John Harvey Photo

Winter Harbour To Brooks Peninsula
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The Far North Western Corner of Vancouver Island on the Curve of Time

Winter Harbour

Winter Harbour isn't exactly the quickest place to get to.   From Vancouver, if you catch the 8:30 ferry to Nanaimo (arriving around 10am) you will be in Port Hardy (the largest of the northern communities) around 2pm and about 2 hours of gravel roads later, you pull into Winter Harbour.

Winter Harbour Panorama

The town really is focused on the ocean.  The town "center" if there is such a thing is the large federal dock (red) and the post office/community center near it's entrance.  There is a boardwalk running from one end of town to the other.

Boardwalk Beside TownSmall Home Beside BoardwalkOld Pier Next To Stream

Passing Cloud At Anchor Fish Plant
Winter Harbour seems to be in flux.   You could imagine a day when the fishing fleet came in every few days with fish needing packing and the logging industry kept people closer to larger cut blocks that this town was at it's perigee.  There was a time when there was two general stores and a restaurant.  That said, we couldn't find parking for a week for less than $25 and the sports fishing industry seems to be doing really well here - this town isn't going away any time soon.

We spent the night tied to the dock - I find I sleep very well on a boat even if it's rocking very little.

Ahwhichaolto Inlet

Raft Of Kayakers
After breakfast, Jan moved the Curve further up the harbour and anchored behind a large island to give us some protection from the wind.  After getting everyone into the kayaks (7 kayaks in total) we went over some basics (this is a raft - if bad things happen - find your way into one) and started down the bay.  We were somewhat a gaggle of wandering boats - some people explored the islands, others explored the shallows.

Giant Pink StarBlue Bat Star
I was particularly happy to seem the shallow water and the sea stars.  We saw two particularly interesting samples - first a particularly large pink star and second most of the bat stars seemed to be blue - not the usual purple/red tones you see.

Bull KelpPerennial Kelp
As we moved further down the channel the flooding tide carried us fast and deeper down the inlet.   At some points standing waves branched off rock outcroppings in the narrow channel.  The advantage of floats in kelp (and how strong kelp must be) was made abundantly clear. 

First Landing
We were lucky because Doug (the first mate) used to live in this area and he was doing a bit of advanced reconnaissance to help point out some of the sights.   Our first "get out" destination was a nondescript beach in the bay proper. 

Reala On Donkey Spool
Doug had located an old steam "donkey" - a steam engine that was used for for logging from the late 1800's until about the 1940's.  These steam engines had large winches on the front that could pull logs to transport or pull themselves through the forest.

Crusty Bolts On Side Of Donkey

We stopped at the end of the inlet for lunch (and another donkey) and then paddled back.  Our round trip distance was roughly 18km - a lot of paddling for a first day but because we were so well aligned to the tides, it seemed like much less.

Browning Inlet to Brant Bay

After we got back to the Kayaks, Jan pulled anchor and we moved into Browning Inlet.  While just around the corner from Winter Harbour, it was seemed like it could be in the deepest part of the coast - unspoiled vistas in every direction.  Overnight the weather changed and with a little rain, we got morning fog.

Eagle In Foggy TreesLoading Into KayakDoug And Crystal

Eagle On Tree BranchEagle With Tree Behind
This mornings paddle was comparatively short - up Browning Inlet to the large marshes where we would get our and hike across the peninsula to a beach (and lunch) on the open Pacific side. 

Pulling Up Into Marsh

The trip across the marsh was more work than I thought it would be.  Turns out the marsh is riddled with small streams that drain in low tides.  These small streams cut deep but narrow channels in the relatively soft soil so a false step could be a twisted ankle.  Worse yet, the deep grass covers the entire plain so it's none to easy to spot the holes.  Sometimes it was easier to take a lower route, but sometimes that lower ground was a mud bowl.  That said, you really couldn't beat the view.

Mud In MarshGrassy Plain Above Marsh

We found the trail at the site of an old homestead (the apple trees were all that remained of it) and once we got into the forest, we got to feeling really small.  The trail isn't used much by people (lots of bear sign through!) so it was a bit of a push to get through the underbrush.  Once you get past the stunted shore trees you find yourself among the giant old growth trees. 

Hung Up In Blow DownTall ForestWalking In Giant Ferns

These massive trees betray photography - there was no way I could capture their scale in the forest.

Beach Side Field
After a bit of a false path (a road is being pushed through the peninsula and we turned down the future road path) we eventually broke through to the other side and the amazing beach.

Wide Sandy Beach

Seeing this giant white sand beach was almost a shock - so much of the coast is rock or trees right to the shore line.  We immediately spread out and explored our own crevices of the beach.

