Banner Photography courtesy of Megan Best.
WHERE DO WE START THE ROUTE
The traditional direction to do the route is from Lois Lake (counter clockwise) to Powell because of the steep downhill portion of the Windsor (elev. 196 m) to Goat (elev. 85 m) portage.
Over the past several years I have had groups successfully complete the route clockwise; Powell to Lois Lake. It is a lot of effort to portage the 111 m ascent from Goat to Windsor, but the benefit is that the prevalent afternoon winds on Powell tend to be in your favor. These groups prefer swapping Powell’s (typical) head winds, for the predictable, and anticipated uphill grind.
The route is well marked with fluorescent orange triangles (mostly faded to white by the sun).
This isn't a circuit. It’s shaped like a horseshoe. The beginning and end are 30 km’s apart. We have a van that holds 8 boats, passengers and gear. You can park your vehicle on our private property (at your own risk), and chuck your keys in the safe.
HOW MANY DAYS DOES IT TAKE
You can comfortably do the Powell Forest Canoe Route in five days. Five days allows you to paddle Powell Lake over two days; focusing on the mornings and evenings to avoid the winds. Yes, you can take the whole middle part of the day off on the sandy beach (upper campsite) to relax, read, eat, have a nap . . . .
Should you pick the west side including Nanton and Ireland Lake, or the east portage path of Little Horseshoe / Little Beaver Lakes?
The west side is longer, but the trails are flatter and generally better footing. The long portage follows alongside a creek too. There are less transitions between paddling and portaging on the west side.
If you are planning on fishing, or you want a quieter time, then the east side is better.
We sell the $5 fold-out map of the route in our shop. To get a copy before your trip email email@example.com or call 1-877-817-8669.
HAVE MORE THAN 5 DAYS
The great thing about more days is that you can have stationary days to just relax, swim, tan, read, fish, etc.
Also, there are side trips you can add on without extra portaging:
Khartoum Lake: You paddle east on Lois, through an obvious narrows. There is a campsite on Khartoum as well.
Inland lake: Just walk the trail from Powell’s lower campsite into Inland. It has a beautiful wheelchair access trail around the entire lake.
Another option is to paddle up Goat Lake towards the mouth of the Eldred River.
ONLY HAVE FOUR DAYS
Do the small circuit, which starts at Lois, takes you up to Dodd and then back to Lois. You still get in seven different lakes and access the great little fishing lakes - Little Horseshoe & Little Beaver.
ONLY HAVE THREE DAYS
Start at Windsor Lake and descend to Lois. You still get in a large portion of the route.
We prefer to get the hour long transport over with at the beginning. This way you will be traveling towards civilization (if you should encounter any problems). We do this Windsor transport in the evening (unless it’s a weekend, then anytime) when the logging trucks are non-active. We meet at the shop at 4:30 pm the evening before your start date. You can camp in the spot we drop you in at Windsor, but there is a beautiful campsite about a 25-minute paddle away. The boat rental fee still does not start until the next morning.
Pick up at the Lois Dam is only 20 minutes from our shop (if you have a ferry to catch, it will be easier to gauge your timing).
ONLY HAVE TWO DAYS
Start at Dodd Lake and descend to Lois. Or, if you are not interested in portaging, paddle Lois east, go through the narrows into Khartoum Lake, and back.
WHERE TO CAMP
All the campsite are free use. No permits required.
A five day trip usually plans out like this:
1st night - Lower Horseshoe Campsite
2nd night - South East Dodd Campsite
3rd night - Goat Lake Campsite
4th night - Lower Powell Campsite
As far as camping spots, you are limited to designated areas as this forest is either deciduous covered lowlands or mountain peaks surrounding these fjord-like lakes.
Each campsite has picnic tables, out house, somewhat flattened tent sites, and a fire ring (sometimes firewood). We still recommend cooking on a stove.
These campsites are very clean. If everyone keeps managing their garbage, they will remain this way. Use your best judgement and practice low-impact camping.
FYI - There is a $15 per campsite/night fee in place for Nanton Lake Campsite and the south west (main) campsite on Dodd Lake. Paddlers need not stay at either of these sites though :)
1st portage from Lois to Horseshoe is 1.7 km (about 30 minutes).
2nd portage from Nanton to Ireland Lake is 2.4 km (about 45 minutes).
3rd portage from Ireland to Dodd is 0.8 km (about 17 minutes).
4th portage from Dodd to Windsor is 0.7 km (about 15 minutes).
5th portage from Windsor to Goat is 2.4 km.
You don’t have to wear heavy hiking boots. A hi-top runner would suffice. A blister kit is much appreciated if you find yourself in need.
