Dan and Maddie's Pitt Lake Perusal - August 2008 (long)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Dan_Millsip, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Dan and Maddie's Pitt Lake Perusal
    August 4 – 7, 2008

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    This trip report is of a four day paddle to the end of Pitt Lake, the second largest lake in the BC lower mainland and the largest tidal lake in the world. The Pacific Ocean tides push water up the Fraser River and then the Pitt River, creating a very strange situation – tide fluctuations on the lake. There are not many lakes in BC where the tide affects the level of the water. And since the lake is glacial fed, it’s very, very cold.

    We would paddle a total of 68 kilometres over the four days, 26 km of which would be on our second day return trip to the top of the lake. I should note that on this trip, we experienced a number of very loud boats and loud music coming from them. This was the first time that I’ve been up Pitt Lake during the prime summer months (July and August) and should have expected this. Every other time I’ve been on this lake, noise has been a lot less of a concern.

    Another first for this trip is that it was the first time after many, many trips on Pitt Lake where rain didn’t fall.


    Day One – Monday, August 4 – Grant Narrows to Osprey Creek
    It was a late start leaving on this extra sunny long-weekend Monday afternoon as we put in off the dock at Grant Narrows at 6:00 PM and we knew that we’d likely be in darkness by the time we reached our destination at Osprey Creek North. The first thing we noticed as we headed east along the bottom end of the lake was all the power boats. Lots of power boats. This long weekend had brought the boaters out in droves. We were glad that we were beginning our trip as most of them were heading home.

    As we neared the eastern most end of the lake, we saw a paraglider being towed by a speed boat – definitely not something that you see very often on our local waterways. The fellow being towed gave us a big wave as he continued on his flighty ride towards Grant Narrows. Very cool.

    Paddling up the channel (marked by large green buoys) we were careful not to cut across the sandbar as past experience has shown us that doing so often results in the tedious and unpleasant task of pushing fully loaded boats across the exposed low tide sandbars. As we approached McFadden Bay, small poles mark a channel that leaves from the main channel to the cabins that are located along the eastern shore of the lower end of the lake. This channel is deep enough for small boats to get through and at all but the lowest tides; a kayak can easily navigate its shallow depths. Taking this channel not only gets us out of the way of the many power boats in the main channel, but it also allows us to paddle closer to the shore where there is more to see.

    We arrived at Raven Creek around quarter to eight and stopped for a short break to stretch our legs a bit and for Maddie to take a look at the campsite (I’ve been here many times previous). There was a group of power boaters at the campsite and they had an elaborate campsite set up. After a short chat with the campers we were back in our boat and on our way to Osprey Creek, some ten kilometres further up the lake.

    The rest of the paddle would be mostly uneventful, poking along the lakeside and looking at the clusters of vacation cabins that dot the shoreline of the lake. By the time we got to Osprey Creek North, the sun had long since set behind the mountains to the west and darkness was not far off. We set up our camp, had some dinner, and marvelled at the number of stars in the sky for a while before heading to bed.


    Heading out from Grant Narrows:
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    Ospreys -- there are a lot of them at Pitt Lake:
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    Paddling across the bottom of the lake -- note the dyke on the right of the photo:
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    This is what happens if you try to paddle up the centre of the lake when the tide is not high enough:
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    A paraglider makes his way down the lake to the narrows:
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    Waving a paraglider hello as he passes us:
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    A look up the lake on this gorgeous day:
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    The green channel markers - be careful not to give into the urge to ignore the markers -- the lake is very shallow at the south end -- even for kayaks:
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    A great blue heron standing on a sand bar:
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    Paddling up the lake. Note the exposed sand bar behind Maddie:
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    As you paddle up the main channel you'll notice these markers near McFadden Bay -- they indicate a narrow passageway that leads to the deeper waters near the shore:
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    A fabulous view up the lake:
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    Loon:
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    Stopped at Raven Creek to stretch our legs:
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    Looking back towards Grant Narrows as the sun begins to set:
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    Stopping for a break along the way:
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    Wiliams Landing, one of several small communities along the shores of the lake:
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    The last picture of the day before it got too dark. We arrived a little while later at the campsite in darkness:
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    Day two – August 5, Osprey Creek to the top of the lake and back
    We woke up after a restful sleep and had BLT’s for breakfast. By noon, we had finished cleaning our dishes, done some exploring around the campsite, and loaded up our food and other gear that we didn’t want to leave at the campsite while we were gone. We set out to paddle up the east side of the lake and then return on the west shoreline. Conditions were really nice; warm temperatures (bordering on hot), calm waters, and not a lot of boat traffic -- yet.

