Broughton Archipelago

by Lynn Ove Mortensen

Following the Inside Passage north and west, several sets of tightly constricted waterways mark a very real barrier to British Columbia’s coastal travel.  Beyond these rapids, including Seymour Narrows, Yaculta Rapids, Surge Narrows and Hole in the Wall, the weather changes.  The air and water are colder, rain and fog are more prevalent and settlements are fewer; the wilderness begins.

For the adventuresome, leaving behind the reliable summer playgrounds of the south leads to greater insight into the province’s past and a real sense of having been somewhere different.  These days, a lot of boaters are heading to the Broughton Archipelago.

This group of 300-plus islands is now designated as a marine park.  Recreational boaters cruise this region for its quiet anchorages, and natural wildlife.  They also come for the astounding sport fishing where salmon and immense fifty-kilogram halibut are guaranteed to deliver the thrill of a lifetime.

This is the land of lumberjack tales and villages on floats tied to shore.  It’s the land of Three-Week-Willies who worked in camps just long enough to earn money for another bust into town, and remain loyal to the only steamer that allowed caulk boots on her decks.

Around the park there are signs of this era, the old steamship stops at Simoom Sound, Minstrel Island and Echo Bay, where day boats brought loggers, fishermen and prospectors from miles around.  Nowadays, in remote bays around the park, small entrepreneurs summon boaters with interesting bait.  Lagoon Cove on West Cracroft offers a gathering place for recreational boaters who can tie off on their floats.  Happy hours commence and potlucks are concocted from the daily catch.  Shawl Bay, with its breathtaking scenery, sales of fresh pastries and free pancake breakfasts is another popular stop among the boating community.

One of the other highlights in the summer is Pierre’s regular pig roasts, complimented by side dishes contributed by guests.  In these parts, isolated restaurants at Sullivan Bay and Greenway Sound are other noted stops.

When our itinerary leads us east into the mountains, we can pierce one-hundred nautical miles deep into British Columbia’s interior along the corridor that is created by Knight Inlet.  Knight Inlet, whose glacial waters become fluorescent teal, punctures B.C.’s coastline farther than any other fjord.  Here the mountains tower and waterfall-covered cliffs abound.  Regular black bear sightings and the occasional grizzly make this an adventure.  Wild intact rivers are teaming with spawning salmon while seals and bald eagles wait for a silvery meal.  Many books have been written about this inlet, telling inspiring stories of homesteading, settlement and survival.  It is here that one’s chances of a human sighting are slightly less than that of witnessing a foraging bear.