Main Lakes Canoe Chain - Quadra Island

by Global  |  6 years, 10 month(s) ago

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NTS Map:92K3. In Main Lakes Provincial Park there is an alternative to saltwater paddling around Quadra Island. It is a small chain of 6 freshwater lakes (Village Bay Lk, Mine Lk, Main Lk, Little Main Lk, Clear Lk, & Stramberg Lk) in the interior of the island that is perfectly suited to canoeing. It is about 11 kms one way but to explore this chain allow at least 3 days. Village Bay Lake, Mine Lake and Main Lake are all connected by navigable water. If the water is very low you may well find that you'll have to haul your canoe through a narrow channel connecting Village Bay Lake and Mine Lake. Water levels were high enough this summer (beginning of August) so we did not have to do this. You can bypass this section by launching directly into Mine Lake and heading for the prettiest part of the route that leads from Mine Lake to Main Lake, the largest of the lakes in this chain. There are a few private islands in Main Lake and seaplanes seem to be a fairly common way to get in & out of this lake chain. Little Main Lake can be reached up Shadow Brook until you get to some salmon spawning gravel beds that are signed "Do Not Disturb"! In early spring the water may be high enough to canoe all the way to Little Main but otherwise a short portage of 100 meters or so will get you around the spawning beds & back into water you canoe to the lake (about another 150 meters further) with only a pull over or two across stick dams. Clear Lake can probably be reached by canoe in high water but with water levels down about 1 & ½ feet Clear Creek is too shallow & muddy to attempt. The final lake, Stramberg, can be hiked into up a tributary creek of the same name that meets Shadow Brook in the spawning grounds.
In summer, the water in the lakes warms up as levels drop. The water is almost bathtub warm and crystal clear so swimming is excellent! Sandy beaches are standard at all the Provincial campsites of which there are 7 - all have at least a pit toilet & a fire ring. Some of the sites have enough room for up to 8 tents; others only room for one or two. There are some undeveloped sites where I saw people pitch a tent but there will be no amenities and you must practice Leave No Trace camping - a good idea no matter where you camp! There is no running water so you will have to filter your own. We found a wolf-killed deer (3 point black tail) in Main Lk that had been brought down in the water and was about 2-3 days old so purify! Ravens & vultures were feeding on the remains that they could get at, mostly entrails. The stomach floated near shore about 20 yards further down the shore.
Beaches on small islands and cozy bays are delightfully welcoming spots to land and pass a sunny day. Lower Village Bay Lk even has an island with a cliff jumping site complete with rope. There seemed to be a fair bit of activity rather than the published "hardly any other paddlers" with which to share this slice of paradise. There is a lot of activity from the locals by motorboat and Homewood Girls Camp sends out large parties by canoe & kayak for over night trips now & then, but by 7 - 8 p.m. it gets nice and quiet.
If you land on the northeast side of Main Lake, you'll find not only a sandy beach but also a short walking trail, off to the left about 50-75 yards, that follows an old logging road to Yeatman Bay, north of Surge Narrows on Quadra's coastline. This is a good place to dig for clams although the locals say stay away from the butter clams, which can retain Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Dig the cockles instead but you have to have your saltwater fishing license to do so.
Village Bay Lake is heavily populated with cabins and small motorboats. There is a 10 HP restriction on all the lakes so these are not too bothersome on the circuit. The locals range from reticent and protective of their slice of paradise (some have invested a lot of work on their "special" campsites) to very helpful.
This is an excellent camping and canoeing location and I highly recommend it. There are no camping fees charged. You will encounter otters, kingfishers, woodpeckers, ravens, vultures, deer, fishers (a weasel relative). You may hear wolves howling and cougars may be present. Fishing can be quite good if the water isn't too warm.
The paddling is all easy unless the winds are blowing hard in which case on Main Lake you can get chop up to 2 feet. The hiking is all average difficulty but up the smaller creeks you will be bushwacking. The hike to Yeatman Bay is easy
If you come from the mainland expect a long day of travelling to get here due to the way BC Ferries connections work. Those already on Vancouver Island will find it easy to get over to Quadra to experience this idyllic spot.
The Topo map that gets you this canoe chain on paper is 92K3
Take BC Ferries boat from Campbell River (on Vancouver Island) to Quadra Island. To reach the launch site, take West Road north from the ferry landing at Quathiaski Bay to Heriot Bay. Keep heading north on first Hyacinths Bay Road and then Village Bay Road. Continue on past where it becomes gravel until you come to Village Bay Lake This is approximately 23 kms. Launch at either side (N or S) of the bridge in Village Bay or continue another 1.5 miles (2.5 km) farther north along Surge Narrows Road to Mine Lake. There is one small "natural" put in that you come to first. A bigger sandy boat launch is about 100 yards further along with lots of parking.

 Tags: canoe, chain, island, Lakes, Main, Quadra


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