Kelp In SandDune TansyFlower In The SandField Of Nodding Onion

It's amazing how coming back seems so much easier than getting there.  All too quickly we were back at the boats (thanks Gérard and William for moving them closer on the high tide) and eventually we were back at the boat.

Klashish Inlet
On Wednesday it was time for a move.  The weather wasn't great for open ocean (the waves were enough to make those of us with the soft stomaches have a hard time) so I didn't get out much for the move.  Eventually Jan found us a nice sheltered spot and we spent the afternoon exploring a river by kayak. 

Kayaks In The Morning
Thursday Morning we went to the shore for an "intertidal" - looking at the stuff that grows in the pools and on the rocks.   I've been on a number of intertidal visits in my day but visits out here are unique because this area is so untouched by man and being open ocean, often has species that aren't as common in the more sheltered places along the coast. 

As I said, I've seen a lot.  Ochre stars - seen a thousand of them.  Oh - what's that?  A vermilion star (we incorrectly identified it as a blood star) I haven't seen around Vancouver.  And what's this?  Sponge?  I can't say I've ever really seen that!

Stars On RockSponge Covering Rock

Even the more normal things were special.  We usually get Acorn barnacle - here they were thatched barnacles.  The Dogwinkles were in egg laying form.

Thatched BarnacleFrilled Dogwinkle

Anemone And Crab
I'm a big fan of Anemones.  Even though Aggregating Green Anemones are common around Vancouver, here they were dense - occupying places on the rock that on any other beach would have been stepped on. 

Anemone Friends

Ohh - what's this?  A new (to me) species of Anemone!  These small red anemones were often buried in the course sand, but we found one semi-open in a tide pool.  Again super cool for me.

Buried Anemone UnderwaterBuried Anemone

The tide was rising and we needed to get moving.   Our next destination was the far aside of the bay via an exposed ocean crossing.  The day was pretty calm so the water was more swell than chop but the swell wasn't kidding around.  Once we snuck around the point and got into the open water, we would loose sight of kayaks in the troughs between waves.  The waves were long enough that they only rarely came over the deck of the kayaks or caused the front to drop into water but I wouldn't want to stay out in this water for a long period of time.  The crossing eventually came behind rocks and we found a sandy beach to land on.
Brooks Beach Pano

Group Shot On Beach

After crossing back and lunch, Jan moved the boat into the more sheltered Klaskish Basin. 

Mossy Beard
In the afternoon we decided to go for a combo kayak and bush wack - we saw a lake on the topo map and wanted to know if we could get there.  We found a landing place for the kayaks and tried to penetrate the forest.  We started by trying to follow a creek bed up the slope but (miraculously) stumbled upon a really old trail that took us up the ridge.  We didn't make it to the lake (our progress was painfully slow) but we did find a small fresh water swamp/lake with a bog growing on the side.  My favorite bog species (broccoli shaped shore pines, red moss and sundews) were present - I was a happy camper.  The bugs were trying hard to change that so we didn't stay long.

Swampy LakeSundews

Camp Fire And Stars Above The Curve
I don't know who thought it up, but going to a small subtidal rock for a camp fire was a great idea.   We didn't really get started until after sunset but the crew collected wood and then set up a fire on a rock that would be below tide before the night was out.  After getting things started, they ferried us over in the zodiak and we enjoyed the warmth of the fire and the stars overhead

Stars Above The CurveSitting Around Camp Fire

What a great thing to do for the last night of a trip like this. 

Back to Port
Sea Otter Looking Around
It's always sad when a trip like this is finishing off, but at least we had a highlight at the end.  The docks and bay around Winter Harbour has a healthy Sea Otter population and even standing on the dock they come pretty close.  Between packing a final coffee, we watched and photographed the otters.  A nice end to a great trip.

Sea Otter By PilingSea Otter Eating Crab

Sea Otter With EarsSea Otters Looking At Us

Thanks Everyone!