    The top part of Pitt Lake is geographically a lot different than the bottom half. The lake is narrower and steeper giving it a more closed in feeling. You know by looking at the terrain, that the wind on this part of the lake can just howl at times. Lots of very large logs and fallen trees on the few beaches confirm this and indicate that the middle of winter would most likely not be a pleasant time to paddle on this lake.

    Arriving at Vickers Creek we found a couple camping at the south end and two more guys camping at the north end. Vickers Creek is a really nice spot but there is limited camping. After filtering some water we continued on our way to the top of the lake. Shortly after resuming our trip, we came across a mother seal and her pup. It’s strange to see seals in a lake, but this is quite a common site on Pitt Lake as seals swim up the Fraser River and then up the Pitt River to the lake. You can also see seals in Harrison Lake.

    Reaching the top of the lake a while later, we were treated to excellent views of the distant mountains and the large, flat expanse of the marshy area of the estuary. We stopped a little way up the river on a gravel beach and had a nice relaxing lunch. After lunch we proceeded back down the lake with a stop to watch a family of otters frolicking around on the log booms at the top of the lake.

    Our trip back down the lake was into a strong headwind that kicked up around three o’clock. It wasn’t too bad and it didn’t last for long but we had decided to follow the shoreline for most of the way back and for the most part, were sheltered from the full effects of the afternoon wind and had a relaxing paddle back to the campsite, enjoying good conversation along the way.

    As we crossed from Cozen Point to the campsite, we were treated to an obnoxious sound of rap music playing at ridiculous decibel levels from two wake board boats that were sitting in the middle of the lake. We were certain that the inconsiderate people on the boats couldn’t hear themselves think and we wished that we had a noise seeking torpedo in our possession, but unfortunately, we didn't. By the time we arrived at the campsite a half hour later and began getting dinner ready they finally left and the silence was quite welcome.

    The rest of the evening was spent sitting preparing and eating dinner and then sitting around the campfire.


    An early morning view from the campsite:
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    Maddie checking out the beach:
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    One person's discarded tire is another's trampoline:
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    Heading out to paddle to the end of the lake:
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    The cliffs of Pitt -- notice Maddie at the bottom of the cliff:
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    Spectacular scenery on the sunny day:
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    Another small community of cottages:
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    That's right, it's a seal. They swim up the Fraser, and then up the Pitt River:
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    Maddie checking out a small waterfall:
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    Does it get any better?:
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    Some unique cottages built on the cliffs:
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    Our first glimpse of the top of the lake:
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    Lots of sheer cliff walls:
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    It always amazes me the places that trees will root:
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    The beach at Vickers Creek. There is a rustic campsite at each end of the beach with enough room for a couple of tents (there are no facilities here):
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    Vickers Creek.:
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    Another view of the creek near the mouth:
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    Looking down the beach at Vickers Creek:
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    Continuing on to the top of the lake:
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    A seal and her pup basking in the sunshine:
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    The seal pup curiously watches as we pass by:
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    Approaching the top of the lake:
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    The valley is wide at the north end of the lake:
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    Rugged mountains:
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    The marshy area at the top of the lake is quite picturesque:
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    A good spot for a lunch stop:
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    Maddie picks up a hitch-hiker:
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    This canoe with a sail was the only other paddlecraft that we would see on this trip:
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    The dock and buildings at the top of the lake:
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    A group of otters playing on the log booms:
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    Heading back down the lake towards our campsite:
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    Stunning scenery is all around:
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    Taking a break:
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    More scenery -- this is such a beautiful place:
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    Looking down the lake. Osprey North campsite is just about right in the middle of this photo:
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    As we approach the campsite, Maddie's orange tent is quite visible:
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    Coho on the beach:
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    Day three – August 6, Osprey Creek – a day at camp
    Today was a lazy day. We didn’t do a lot of anything except hang around the campsite and enjoy the sunshine. The highlight of the day was a visit by the park maintenance workers and a few BC Parks employees. It was quite humorous as we watched the BC Parks people getting out of their nice big, new shiny Zodiak boat -- couldn’t help but laugh a bit as grown men daintily exited the boat, cautiously trying to avoid getting their feet wet. The maintenance caretakers had a small speed boat and were quite well versed at getting out of their boat on the rocky beaches – and they were wearing appropriate footwear that they weren’t afraid to get wet. After everyone left, Maddie and I were left alone at the campsite for the remainder of the day with the exception of a couple of power boaters who came into the small cove near the campsite. We ended up swimming and splashing around in the shallow water in front of the campsite for a couple of hours. Yes, the glacial fed lake was cold but on this hot summer day, it was also quite refreshing.

    Around 5:00 PM we decided to take a short paddle over to Egg Island. It’s actually an un-named island that we named – on Pitt Lake, there’s Goose Island and Little Goose Island, and an un-named island so we figured it would only stand to reason that the smallest of the three islands should be called Egg Island – you can call it what you like, but we like this name.