We do not recommend you portage the canoe and gear in one trip. Take your backpack through first, then go back for the canoe. You have plenty of time to do each portage twice. Enjoy this outdoor experience.
There are frequent canoe rests throughout every portage so that you can get the canoe off of your shoulders easily. Some of these canoe rests are double, others have a single log between two trees, so just put the bow on the rest and the stern on the ground.
The comforts you bring have to balance with the weight of backpacking it. Do not bring coolers. Try to limit each person to one backpack and one fanny pack (for water, snack, camera). It is much easier to pack things on your back than to carry them in hand. Portaging is half of this trips effort, so think lightweight & compact.
CANOE WHEEL CARTS
Carts do not work on our route. The trails are cut narrow to keep traffic low.
Keep in mind that every portage has frequent canoe rests so you can get the canoe off your shoulders without having to put it on the ground AND all of our canoes have molded yokes for solo portaging.
PREPARING FOR RAIN
June through September is drier, but we still recommend bringing a full set of rain gear and a plastic drop sheet (in a hardware store’s paint section) to put INSIDE the bottom of your tent if your tent does not have a waterproof (tarp) floor.
Tarps are a must too. It works best to have one cover your tent area and one cover your kitchen area. Bring lots of rope/twine to ensure you have enough to secure a ridge line and the four corners for each tarp.
DRINKING WATER QUALITY
We do have excellent water in Powell River, but you should still treat it with a filter, tablets, or a one minute rolling boil. Take your water from any lake, ideally from deeper sections and below the surface.
Mitchell's sell a water purification system (by Pristine) that is iodine free and leaves no aftertaste. Add the drops and let it stand for 15 minutes to kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoa including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. This system purifies up to 120 Liters (30 gallons) of water so you’ll have plenty left for your next trip.
Cutthroat trout are the most abundant fish in Powell River. These fish are cannibals and like action lures such as spinners and flat fish with a lake troll. The Cutthroat, Rainbow, and Kokanee respond well to a trolled fly or a Rapala. Please note that these lakes take single barb-less hooks.
If you are the casting fanatic, early morning and evenings are effective because it is cooler. Fishing along the shorelines and around the islands are most effective.
You must have a current license with you at all times. You can purchase a freshwater fishing license online.
We don't have bad bugs. Head nets are not necessary; bug spray is.
BEARS AND OTHER CRITTERS
Bears have not yet learned that this route is a food source. People have been great about packing everything out.
We still recommend securing your food pack, as the little critters will gnaw a hole in your pack. One method is to balance your food pack on the backside of your canoe’s yoke; the canoe will be upside-down on the canoe rest in your campsite. The pack will also remain dry if it rains. There are pulley systems out there for hanging your food pack too.
NEED HELP WHILE YOU'RE OUT THERE
There is an active logging road that follows alongside the west portion of the route. It is fairly easy to find (or hear) and flag someone down to send us a message or get a ride out if it is a serious emergency.
PLEASE be extremely cautious when approaching and crossing the logging roads. LISTEN for the trucks and keep out of their way.
We have permission to use the active logging roads 24/7 so, if you have an emergency, we can get you out.
RESCUE SERVICE FEE $150.00 per hour
A $100 minimum fee applies as rescue / finding / emergency message services are unscheduled events.
THINKING YOU'D LIKE TO KAYAK THE ROUTE?
As far as kayaking the Powell Forest Canoe Route, it is much more challenging than canoeing. It is very awkward to portage a kayak even if you have installed a removable yoke or developed a sling system, and it takes two people. It is tiring to portage a kayak at arm's-length. Keep in mind that you may have to portage two kayaks if you are paddling with others. It only takes one person to portage a two-person canoe which means you can take turns packing it at each canoe rest. Also, kayaks tend to be heavy.
Packing your gear in a kayak requires multiple dry bags versus packing everything in a backpack in a canoe. Again, it is tiring carrying multiple dry bags through the portages.
HISTORY OF THE ROUTE
The canoe route area has a logging history dating back to the early 1920’s, which adds to the uniqueness of this canoe adventure. Evidence of old logging practices can still be found along the route; a 1930’s corduroy road (the use of horse pulled sleds with greased wooden runners to drag cedar shake bolts over the wood-plank road), landing sites that supplied logging camps, springboard-notched stumps, railroad grade used for hauling logs, etc.
The area also supports several active logging operations and serves as a good example of the Ministry’s policy of integrated forest management. You’ll see different stages of this resource renewing.
This paddle area is also rare in that all of the lakes are larger than their natural size due to the dams on Lois and Powell. The dead-heads are beautiful and house Osprey families. Before the dam was built, Lois Lake use to be two smaller lakes. You can read it's history here.