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Powell Forest Canoe Route

May 14, 2022
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We (7 adults, 1 dog; in three canoes) did the Powell River Canoe Route on April. 15 – April 18, 2022. We completed the route in four days, as planned. I will give a short summary of the trip, and then, if readers feel inclined to learn of the specifics of our trip, I will give a more detailed recap of our trip along with some photos. I hope to cover some details that might help people plan their trips in the future.

Short summary:
We paddled the route clockwise, even though we read that most people paddle it counterclockwise (starting at Lois Lake). Our rationale for this was as follows. First, the predominant winds usually provide a headwind when paddling south down Powell Lake. Second, paddling the largest and perhaps windiest lake first seemed like a better idea than having it as the final lake and having a massive final day. Third, there were not many campsites on Powell Lake, and as such, the final day would have to be 4-6 hours at the very least. This plan somewhat backfired as the first day was the windiest day and we battled a strong headwind for several kilometers on Powell Lake.

The trip went quite smoothly. We had all the campsites to ourselves and most of them were quite nice and equipped with picnic tables and outhouses. Some of the portage trails were rough (i.e., fallen trees) and the canoe rests needed some upgrading, though it was mid-April, so perhaps the maintenance for the year had yet to be completed.

The route offers some stunning scenery (especially on Powell Lake) and has a nice mix of small and larger lakes. The option to go through Beaver Lake and Little Horseshoe Lake provides paddlers a shorter, alternative route, one which we used as we aimed to “get out” on Monday morning so we could catch an afternoon ferry back to Comox.

Long Summary:
Day 1: We parked one vehicle at the marina at the south end of Powell Lake just across the bridge from Powell River and another vehicle at Lois Lake Rec Site (lots of parking). The road to Lois Lake was rough as they had recently logged alongside the road; thus, the road was soft and abundant with debris. We set out around 11am and made the Fiddlehead Landing Campsite by 5pm. The campsite was somewhat tucked away from the shore and quite shady, but we did not have a choice as it was the only campsite available to us. We enjoyed a meal of fire-cooked ham and potatoes.

Day 2: The second day dawned bright and calm. Setting out in the morning we paddled leisurely towards Goat Lake. Upon entering Goat Lake, it was a short paddle across the lake towards the Campsite and start of the portage trail. This portage was rumoured to be quite steep and gnarly, and it lived up to it. The first half of the portage is steep and the trail was not suitable for canoe carts (not that we brought any). We did not have the lightest of canoes either, our boats weighed in at 55lb, 65lb, and 75lbs. Nevertheless, we made this portage, and all the remaining portages, in one trip. After this portage, I realized why paddling the route in the counterclockwise direction was so strongly encouraged. Windsor lake was next, and we quickly paddled it and made the portage to Dodd Lake. Dodd Lake was quite windy, again, another headwind, but it was only 2pm and we wanted to cover some more distance. By 430pm we had arrived at the south end of Dodd Lake, and we camped on the east side as the campsite on the west side was vehicle access and we wanted to have the site to ourselves. The campsite was great: picnic table, fire ring, old shelter, a dock, and west-facing for the sunset. The sun continued shining and we braved the cold waters for a quick swim.

Day 3: We decided to take the route through Beaver and Little Horseshoe Lake as it was shorter and we were closer to the Beaver Lake portage than the portage to Ireland Lake. The portage trial to Beaver Lake was quite nice, though there is a steep incline coming up from Dodd Lake. The remaining two portages to get to Horseshoe Lake are relatively short and ordinary, although there is an incredibly steep downhill section on the portage between Little Horseshoe and Horseshoe Lake. It would make doing this alternative route in the counterclockwise direction very difficult (especially if you were solo), but it is possible. It is a hairpin turn with a 90° turn into a set of stairs and a 90° turn at the bottom. Then at Horseshoe Lake, we launched our boats. The launch site at the north end of Horseshoe Lake is bottled up with driftwood, so it was difficult to launch. Also, the campsite/beginning of the portage trail at the south end of Horseshoe Lake was surrounded with driftwood, but eventually, after some semiaquatic bucking and log manoeuvring, we docked. This site is the largest campsite we found and had the best shelter and tent sites. We arrived at around 2pm, and myself and my brother portaged a canoe and some fishing rods to Lois Lake. We paddled 90 minutes towards the fish hatchery and fished for an hour or so, catching one 15lb rainbow, and then paddled back to the portage trail, hid the canoe in the bush (green canoe = camouflage) and walked back to our campsite.

Day 4: Woke up to rain. Utilized the shelter to have our breakfast. The portage went quick as we had only two canoes to portage and the portage trail was in immaculate condition and easily the widest and smoothest trail along the whole route. There is a campsite approximately 500m south from the beginning of the portage trail and it looked quite comfortable and beautiful nestled alongside the river. Upon starting to paddle in Lois Lake, we planned to head east on Lois Lake to do some more fishing, but upon reaching the main east-west channel of the lake, the winds and waves from the east decided that they had other plans for us. We had no choice but to go with and slightly across the waves back to the Lois Lake Rec Site. With three people in one boat, and two people and a dog in another boat it was an exciting endeavour as all boats took on water. We made it back to Lois Lake Rec Site around 12pm.

We had to wait until 5pm for the ferry so we went to the Coastal Cookery for some hot food and drinks, and had some laughs about the trip.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone considering it, but I would recommend taking at least four days as we did not have a lot of time for fishing and relaxing!

Views of Powell Lake on a bright day 2:
Powell Lake.jpeg

Powell Lake.jpg

Campsite view from the south end of Dodd Lake:
Looking West - Dodd Lake.jpeg

Views from the recsite at the south tip of Horseshoe Lake:
Horseshoe Lake.jpeg

Horseshoe Lake RS.jpeg

Rain on Lois Lake as well paddle through the submerged trees:
Rain on Lois Lke.jpeg
Nice to see a trip report from BC. Kathleen and I lived in North Vancouver for 23 years, and always thought we should paddle the Powelll Forest Canoe Route. Never did, though. Thanks for taking us along on your trip.
Terrific first post, PD, and a belated welcome to site membership! I love lakes surrounded by mountain views.