    On our way to Egg Island, we once again were treated to blaring music – this time from a group of six inconsiderate power boaters who had large speakers on stands on a small beach about 3 kilometres from our campsite, facing out towards the lake with two more large speakers sitting on the back of one of their speedboats facing the beach. To say it was loud would be an understatement and they didn’t seem to have any thoughts towards the many people who were hoping to quietly enjoy their campsites and cabins along the lakeshore. Once around the point from the small beach, the sound was considerably less and we were once again enjoying the quiet that can be found on the lake. After a short stop on Egg Island, we headed back to our campsite for a pizza dinner. It was another peaceful evening of sitting around the campfire, talking and laughing until bedtime.


    This chipmunk zeroed right in on our waterbottle filled with trail mix and started chewing on the top:
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    Maddie enjoying some quiet reading time:
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    Time for cooling off in the water:
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    The view from the campsite. There was a fair bit of haze, we figure it was pollution from the city:
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    We decided to go for a paddle to Egg island and passed these power boaters who had set up huge speakers on the beach:
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    On the beach at Egg island:
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    Looking up the lake towards Cozen Point:
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    This kind of boat we like -- people fishing with their small motors don't make much noise:
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    Maddie nears the campsite:
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    It's looking like there will be a good sunset tonight:
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    We weren't disappointed:
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    Mmm... pizza for dinner:
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    Another nice fire before bed:
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    Day four – August 7, Osprey Creek to Grant Narrows
    We got off to a leisurely start in the morning and were on the water at about eleven o’clock. We decided that we’d paddle down the west side of the lake since we would have a high-tide advantage. Note that when the tide is lower, it’s not a good idea to paddle the entire length of the west side because it’s likely that you’ll get caught in the shallows at the south end of the lake. Getting caught there often means pushing your boat a long way across the sandbar – from experience I can tell you that this is not a pleasant thing to do.

    Our paddle back started with by crossing the lake to Cozen Point and then heading south. We stopped briefly at the old abandoned donkey engine just north of Defrauder Falls before continuing on to the falls where we didn’t stop because there was a couple who were enjoying the sunny day ‘al fresco’ (as Maddie put it) and we figured it would be best to allow them their privacy.

    One of the nicest aspects of Pitt Lake is the enormous cliffs that drop steeply into the water. Paddling alongside them can certainly make one feel small. Many of the cliffs are adorned with black and bright green lichen, which creates a stark and dramatic contrast to the green trees and water. There are a couple of locations where we stopped to look at native pictographs on the cliff walls.

    We stopped at Dark Creek to take a look at the campsite and have lunch on the beach. It was a gloriously sunny day and a quick dip in the lake cooled us sufficiently before getting back in our boats and carrying on our way.

    The tide was dropping, but we figured we’d still be able to get through at the end of the lake before the sandbar would be exposed. We just made it with about a foot of water below us at some points. If you find yourself paddling the west side, aim for the large green channel marker closest to Grant Narrows (it's a few hundred metres from the west shore) as there's a small channel there.

    Just before entering the main channel at the south end of the lake, we watched as a bald eagle attacked a duck in the water. The eagle dove down on the duck and at the last moment, just as the eagle dropped its razor sharp talons down for the kill, the duck dove underwater and evaded certain death. After a few attempts, the eagle flew to a nearby tree, found a perch, and watched the duck to see what it would do next. While waiting in the tree, another bald eagle joined in the hunt and together the two eagles attacked the goose, one right after the other. Again, the duck avoided the attacks by diving under the water at the very last moment. The eagles both retreated to their high perch in the tree and as they watched, the duck also watched them and when it saw a window of opportunity, it took off from the water and flew as fast as it could to put distance between itself and the two deadly raptors. As soon as the duck took off, the eagles were in pursuit but the duck managed to keep ahead of them and got across the bottom of the lake to the safety of the marshlands just south of the lake. It was quite exciting to watch this amazing failed hunting session.

    A short paddle across Grant Narrows and we were at the take-out where we loaded our boats onto the car and were on our way home from a fantastic and memorable four day trip up Pitt Lake.

    Maddie checks out the abandoned donkey engine near Defrauder Falls:
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    Defrauder Falls:
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    Pictographs:
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    Maddie paddling below more cliffs:
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    Dark Creek campsite:
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    The beach at the campsite:
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    As we neared Grant Narrows, we witnessed a bald eagle attacking a duck on the water:
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    After a failed attack, the eagle flies back to a high perch in a nearby tree:
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    But it doesn't stay there long before attacking again:
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    Back at the put-in at Grants Narrows (just to the right of the row of trees):
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    All in all, we had a very enjoyable four day adventure on Pitt Lake.

