Pitt Lake: Cursed or Blessed?

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by jefffski, May 15, 2018.

  1. jefffski

    jefffski Paddler

    Jan 2, 2014
    Pitt Lake—Cursed or Blessed?
    A Mother’s Day Trip North

    To some, 25-kilometre long Pitt Lake is cursed. For us, the curse only extends to its crazy afternoon winds and waves, and on weekends, noisy motorboats and partygoers. We gambled that by choosing a Sunday-Monday paddle in mid May, we could avoid the rash of powerboats. Also, early morning starts would limit exposure to the lake’s notorious winds. What we couldn’t control was the possibility of flooded campsites from the freshet from this year’s heavy snow and rapid melt, which was more of a concern than the three-foot tides in this tidal fjord lake.

    We arrived at the Grant Narrows boat launch just outside of Pitt Meadows just before 8 a.m., quickly loaded our tandem Clipper Tripper canoe, paid $10 for overnight parking and headed north. Two years earlier, but in June, we followed the western shore, but this time, we followed the dredged path along the eastern shore to avoid the possibility of getting stuck in the mudflats.

    Boat Launch and channel.jpg

    Paddling on glassy water, we caught views of distant peaks still resplendent in winter’s heavy snow.

    Views of Distant Peaks

    As we paddled, we passed small groups of houses, some run down, others quite new. At the nine-kilometre point, we came upon the first campsite, Raven’s Creek, now mostly flooded, with room for perhaps two tents.

    Three hours into our trip, we passed between Little Goose Island and William’s Landing and continued on to the next campsite, Osprey Creek South, at 16 kilometres, just north of a few homes at Rockabella. We pulled our canoe onto the log-strewn beach and enjoyed a leisurely stop in the sunshine.

    Osprey Creek South

    Just around the corner is Osprey Creek North, and while the tents sites are dry, they are deep in the shaded forest while the sun-drenched beach is submerged. Now, we questioned whether we should continue north. While Osprey Creek South is a fine camp, we’re planning a ten-day 180-kilometre-long trip around Bella Bella-Hakai, and we needed more strokes in our arms.

    Two years earlier, in drier conditions, we paddled to Vicker’s Creek, at 25 kilometres, just a few kilometres from the end of the lake. At that time, a few people were camped among the giant logs on the beach, and we lined our canoe 100 feet up the creek where found a nice spot and made a kitchen table.

    Vicker's Creek June 2016
    Kitchen table.JPG
    Now, we worried that the beach would be underwater and that the creek would be in full flood leaving our cute spot under a torrent of glacier-cold water. If that was the case, returning to Osprey Creek South would mean backtracking eight kilometres and probably against a strong headwind. The only other alternative was camping at the end of the lake at the bottom of the logging road—not a pleasant position, as far as we knew. Well, though the time was already past noon, the air was still and the lake was smooth as a baby’s bottom. We paddled north past beautiful cliffs and mountain vistas.

    Rounding Cacus Point, the final point before entering the bay fed by Vicker’s Creek, we expected a rush of wind. Not even a puff. As we glided towards the creek, we saw, as expected, a completely flooded beach.

    Vicker's Creek

    Where two years earlier, we had to line the canoe up a gravely bed, this year’s high lake water allowed us to paddle a few feet up the mouth of the creek into a pool of fast flowing water. We stopped in the eddy of a huge fallen tree, ferried across a class 1+ rapid into a shore eddy and quickly hopped out onto a rocky shore.

    Mouth of Vicker's Creek
    While I held the boat, my partner ran across the dry creek bed and waded through two knee-deep side channels to hunt for a camp spot. She waved back—and though I could not hear because of the rushing water, I knew she had found our spot from two years ago.

    Within 15 minutes, we had unloaded our gear and had carried it and the canoe to our very primitive camp spot. As an added bonus, the piece of plywood she had built into a tabletop on that last trip was lying safely among the alders.

    We spent a quiet remainder of the afternoon relaxing, (OK, I relaxed while she built the table) and aside from a brief visit from a couple of motorboaters who somehow motored into the pool we easily paddled up and who then tied up to and clambered over a fallen tree in the creekmouth, we saw no one else.

    Vicker's Creek Campsite

    Making Dinner

    We slept soundly to the sound of the nearby creek, woke early and were on the water by 7:30 the next morning. My partner even dismantled our table and stored the plywood where she found it. Unfortunately, the calm water of the day before was replaced by a stiff breeze and two-foot waves. With some effort, we crossed the lake to its western side until we entered a lee among a small group of homes near Debeck Creek. Then, we turned south. By 9 a.m. the winds abated, and once more, we paddled in perfect conditions along a wild looking shore festooned with flowers.


    The wind never picked up, though the temperatures rose to a balmy 30deg C. That left time for stops to view pictographs,

    take in views of Golden Ears,
    marvel at bright licheny cliffs,
    lichen and pictgraph.jpg

    stand below roaring Defrauder falls (a few tent sites were above the high-water level, but sleep would be difficult given the deafening roar of the falls),

    kj at Defrauder falls.jpg

    and laugh at someone's idea of art
    For the final leg of our journey through Grant Narrows, we elected not to cross to the dredged channel as we were still between high and low tides. That, and the generally high-water levels made the passage straightforward.

    By 2 p.m. we were safely back at the boat launch having dispelled any notion of a Pitt Lake curse.

    Here's a map with the campsites
    Pit lake map.jpg
    Dan_Millsip likes this.
  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

    May 31, 2005
    Astoria, Oregon, USA
    Super report. Loved the photos.
    jefffski likes this.
  3. LAM

    LAM Paddler

    Dec 28, 2012
    Nice photos. Thanks for sharing! Pitt Lake is one our favorites, in the off season. I think it is only cursed if you go up there looking for Slumach's Gold. ;)

    jefffski likes this.
  4. chodups

    chodups Paddler

    Nov 2, 2005
    Good read! Great photos. Thanks for posting.
    jefffski likes this.
  5. designer

    designer Paddler

    Sep 17, 2012
    Bend OR USA
    Those smiles and little flower vase on the makeshift table - so good! Just 'cause it's "camping" doesn't mean it can't have style.
  6. jefffski

    jefffski Paddler

    Jan 2, 2014
    That's my girlfriend--always making these just that much better.