Wallace Island - Trip Description
Total trip distance: 22 kilometres (14 miles)
Minimum (day-trip) distance: 6km from Kuper Island; varying distances from other islands serviced by BC Ferries.
Coordinates (WGS 84):
N48 57.337 W123 34.402 - Chivers Point Campsite
N48 57.120 W123 33.974 - Cabin Bay Campsite
N48 56.334 W123 32.661 - Chivers Point Campsite
- No. 3313 Small-Craft Charts: Gulf Islands (various scales)
Canadian Topographic Maps:
A popular paddling spot for multi-day kayak trips, Wallace Island offers just about everything you could want in a paddling destination. It's located far enough out of town that it doesn't seem to attract hordes of people, but it's close enough to numerous put-in spots that it's easy to get to from just about any location. There are no less than 3 different camping areas on the 4km-long island, and each offers different scenery and features. There is drinking water on the island (should be boiled before use), making it a great stop if you're on a longer, unassisted trip through the area. And, to top it all off, there are many small islets in the area for easy day paddles to explore the diverse wildlife and tidal areas.
Formed as a Provincal Park in 1990, Wallace Island has an interesting and romantic history through the late 1800s. The island was first inhabited by a scotsman around 1889, and he spent his last 37 years there. Finally, in 1946, an American from Los Angeles, David Conover, bought the island and built numerous cabins for his guests. He lived there with his family for nearly 40 years before his death in 1983. In the 60s, he started selling off portions of the land, which were to be developed but never were. Finally, in the late 1980s, all but 11 acres of the island was purchased by the Provincial Government and a park was born.
David Conover Sr. wrote two books about his life in the island. Information on the Conover Family and the books can be found at http://www.dconover.com/default.htm
Crossings from the east can get nasty in windy weather, and may be tricky from the west in the same conditions. From the north (Kuper Island area) is probably your best bet if you plan on going during the windy season, but on a calm day Wallace Island is within easy reach from any direction, subject to finding a good place to launch.
Campsites are found just to the west side of the northern tip of the island, at Chivers Point. About 10 tent pads with picnic tables can be found here, and if you're lucky, you might get one of the two that front on the sheltered rocky beach. Further south, on the east side of the island, two more sites can be found nestled in Cabin Bay. Finally, near the south end of the island and accessible from both the east and west sides, is a large grassy field off of Conover Cove. Tents can be set up anywhere on the fringes of the field, and a single open-air cabin is still there so you can cook or get out of the rain. The field is well used by campers playing frisbee and volleyball, and has a great view of the dock and bay to the southwest.
There is a single-track path that winds its way down the length of the island, allowing for a beautiful scenic walk of about 4 kilometres (each way). The path branches at a few points, and leads past the hand water-pump in a wet grassy area near Princess Cove, about 2/3 the way down the island.
Wallace Island seems to attract visitors from every direction. I began my trip from Dionisio Marine Park on the northern tip of Galiano Island, crossing Trincomali Channel after waiting a few hours for a break in the weather. But the island is also easily accesible from Thetis and Kuper Islands to the north-west (serviced by BC Ferries from Chemainus), or a slightly longer paddle directly from either Chemainus or the Crofton area of Vancouver Island. While I haven't found a suitable launch spot yet, I'm sure there must be a good spot to put in from somewhere on the north end of Saltspring Island, making for a short paddle across Houston Passage directly to Wallace. Paddlers wanting a longer trip could put in at my final destination, Yellow Point, just north of Ladysmith.
More information on Wallace Island Provincial Park can be found on the BC Parks web site at http://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/wallace.htm.
Trip Date: May 22-23, 2005
Weather: Overcast to partly cloudy, mild temperatures
Water condition: Calm to 3 foot wind waves
Tides/currents: Low to moderate currents even during large tidal swings
Submitted by: Mark Schilling
Images copyright: Mark Schilling