    *****
     
  2. sludge

    sludge Paddler

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    Dan:

    Check your emails for one about trading jobs.
    Stunning photos and report, as always.
     
  3. Kermode

    Kermode Paddler

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    :clap: once again Dan, a great trip report & quite simply stunning photos (yet again). Looks like you had a fabulous time. Thanks for posting for the rest of us. :mrgreen:
     
  4. LuckyButtons

    LuckyButtons New Member

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    Nice pics,

    It looks like very busy lake, Is it?
     
  5. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    It was really busy on the day we paddled up -- but it was the last day of a long weekend so we anticipated a lot of power boats. For the rest of our four day trip, it was a few inconsiderate power boaters who made it seem a lot worse than it actually was. For the most part, it was fine with the occasional power boat roaring past. We had the campsite where we stayed to ourselves for the entire time.

    This was the first time (of many trips up the lake) that I'd been on the lake during the peak of summer and I doubt that I'll go during July and August again. I definitely enjoy Pitt Lake more during the "off season".

    *****
     
  6. lance_randy

    lance_randy Paddler

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    There are seals in the lake? I'm confused here guys...
     
  7. Mark_Schilling

    Mark_Schilling Paddler

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    What can I say - it's a confusing lake. There's a tide, and yet you can drink the water. And yes, plenty of seals around.

    The lake can be reached from the Pitt River, which is a tributary of the mighty Fraser. So in other words, if you were a fish, you could swim down the lake, down the Pitt River, into the Fraser, and find yourself being eated by an Orca in the Strait of Georgia. That explains the seals (they don't seem to mind the fresh water, I guess), and also the tide.

    Strictly speaking, it's not an actual tide. It's just that, at high tide, the lake gets 'backed up' by the rise of the water level in the Fraser, as it gets backed up by the tide. Once the tide starts to ebb again, the Fraser (and therefore Pitt Lake) drain again. Voila - low tide in the fresh-water lake. I think it's the biggest or second biggest tidal lake in North America. the tidal swing isn't as much as you'd find at the coast - maybe a couple of feet or so.

    I've only paddled Pitt Lake and Indian Arm a few times, but due to the similarity of scenery (including seals and tides) I seem to get them confused in my mind - can't seem to remember which campsites belong where, etc. It's a weird place IMO. :lol:
     
  8. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Good explanation of the tides, Mark.

    Yup, it's definitely strange seeing seals in a fresh water lake. And equally strange that boats need to be pulled up the beach on a lake because of rising tides. Aside from impressive scenery, it's those conditions that make Pitt Lake one of my favourite fresh water destinations.

    Pitt Lake is apparently the largest tidal lake in the world

    There are also lots of seals in Harrison Lake -- but there's no tidal effect on that lake as it's too far from the ocean.

    *****
     
  9. lance_randy

    lance_randy Paddler

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    what a crazy world. Those pictures are fantastic, that lake is going on my list 8)
     
  10. kelly t

    kelly t Paddler

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    Dan and Maddie,

    Great trip report (or reports, including the others this summer).

    Looks like Maddie has more than enough info for her "What I did during my summer vacation" essay :D

    Thanks for sharing.

    kelly t
     
  11. Fred Braches

    Fred Braches New Member

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    Dan & Maddie:
    I am trying to find confirmation that what the old-timers called Bridal Veil Falls at Pitt Lake is today known as the Defrauder Falls (where Defrauder Creek falls into Pitt Lake?). The following picture, taken around 1906, shows the Bridal Veil Falls. Do you or anyone else reading this have a "modern" picture of the Defrauder Falls taken from a similar angle? Help would be appreciated
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  12. paddlesores

    paddlesores Paddler

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    Fred,

    Here's a pic I took of Defrauder Falls this past July. Little bit different angle but it does look like the same falls as in your picture.
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    Hope this helps,
    Doug
     
  13. oldsailor

    oldsailor Paddler

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    Ok I just read this again (because it was updated... and I'm an addict) and, once again, I was stunned by the photos. The photos of the heron on the sandbar, the loon, and especially the otter family deserve to be published. I hope they're in the "wallpaper" section.

    And I couldn't help but smile at the photo of Maddie using a discarded tire as a trampoline. You can take your wildlife right along with you. :lol:

    I sure miss having my kids with me on adventures. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy having them along as adults (and the grandkids) but it doesn't get any better than what you have going for you now. :)

    Craig
     
  14. Fred Braches

    Fred Braches New Member

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    Hi Doug. That picture is just what I was hoping for! I am attaching another picture taken in 1972 for Beautiful British Columbia of what they then called "Bridal Veil Falls." I also insert a portion of your photo for comparison. This certainly helps. Do you have more from that spot for comparison? Thank you very much.
    Fred

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