Sandy Island, Baynes Sound

AlphaEcho

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Jan 24, 2010
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Quadra Island, BC
Last weekend a friend and I visited Sandy Island (aka Tree Island) in Baynes Sound, south of Comox and north of Denman Island. This was my first visit to this site and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

Jáji7em and Kw’ulh Marine Park [a.k.a. Sandy Island Marine Park] includes Sandy Island – known locally as Tree Island – and the nearby Seal Islets. The park is located off the northern tip of Denman Island and is accessible by boat from Union Bay on Vancouver Island or by foot from Denman Island at low tide.
- BC Parks

This blog post offers more description and photos that I quite liked:

About 8000 or 9000 years ago, this sandy archipelago was connected to Willemar Bluffs on the Comox Peninsula with a bank of dunes, forming a ‘super-estuary’ between Denman and Vancouver Island. The waters are now known as Comox Bay & Baynes Sound, and the submerged sandbar that remains, the Comox Bar, is still tricky to navigate at low tide.
Some reading of the geology journals reveals that the east coast of Vancouver Island was ancient sedimentary seabed lifted to form Vancouver Island. This is the source of the many sandstone features all along the coast. Sandy Island is unusual in that it became a sand dune habitat, rare on our part of the Pacific coast. The plants and animals adapted to this habitat are therefore rare as well.

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Aside from the grove of fir and maple trees in the center of Sandy Island, the rest of the island is covered in mosses specific to the sand dunes mixed with low shrubs and meadow grasses adapted to the sand.

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There was evidence of deer, raccoons, and maybe rabbits or hares. Offshore were seals and sea lions gathering for the annual herring spawn. Birders will also find a visit rewarding. The marine life around the island made my visit. There are actual sand dollars to be found in the intertidal zone. Keep your eyes peeled.

We spotted the usual examples of marine debris (plastic bottles, shellfish farm trays) but it was refreshingly light.

There is an outhouse in the grove in the central part of the island. The park is closed to fires and camping, but there was evidence of camp sites all around the island.

All in all, Sandy Island is a good day paddle. It's about 2.3 NM to Sandy Island from the shores of Union Bay. It's around 5 NM all the way around. You can tack on another 3-4 NM if you prowl down the NE shore of Denman and back.

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Visitors planning to to circumnavigate the island must pay attention to the tide schedule. The pass between the island and Denman is only accessible near the top of the tide and even then it is quite shallow. As always, check the wind forecast. This is Georgia Strait after all. We experienced a 12-14 KT wind from the south coming up Lambert Channel into Baynes Sound. It was fun side-surfing during our crossing back to our launch, but it might not be fun for everyone.

Camping options include Fillongley Provincial Park on Denman -- which could be a starting/ending point for a circumnavigation of Denman and Sandy Island.

Access options (other than Denman) include launch locations all along the Vancouver Island Shore: Deep Bay, Union Bay, Royston. These launches are characterized by cobbles on low gradient beaches. Boat runs have been made at several sites to make launching/landing safer. Overnight parking is on residential side streets near the shore accesses. Be kind, observe the resident's no parking signs, and do not block driveways.
 
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