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Pacific Rim National Park | Broken Group Islands

More information about kayaking in the Broken Group Islands, including a map, can be found in the Eco-Tourism - Kayaking section.


Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is part of a system of national parks and historic sites stretching from sea to sea to sea. It protects for all time a significant example of Canada's natural and cultural heritage to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment for present and future generations.

Note: Parks Canada anticipates the possibility of an archeological dig on Benson Island in the summer of 2000. Camping may not be available on Benson Island in July and August - plan accordingly. If the dig occurs, the Tseshaht First Nations will provide interpretation tours on-site on a scheduled basis. Schedules will be confirmed in June.

The Broken Group Islands are an archipelago of more than one hundred islands and rocks scattered throughout Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Facing the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the Islands are a stunning maze of sheltered bays, exposed reefs, densely forested islands and bare, windswept rocks.

As part of Canada's national park system, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve represents and protects both the near shore waters and the coastal lowland forests of Vancouver Island's west coast. Together the three units of the National Park Reserve; Long Beach, the West Coast Trail and the Broken Group Islands manage and protect an area of land and ocean covering 49,962 hectares.

Influenced by the Pacific Ocean and backed by the Insular Mountain range of Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim is perched on the edge of both land and ocean. The moderate maritime climate (cool foggy summers, mild wet winters) encourages an abundance of life both in the water and on the land. In no temperate region on earth is there a more bountiful, diverse, intertidal zone than on North America's nutrient rich Pacific coast. Likewise the temperate rainforests of North America's west coast are abundant with growth and distinct in their dominance by coniferous tree species such as Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar.

The people of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations have lived along this coastline and amongst these islands, for centuries. More recent explorers and settlers arriving on this coast found the waters treacherous and many a ship, crewmember and passenger have been lost in the waters that have become known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific".

The Broken Group Islands are an outstanding example of a marine archipelago, rich in both natural and cultural heritage. Balancing protection and recreational use of our national treasures, our national parks, area responsibility not only of Parks Canada, but of all park visitors. Follow the park guidelines in this handout to ensure the conservation and sustainability of our special heritage places for future generations.

Note: Due to weather, natural, financial, or operational concerns, the Broken Group Islands may not be accessible to the public.

Is your party ready for a trip to the Broken Group Islands? As the name "the Graveyard of the Pacific" indicates, this area abounds with dangers. Though marine navigation techniques and tools have improved since the nickname was bestowed, hazardous environmental conditions still exist today: trip preparation is a crucial element of any trip. Your ability to recognize and evaluate hazards is key to determining the risk you and your group are taking. In order to safely experience this area, your party's knowledge and skills must meet or exceed the challenges of the area.

The following is a list of some of the hazards your entire party should be aware of before setting out:
 •  Sea State: large ocean swell (long distance ocean-generated waves), steep chop (local wind-generated waves), tidal currents, cold water (year round temperature range 7-15 degrees Celsius); all pose potential problems for boaters.
 •  Seascape: a maze of islands, islets, reefs, submerged rocks, surge channels and sea caves can be difficult to navigate at any time, but are particularly dangerous in ocean swell or limited visibility.
 •  Exposed Channels: large swell, steep chop and strong winds can funnel through Loudoun and Imperial Eagle Channels, and other channels. Kayak, canoe and small craft travel through these passages is not recommended. Travel through Coaster Channel when winds are light (generally early morning).
 •  Weather: thick fog, torrential rain, hurricane force winds and glaring sunlight can occur in any season. Know how to obtain an up-to-date forecast of weather and sea state. Generally, winds tend to rise in the late morning and drop in the evening, especially on sunny days. In fair weather, winds blow from the west and northwest. Winds are from the southeast just before and during adverse weather. Wind-generated waves, especially those influenced by currents, can make for extremely rough or hazardous paddling and small craft handling.
 •  Marine Traffic: is diverse in this area (paddlers, small and large motor boats). Large and small motorized vessels often can not see paddlers, nor are they visible on radar. Know your responsibilities. All marine traffic is subject to marine collision regulation. Contact the boating safety info line for details (1-800-2676687).
 •  Hypothermia: The lowering of core body temperature below safe level causing the body to lose the ability to generate heat is a major killer of land and water based recreationists. Boaters beware; body heat is lost 25 times faster in water than in air. The maximum survival time in 10 degrees Celsius water is 2-3 hours. The water temperature in the Broken Group Islands ranges from 7 to 15 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia symptoms include uncontrolled fits of shivering, slurred speech, and loss of co-ordination. If not treated, hypothermia can be fatal. Know how to prevent and treat hypothermia.
 •  Group travel: Travel in a group of three or more boats to facilitate rescue and emergency response. Self-rescue may be the difference between life and death. Be prepared for a capsized or damaged boat, but more importantly, avoid situations that may be hazardous:
   •  stay within normal talking distance of one another and follow shorelines where possible.
   •  know the abilities (mentally and physically) of each member of your party and plan accordingly.
   •  travel at the speed of the slowest group member and assess the conditions of party members on an on-going basis.
   •  alcohol and wilderness settings do not mix.
   •  wilderness settings often pose personal hygiene problems for travellers, resulting in illness. Wash hands thoroughly with soap.

