Paddling the Broken Group Islands
By Fred Hammerquist
The Broken Islands (officially and unmelodic ally named the “Broken
Group Island Unit”) is an archipelago of over 100 islands. The
scattering of tree-covered scarps, islets, and rocky outcroppings lies
off the Pacific coast of Canada, not far from the US border, where it
looks like something large in the ancient past reached out and tore off a
hunk of Vancouver Island, then threw the pieces into the ocean. The
thrower must have had a good arm because the Broken Island archipelago
covers over 40 square miles, with only about six miles consisting of
land. The area is remote and because most of the islands are sheltered
from the ocean, it’s also one of the most peaceful and pristine paddling
areas you can find.
Every few strokes, we passed pass beautiful lagoons, blowholes, arches,
sea caves or rocky beaches that called to us to pull over and picnic. In
addition to world class tide-pooling with enough sea cucumbers,
anemones, mussel beds, red and purple sea stars to suck our camera's
battery power, First Nation middens, village ruins, stone fish traps and
archaeological sites wait to be explored.
Wilderness campsites, all with composting toilets, are located at
Gilbert, Clarke, Turret, Willis, Hand, Dodd and Gibraltar Islands.
Almost all of these sites can easily be reached within a day's paddle
(or less) of each other. We took the Torquardt Bay water taxi to the
drop site on Dodd Island then paddled out to Clark Island, one of the
most beautiful and largest campsites. We enjoyed cocktail hour’s golden
light with a view of the blows of migrating whales and bedded down on
soft moss all four nights. Sure, we could have unloaded, set-up,
repacked, unloaded, and set up again, but why bother when we were able
to paddle 45 miles in five days hardly retracing our steps?
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