Broken Group Islands
The Broken Group
Islands Unit consists of over 100 islands, islets and rocky outcrops
scattered in the centre of Barkley Sound, between Loudoun Channel
and Imperial Eagle Channel, and totals 10,607 hectares, of which only
1,350 hectares is land. The popularity of these islands with paddlers
and boaters has soared over the past decade. The
Broken Group Islands provide a true west coast kayaking experience
in sheltered water.
Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound
The area is
not normally subject to the extreme ocean conditions farther west
in the open waters around Ucluelet and the exposed sections of the
West Coast Trail and the Long Beach Units of Pacific Rim Park. The
ease with which less-experienced sea kayakers can reach the Broken
Group Islands on the MV Frances Barkley from Port Alberni and Ucluelet
contributes greatly to their allure and charm.
Group is known internationally for awesome kayaking and wilderness
camping enjoyed by organized adventurers seeking escape to the remote
and desolate islands within the park. Natural features of this tranquil
group of islands include lagoons, sandbars, blowholes, arches and
secluded anchorages. Ancient native middens, village fortifications,
stone fishtraps and archaeological sites stimulate the imagination
of visitors to this traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth
begin their exploration at Gibraltar Island and make their way through
the chain, stopping at campsites on Gilbert, Clarke, Turret, Willis,
and Hand Islands. All of these sites are easily reached within a
day's paddle (or less) of each other. Camping is also allowed on
Gibraltar Island and Dodd Island. The larger of the forested islands
are Effingham, Turret, Turtle, Dudd, Jacques, Nettle and Gibraltar
discontinued on Benson Island in May 2009 out of respect for its
cultural significance. Archaeological research dates traditional
use of Benson Island for over 5,000 years. Tseshaht First Nation’s
oral traditions name this site as their origin place where the first
Tseshaht man (Naasiya’atu) and woman (Naasayilhim) were created.
It became the site of their principal village of Ts’ishaa. It is
from this village that the Tseshaht derive their name, as Tseshaht
literally means “people of Ts’ishaa”. Visitors are encouraged to
visit Benson Island during the day and return to designated campsites
for the night.
operators lead tours through the Broken Group Islands - see Premier
enjoy a rest on Austin Island
Canoe and kayak
access to the Broken Group Islands from Bamfield or Ucluelet is
not recommended due to the exposed passages. Boaters and ocean paddlers
can access the Broken Group Islands via Toquart Bay in northwest
Barkley Sound. The unsigned road turnoff is located about 12 km
northeast of the junction of Highway 4 and the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway.
A BC recreation
campsite is located at Toquart Bay on the North side of Barkley
Sound providing a boat launch for access to the islands. The popular
Torquart Bay Recreation Campsite sees a lot of traffic from kayakers
heading over to the Broken Islands. There are about 15 oceanside
open tent sites, as well as RV areas, a cement boat launch, and
lovely south-facing sand beaches. There is a parking fee for those
who wish to park at the site but not camp there. From Port Alberni
follow the Pacific Rim Highway 4 for about 50 miles (80 kms). Turn
left at the sign for Torquart Bay on to the Maggie Lake Forest Service
Road and follow it for 15.5 km.
The MV Frances
Barkley will transport paddlers, kayaks and canoes to Sechart, on
the fringe of the Broken Group Islands. The passenger and cargo
vessel is based in Port Alberni, and travels between Port Alberni,
the Broken Group Islands, and the fishing ports of Ucluelet and
Bamfield during the spring, summer and fall. In the course of a
day's trip the sturdy wooden packet freighter drops mail, groceries,
supplies, and the occasional passenger along the way at float homes
and the Sechart Whaling Station. If you must visit here in July
and August, be sure to reserve space for your kayak or canoe on
deck well in advance.
note that paddlers are increasingly being blamed for the trashiness
around many of the more popular campsites. Except at the seven designated
camping sites, garbage and toilet facilities are nonexistent, which
should be a major consideration for visitors. Plan how you're going
to deal with these factors in advance of your journey here so as
not to further tarnish an already dire situation.
acts of kindness by removing litter where you find it as well as
packing out all of your own refuse. Consult books such as How
to Shit in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer to learn new approaches
to the delicate subject of backcountry hygiene. Consider adventuring
here in any month other than July and August, particularly if you
the Nitinat Triangle
Triangle is a wilderness area, heavily wooded with old-growth temperate
rainforest. The portage trails are extremely rough, with massive
fallen trees, steep banks and muddy, slippery footing. This trip
is not recommended for novice paddlers. Paddlers must be totally
self sufficient, competent and be able to handle any emergency situation.
Familiarity with international distress signals is recommended in
such a remote wilderness environment. Starting at the head of Nitinat
Lake, a return trip should take approximately four or five days.
Rim Explorer by Bruce Obee is a valuable reference on this canoe
route along with the essential topographical maps 92C/15 (1:50 000)
or the smaller scale map 92C/NE (1: 125 000). The maps are available
from Maps BC in Victoria, telephone (250) 387-144.
There is logging
road access from Duncan via Cowichan Lake to the head of Nitinat
Lake. The nearest boat launch is at Knob Point, located on the northwest
side of the lake.
canoeing the Nitinat Triangle
must register and obtain a free park use permit. Please contact
the park at (250) 726-7721 in advance to make arrangements. Group
size is limited to ten.
The most travelled
route is a combination of canoe paddles and portages. Portage conditions
are most difficult. Begin by portaging from Nitinat Lake to Hobiton
Lake. Do not use the Hobiton River, as it is a salmon spawning stream
that is permanently closed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Water levels along its length are erratic, and many obstructions
prevent passage. Attempting to line a boat through shallows will
damage spawning channels, and areas with water deep enough to paddle
are congested with low-hanging vegetation and fallen logs.
Lake to Tsusiat Lake portage is approximately 1.61 km long, with
a 400 metre bog in the middle. Considerable climbing under and over
large fallen trees is required, with the occasional carry over logs
about 2.5 m above the ground. The easiest system for overcoming
the terrain is to portage your empty boat to the bog, return for
your packs and transport them all the way to the other end. Then
move the boat from the bog to the far lake.
The best camping
locations are generally on the northwest sides of the lakes, at
the mouths of creeks. The creeks are usually indicated by patches
of alder or crabapple trees situated among larger conifers. Use
a small stove. The fire hazard may be high enough to prohibit open
fires. All campers are expected to practice low impact camping.
Note: The Map
configuration of this area may suggest a circle route from Tsusiat
Falls, into the Pacific and back to Nitinat Lake through Nitinat
Narrows. This route is not recommended! Launching through breaking
surf is dangerous and difficult to accomplish without soaking your
gear or upsetting your boat and ego. The 6.4 km stretch to Nitinat
Narrows is fully exposed to the open ocean, and is often foggy.
The Narrows section is notoriously dangerous with fast-running tidal
currents, eddies, and a history of fatalities.
campers in possession of a West Coast Trail Use Permit may camp
at Tsusiat Falls.