THE SKOOKUMCHUCK: CRAZY WHITEWATER, CRAZIER KAYAKERS
Allow 2.5 hours from the Langdale Ferry Terminal, which includes intermediate hiking time in of 1 hr - that's one way. Stop in at the Sechelt Visitor Information Centre for the best tidal viewing times during your visit, or pick up the 2013 tide guide online. Remember, flood tides are shown by a + and ebb tides by a �. Large (L) and extra-large (XL) tides offer the most extreme tide changes.
Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park was established in 1957 and is the most-visited landmark of the Sunshine Coast. The rapids can pump 200 million gallons of water through the narrowest point on a tide of 3 metres (9.8 ft) with speeds up to 16 knots and clocked at a maximum of 17.68 knots. The only faster tidal flow is in Norway (Saltstraumen, 20 knots).
The hike is easy to moderate for the first stage and begins with a walk in through the road access for properties along the waterfront approaching the Narrows. There is a seasonally open bakery - if you forgot water, be sure to pick up a drink here to take with you (and remember you'll need to bring the container back out with you). Then you are into the forest, and a number of interpretive signs point out the ecosystem and history of this park. Brown Lake is a great waterfowl viewing location mid-way along the hike; photographers will want a long telephoto lens and a tripod. Roland Point is the first available viewing spot for the rapids and branches off from the main trail at approximately 3.5km. This is the best place to see a flooding tide (high tide).
PLEASE REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR DOGS LEASHED, and children under total supervision. The rapids are extremely dangerous no matter what the tide and you will not be able to rescue an animal or child if they go in. There are two fenced viewing areas suitable for families or those with pets, so make use of them to be safe.
Another .5 km (tightest section of the trail, challenging for those with mobility issues) brings you to North Point. This is the big rock viewing area, with tidal pools full of anemones, starfish, mussels, and tiny crabs so great for children under strict supervision. When tides and weather are suitable, visitors are treated to one of the most exciting spectator opportunities on the lower Coast: experienced whitewater kayakers take on the class III rapids in specialized shortie sport kayaks, balancing on endless wave faces, often flipping and rolling to admiring gasps from onlookers.
BOATERS: especially sailors, should be familiar with the tides. To ensure a calm trip through the Inlet, it is essential to travel as the tide is turning. Of course, there will be those crazy kayakers who chose to run the rapids when they are wild. People have been lost in the cavernous whirlpools, so do not take this ride without due caution!
What's the difference between Tides and Currents?
Tidal predictions for the Sunshine Coast are based on the Point Atkinson tide port. This one port is common to most of the Georgia Basin area. The predictions are listed in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) publication (Canadian Tide and Current Tables) and reproduced in several places. Secondary stations around the basin are shown in tables in the DFO book. These tables give time corrections for alternate areas.
Times in the government publication are all Pacific Standard time. No corrections are made for daylight savings time. Other publications may vary. Apply the appropriate time corrections for secondary stations. Corrections are generally small. Here are a few examples for low water corrections:
Gibsons deduct 2 min
Irvines Landing add 4 min
Egmont add 9 min
Once you go into Sechelt Inlet the observed tides are quite different from Point Atkinson and corrections are large. Tide water gets into this area through narrow and relatively shallow channels. This restriction slows the rise of the water. Observed high and low water are off cycle with Point Atkinson by as much as 3 hours. The tidal range is greatly reduced from the 16.6 feet that is seen at Point Atkinson.
Another effect caused by these restrictions is strong tidal streams in the approach to Sechlet Inlet. Skookumchuck Narrows is a unique area; a world phenomena. The fastest tidal flow here occurs in an section of Skookumchuck Narrows named Sechelt Rapids. Specific current tables are generated for this location and published in DFO Canadian Tide and Current Tables Volumn 5 publication. Be sure to look under the correct station name when using this book; i.e. Sechelt Rapids, not Skookumchuck.
When depth of water or high or low slack water is the critical factor you want to know consult the tide predictions and make the local correction necessary. Keep in mind that the actual event may vary significantly from the prediction. Many factors affect the observed tide. Nothing can substitute from due diligence, local knowledge or good luck.
Boaters looking for easy passage through Sechelt Rapids should consult the current tables and travel close to the time marked as "Turn", the period of still water. It is possible to calculate water speed at a given time between turns. There are computer programs available to do this for you. The formula is not difficult and can be learned by reading through an appropriate reference.
Sightseers wanting to view the spectacle at the Skookumchuck should time their visit to be at the observation point close to the time marked "Maximum". Current speed is shown in knots (1 knot equals 1.15 statute miles per hour) with a "+" symbol noting a flood stream and "-" symbol noting an ebb stream.
Be sure to stop in at the Egmont Heritage Centre before or after your hike for an engrossing look back at the history of this resource-rich area.
- Egmont Heritage Centre
- Merry Island Lighthouse, one of the few manned lighthouses on BC's Coast
- Shellfish Closures Thormanby Island
- 1st Person Account: Kayaking the Thormanbys