Maximum group size in the Broken Group Islands is ten (10) persons total and applies to private, commercial and non-profit groups.

 •  Stinging plants and insects: (e.g. stinging nettle, wasps, bees) are present on the Islands.
 •  Scavenging animals: such as crows, deer, rodents and raccoons are efficient and creative scavengers. Secure food in tightly closed containers when not in immediate use.
 •  Sea lions, seals and whales: are found in this unit of the park. It is unlawful, and dangerous, to approach a marine mammal any closer that 100 m. For federal guidelines referring to marine mammal viewing, contact the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (see Information Sources / References for details). Sea lions are known to carry a disease called leptospirosis. It can be transferable to humans, never touch a dead marine mammal.
 •  Naturally occurring toxins: such as Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) or Red Tide, have been found in Barkley Sound shellfish (e.g. clams, oysters and scallops). When contaminated shellfish are consumed by humans, symptoms can vary from a mild tingling of the lips and tongue, to paralysis and death. Shellfish harvest openings and closures, are based on rigorous monitoring procedures by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. PSP warning signs are regularly updated in camping areas and other locations in and around the Broken Group Islands. It is dangerous, and unlawful, to harvest shellfish in a closed area. (See Information Sources / References for details)

Freshwater sources are unreliable in the Islands. Bring with you all the potable water your group requires.

Be prepared - prevent situations that could escalate into a dangerous incident. Your group should be able to:
 •  Plot a course by chart and compass and pilot your vessel for safe travel in fog.
 •  Read weather patterns and signs and obtain an up-to-date marine weather forecast.
   •  before you go: Canada Coast Guard Ucluelet 250-726-3415
   •  in the islands: VHF Channel 21 B (Marine Weather Broadcasts)
 •  Assess water hazards that vary with tide, sea state and weather.
 •  Interpret tide tables (volume 6: Barkley Sound and Discovery Passage to Dixon Entrance: Tofino tables).
 •  Competently handle your boat in adverse conditions (some crossings may take 3 or more hours).
 •  Perform a group rescue and self-rescue if necessary.
 •  Camp in severe weather conditions.
 •  Call for help:
   •  Radio: VHF Channel 16 (156.8 Mhz) monitored 24 hours by Tofino Coast Guard Radio and Broken Group Islands Warden.
   •  CB Channel 9 not monitored by Canadian Coast Guard
   •  Cellular telephones: Telus / BCTel Mobility coverage (line of sight to Mt. Ozzard near Ucluelet - there are gaps in coverage)
   •  Emergency: Diver distress and boating accidents: Rescue Coordination Centre: 1-800-567-5111 or cellular *311.
 •  Administer first aid.
 •  File a Trip Plan with Tofino Coast Guard Radio, a responsible friend or relative (see e.g. checklist at the back of this information package). Upon completion of your Broken Group Island trip, inform your contact.

Access Points
Driving to the launching area at Toquart Bay is over a rough gravel road taking about 30 minutes (16 km). This road is in an area of active logging. Drive carefully and obey all signs. The Toquart Bay turn-off is located about 12 km northeast of the junction of Highway 4 and the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway. At Toquart Bay, there is a boat launch and a B.C. Forest Service campsite. Note: camping fees are now in effect for the Forest Service campsite.

