The Broken Group - Trip Description
- No. 3670 Broken Group (1:20,000)
- No. 3671 Barkley Sound (1:40,000)
- Hand Island: N48 57.074 W125 18.583
- Gibraltar Island: N48 55.092 W125 15.358
- Dodd Island: N48 55.314 W125 19.460
- Willis Island: N48 55.021 W125 20.492
- Turret Island: N48 54.225 W125 20.934
- Clarke Island: N48 53.567 W125 22.620
- Gilbert Island: N48 52.508 W125 19.239
- MV Lady Rose/Frances Barkley via Port Alberni
- Toquart Bay
The Broken Islands are nestled in Barkley Sound, between the towns of Ucluelet (to the North) and Bamfield (to the South) on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They offer sandy, secluded beaches, sheltered from the roaring surf of the outside, and sea states can range from dead flat calm on windless days between the islands, to very challenging and possibly dangerous on the exposed shores when swells are high. So, there's something for every paddler, from the bird-watching drifter to the ocean-whitewater adrenaline junky. There are seven camp sites within the park, and each has numerous tent sites and a composting toilet building. Camping fees are collected by park wardens who visit each island daily; you can pay for your total visiting time the first time you encounter a warden, or pay on each island as you hop across the chain. At the time of my visit (June 2006) the fees were $9 per person, per night, and the fees could be paid with cash, cheque or credit card.
There are a few ways to get to the islands. The easiest, yet most expensive route is to drive to Port Alberni, and hop aboard the MV Lady Rose, which will shuttle you to Sechart Lodge (about 4.1 km east of Hand Island). The price as of June 2006 is $29 per person, one way, and paddlers are advised to check on availability and dates in advance. The trip from Port Alberni to Seachart Lodge is about 3 hours down the length of the scenic and rugged Alberni Inlet. It should also be noted that the Lady Rose is also available for special charters; details can be found at the link above.
Approximate paddling distances from Sechart Lodge to:
Hand Island: 4.1 km
Dodd Island: 6.3 km
Willis Island: 8.0 km
Turret Island: 11.7 km
Clarke Island: 12.3 km
Gilbert Island: 10.6 km
Gibralter Island: 5.5 km
Another option, and the one I chose, is to drive past Port Alberni towards Tofino and Ucluelet. Look for the turnoff to Toquart Bay (approximate lat/long co-ordinates are N49 03.376 W125 28.672), and navigate the gravel road 16.1 km to Toquart Bay Provincial Campground. You must check in with the attentants there, and they will let you know where to unload, which part of the beach to use, and where to park. In 2006, the parking fee was $3 per night. The paddle from Toquart Bay is a scenic, somewhat sheltered trip to Hand Island, the closest island in the park, and takes you through the Stopper Islands with seductive glimpses out to the open ocean.
Approximate paddling distances from Toquart Bay to:
Hand Island: 8.5 km
Dodd Island: 11.7 km
Willis Island: 12.1 km
Turret Island: 15.3 km
Clarke Island: 14.1 km
Gilbert Island: 16.9 km
Gibralter Island: 14.1 km
A third option is to drive to the town of Bamfield, and paddle north through the Deer Group toward the southern-most islands of the Broken Group. The drive on unpaved roads to Bamfield is significantly longer than the Toquart Bay option, so make sure your vehicle is up to the challenge. That said, most of these mainlines are well maintained, so most 2wd vehicles will make the journey unscathed in the summer months. Imperial Eagle Channel, separating the Deer Group from the Broken Group, is open to westerly and south-westerly winds, and reports indicate that it can become quite rough. Paddling distances from Bamfield to campsites in the Broken Group are about 13.1 km to 19.9 km. The Lady Rose will also shuttle paddlers, their kayaks and gear from Bamfield into the Broken Group directly.
The last regular access point is the town of Ucluelet, and requires no water taxis or gravel roads. However, the paddle in is from the exposed west coast, so those with limited experience in more challenging conditions would be best to avoid this option. Contact the Travel Information Centre in Ucluelet for parking information before you head up there - this town can be very busy in summer and longer-term parking may be limited. The paddle in from Ucluelet to Clarke Island, the closest island in the group, is about 14.2 km.
Final trip notes:
Watch for crows. As much as I like wildlife, these crows are nature's con artists. They will take advantage of any chance to separate you from your food. Don't assume that because you're only 5 feet from your breakfast sausages, they won't pluck them from the frying pan - they will. Trust me on this one.
Some islands are nicer than others, but I'd be hard pressed to find any complaints about any of the islands I stayed on. Paddle around a bit, and explore the differences between each island. Take a day, even if you have to wait for a perfect, flat, calm day, to explore the exposed shores on the outside. Find an experienced guide if you like, and don't push your limits, but if you can, make every attempt to get out there for a few hours. Watch for whales, sea lions and large swells. Keep your wits about you, keep your eyes open at all times, and enjoy the rugged beauty that makes the West Coast special.
Drinking water is quite scarce in the islands. Your best bet is to bring enough with you, or prepare to paddle over to Sechart Lodge if you're running low. In a pinch (and if you have a good water filter), head over to a small creek on the east side of Cooper Island where it spills out onto the beach. Dig a hole and wait for the clarity of the water to return before collecting and filtering your water. The creek can be found near N48 52.398' W125 20.538'.
Do a little homework and reading before you go. Island Paddling by Mary Ann Snowden, as well as her newest book Sea Kayak Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds are both valuable resources, covering many things I haven't in this album. Kayak Routes of the Pacific Nothwest Coast by Peter McGee is also an excellent book, detailing some of the highlights of this amazing West Coast paddling paradise.
Relax on the beach, drift around a bit, and do what you want. Even if you're part of a larger group, make sure you spend some time doing what makes this place special for you.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada
Lady Rose Marine Services
Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Tides
Environment Canada Weather Forecast
Bamfield Chamber of Commerce
Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce
Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce
Trip Date: June 7 - 12, 2006
Weather: Mainly cloudy, a few light showers, light to moderate winds, cool
Water condition: Flat to 1.5' wind waves; swells up to 2.5 metres, minimal currents
Submitted by: Mark Schilling
Images Copyright: Mark Schilling