghy from larger boats. A short trail system provides opportunities to explore the island. Discover the diverse creatures who live in shoreline tidepools and the freshwater marsh. Birding, photography and picnicking are other great activities to pursue on Tumbo. (Note: a life tenancy agreement for the house on the island means that there may occasionally be someone in residence on the island. Please respect their privacy.)
WINTER COVE DAY USE AREA
This sheltered cove—backed by forested upland, open meadows and a salt marsh—is the most popular day use area on the island. Strong tidal currents rush through Boat Passage, providing whitewater excitement for kayakers. The cove itself offers excellent sheltered moorage. Onshore there is an easy walking trail through the forest and marsh and along the shoreline. Picnic area, pit toilets, short hiking trail.