Drop off by boat is possible through a few local operators.
 •  Alberni Marine Transport Ltd. transports paddlers and their boats on a scheduled basis to the protected waters north of the Broken Group Islands.
 •  Arrangements may be made with other operators based in the surrounding areas of Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Bamfield to drop off or pick up paddlers and their vessels.
Paddling from Bamfield and Ucluelet is not recommended due to exposed passages of Imperial Eagle and Loudon Channels.

Parks Canada's Presence
The Warden Station is located on floats, at a bay adjacent to Nettle Island, due north of the Gibraltar Island campsite. Though a park warden is usually in the Broken Group Islands full time May to October (7 days a week 24 hours per day), the Station does not maintain regular hours, as the resident Warden is often out on patrol. Park Wardens patrol in an 18 foot orange, rigid-hull, inflatable boat. In addition to providing information and emergency assistance to boaters and visitors, Park Wardens fulfill resource management, law enforcement and search and rescue responsibilities on a daily basis. Park wardens do not collect camping fees.

Protecting and Preserving
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve staff strive to manage recreational activities with the long term goal of protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the area for public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment. Current levels of use, coupled with increasing demands, have led to natural and cultural resource impacts and visitor feedback that indicates the island's visitation levels may require more direct management. While visiting national parks and park reserves, it is your responsibility to minimize your impacts. The following list will assist you in meeting these requirements.

Camping in this unit of the national park reserve must be within designated areas. Designated camping areas are located on 8 islands: Hand, Turret, Gibraltar, Willis, Dodd, Clarke, Benson and Gilbert Islands. Check your chart for their exact locations.

Note: Parks Canada anticipates the possibility of an archeological dig on Benson Island this summer. Camping may not be available on Benson Island in July and August - plan accordingly. If the dig occurs, the Tseshaht First Nations will provide interpretation tours on-site on a scheduled basis. Schedules will be confirmed in June.

 •  Maximum stay at each camping area is 4 nights.
 •  Maximum stay in the Broken Group Islands is fourteen (14) days.

Fees apply in the Broken Group Islands from May 1st to September 30th. Fees are $5.00 per person per night (non-refundable) and are collected at the camping areas by park licenced concessionaires. A Park Use Permit will be issued when fees are paid. VISA, MasterCard and cash are accepted. Note: Fee structures may be subject to change without notice.

Respect other campers quiet, this is a wilderness setting. Boaters and divers refrain from using generators, stereos and air compressors.

Solar composting outhouses are provided at all camping areas. They are toilets, not compost piles for food scraps and other organic waste, use them accordingly. Do not dispose of your garbage in composting toilets-pack it out!

When you leave ensure the area is in at least as pristine a condition as when you found it.
Do not:
 •  dig trenches around tents.
 •  leave camp kitchens and other structures.
 •  nail or affix permanent structures.
 •  leave tarp lines (untie them and take them with you).
 •  cut or remove vegetation.

Pack in / Pack out There is no garbage pick-up in the Broken Group Islands. Store food and garbage securely, either inside kayak hatches or in rodent and crow-proof containers.

Be campfire free. Bring a stove and know how to use it. Keep fires to a minimum, always below high tide line (never in the forest), burn wood no thicker than your wrist and ensure the fire has burned out completely before you leave the area. Never abandon a fire: smoldering fires have ignited, burning the ancient rainforest in the Islands.

Boating near caves and cliffs impacts nesting seabirds and is hazardous. Stay well away from these features.

SCUBA diving is a popular activity in the Barkley Sound area. Be familiar with the Diver Down flags. Reduce boat speed, and keep at least 50 metres clear of marked dive sites.

Pets disturb wildlife, interfere with other visitors' enjoyment of the area and can introduce disease to island wildlife. Leave your pets at home.

The traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations encompass the Broken Group Islands. There are Indian Reserves on Effingham, Nettle, and Keith Islands and visitation to these Reserves is not permitted without permission (see chart 3670 for exact locations). Anyone wishing to visit the Reserves must contact the appropriate First Nation prior to their trip and abide by their direction. Boaters are asked to refrain from tying up to the reserve wharf on the southeast side of Nettle Island. Respect all First Nations lands and policies.

The Islands contain many sites of great spiritual and cultural significance, treat them with respect. Disturbing, destroying or removing natural and cultural artifacts such as shells, plants and bones is strictly prohibited without prior written permission or licences. This regulation is enforced, carry all licences with you.

Finfish and shellfish harvest limits are reduced in the National Park. Carry the appropriate licences, know and adhere to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regulations This is a national park reserve, here to protect the diversity of life in this area for present and future generations: consider not harvesting. (See Information Sources/Reference for details)

Boaters should refrain from discharge of all waste while at anchor. Empty holding tanks at marina facilities or well offshore. As early as spring 1999 vessel sewage holding tank regulations may be in effect. Contact BC Environment for details at 250-751-3100.

Anchorages for vessels are available in Effingham Bay and in the small bay between Dodd, Willis and Turtle Islands.

Kayak Rentals and Commercial Companies
Kayak rentals are available from operators based in the nearby towns and villages (Tofino, Ucluelet, Bamfield, Nanaimo and Port Alberni).

Commercial companies operate in the Broken Group Islands. Contact the park information centre for a list of operators. Carefully select a company that meets the needs of your group.

Regulated equipment: See Canada Coast Guard Safe Boating Guide or contact Office of Boating Safety for equipment that must be carried on board your vessel.

Recommended equipment:
 •  Charts 3670 and 3671 available from:
     Canadian Hydrographic Service,
     Chart Sales and Distribution, Box 6000,
     9860 West Saanich Road, Sidney, B.C. V8L 4B2;
     Phone: 250-363-6358
     or Marine supply stores
 •  Canadian Tide and Current Tables-Volume 6 Barkley Sound and Discovery Passage to Dixon Entrance (refer to Tofino tables) - available at Marine supply stores.
 •  licenced marine VHF Radio
 •  cellular phone
 •  compass
 •  GPS (optional)
 •  first aid kit
 •  survival kit (e.g. waterproof matches, knife, emergency food and blanket)
 •  equipment repair kit
 •  self-rescue aids, paddle floats, towlines
 •  paddling gloves, hat
 •  wetsuit
 •  potable water
 •  stove, fuel and cooking kit
 •  food
 •  knife
 •  rope, shock cords
 •  tent with waterproof fly and floor
 •  sleeping bag and insulation pad
 •  waterproof river/Baja bags
 •  flashlight
 •  toiletries (sun and lip screen)
 •  sunglasses
 •  airtight container for garbage
 •  toilet paper
 •  camera

Choose materials that maintain their warmth when wet, dry quickly, can be layered (wool or polypropylene)
 •  durable rain gear (test it beforehand)
 •  warm hat and gloves
 •  footwear, towels, etc.

A trip plan should be in writing and include:
 •  the number of people in your group
 •  trip length  •  arrival/departure times
 •  specific route plans
 •  camping plans
 •  vessel: description/make/colour
 •  tent: numbers, makes/model/colour
 •  vehicle licence#, make/model/colour and location.

1. Hand
2. Turret
3. Gibraltar
4. Willis
5. Dodd
6. Clark
7. Benson
8. Gilbert

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
2185 Ocean Terrace Rd.
P.O. Box 280
Ucluelet, BC, VOR 3A0 Canada
Phone: 250-726-7721
Fax: 250-726-4720

Pachena Bay Information / Registration Centre
Phone/Fax: 250-728-3234
Open daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, May 1 - Oct 5

Gordon River Information / Registration Centre
Phone: 250-647-5434 Fax: 250-647-0016
Open daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, May 1-Oct. 5

Long Beach Information Centre
Phone: 250-726-4212
Open daily 9:30 am - 5:00 pm, mid-June - mid-September.

Source: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve - Broken Group Islands Unit - 2000 Visitor Information Handout (June 7th, 2000)
Information may have changed - A current copy of this brochure may be obtained at the Long Beach Unit Information Centre or the Wickaninnish Centre

Copyright 2000 Greg SwallowEmail link (site design, scripting)
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