Stars Above The Curve
Tags: boat, long exposure
Old Pier Next To Stream
Tags: coast, pier, stream
Boardwalk Beside Town
Altitude: 5m (16 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: boardwalk, small town
Brooks Beach Pano
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, coast, panorama
Bull Kelp
Species: Nereocystis luetkeana (Bull Kelp)
Tags: kelp
Perennial Kelp
Tags: kelp
Sea Otter Looking Around
Species: Enhydra lutris (sea otter)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, reflection
Reala On Donkey Spool
Tags: derelict
Thatched Barnacle
Species: Semibalanus cariosus (thatched barnacle), Leathesia difformis (Sea cauliflower)
Tags: intertidal
Mud In Marsh
Tags: beach grass, coast, mud
Swampy Lake
Altitude: 20m (65 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: swamp
Sea Otter Eating Crab
Species: Enhydra lutris (sea otter)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal
Buried Anemone
Species: Urticina coriacea (Buried Anemone, Stubby Rose Anemone)
Tags: tide pool
Crusty Bolts On Side Of Donkey
Tags: abstract, corrosion
Mossy Beard
Tags: moss
Anemone Friends
Species: Anthopleura elegantissima (Aggregating Anemone, Clonal Anemone)
Tags: tide pool
Loading Into Kayak
Tags: fog, kayaking
Camp Fire And Stars Above The Curve
Tags: fire, long exposure, stars
Sea Otters Looking At Us
Species: Enhydra lutris (sea otter)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal
Winter Harbour Panorama
Tags: coast, panorama, small town
Wide Sandy Beach
Altitude: 8m (26 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, panorama
Sea Otter By Piling
Species: Enhydra lutris (sea otter)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal
Blue Bat Star
Species: Asterina miniata (Bat Star)
Tags: kayaking, sea star
Flower In The Sand
Species: Raphanus sativus (wild radish)
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, flower
Location: Go To...
Tags: lighthouse
Kelp In Sand
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, sand
Walking In Giant Ferns
Species: Tsuga heterophylla (western hemlock), Polystichum munitum (Western Swordfern)
Tags: fern, forest
Small Home Beside Boardwalk
Tags: boardwalk
Giant Pink Star
Species: Pisaster brevispinus (Giant Pink Star)
Tags: sea star, underwater
Group Shot On Beach
Buried Anemone Underwater
Species: Urticina coriacea (Buried Anemone, Stubby Rose Anemone)
Tags: tide pool
Eagle With Tree Behind
Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle)
Tags: bird
Eagle In Foggy Trees
Location: Go To...
Tags: fog, forest
Pulling Up Into Marsh
Tags: beach, kayaking
Frilled Dogwinkle
Species: Nucella lamellosa (frilled dogwinkle)
Tags: snail
Dune Tansy
Species: Tanacetum douglasi (Dune Tansy)
Altitude: 26m (85 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, flower
Raft Of Kayakers
Tags: kayaking
Anemone And Crab
Species: Anthopleura elegantissima (Aggregating Anemone, Clonal Anemone), Hemigrapsus nudus (purple shore crab)
Tags: crab, tide pool
Doug And Crystal
Tags: kayaking, reflection
Stars On Rock
Species: Pisaster ochraceus (Ochre Star), Mediaster aequalis (Vermilion Star)
Tags: kelp, sea star
Sponge Covering Rock
Species: Haliclona permollis (Purple Encrusting Sponge)
Tags: intertidal
Sea Otter With Ears
Species: Enhydra lutris (sea otter)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal
Grassy Plain Above Marsh
Tags: field
Beach Side Field
Species: Allium cernuum (nodding onion)
Altitude: 16m (52 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, beach grass, field
Sitting Around Camp Fire
Tags: fire, long exposure, sparks
Passing Cloud At Anchor
Tags: boat, sailboat, sunset
Species: Drosera rotundifolia (Round-leaf Sundew)
Tags: plant, swamp
Tall Forest
Tags: fern, forest
Kayaks In The Morning
Location: Go To...
Tags: coast, dappled light, kayak
Eagle On Tree Branch
Species: Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle)
Tags: bird
First Landing
Altitude: 2m (6 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, kayaking
Hung Up In Blow Down
Tags: forest, hiking
Field Of Nodding Onion
Species: Allium cernuum (nodding onion)
Altitude: 16m (52 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: field, flower
Fish Plant
Tags: coast, fishing
Tags: beach(8), coast(6), kayaking(6), BC fauna(5), marine mammal(5), forest(4)
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Winter Harbour To Brooks Peninsula

I am very interested in the steam donkeys you found. Can you provide any information on the builders, dates or history of these machines? I would like to add them to my list of serviving steam donkeys. John
John A. Taubeneck
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 at 13:26:51

Beautiful. Will be cruising and fishing this area this summer.
Joe Granacher
Monday, April 30th, 2007 at 16:28:05

I just wanted to say thank you so much for posting these pics of Winter Harbour! I used to live there as a child and I've been dreaming of going back my whole life. Seeing these pictures has brought back so many fond memories.
Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 16:06:16

I used to live in Quatsino Sound as a young person so was very interested to view your images. Thank you for bringing back good memories.
Andrew Schreiber
Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 at 19:35:33

Great pictures, except I would have liked some more information on your locations as you traveled, and your method - where and how did you find the boat that chartered you? Did you rent it? Some friends and I are planning a trip to brooks peninsula. How many hours would you estimate it would take by boat? I would really appreciate any information you might have, thank you!
Tuesday, July 1st, 2008 at 11:52:48

Thanks for the pictures of Winter Harbour, I lived there from 1958 to 1960. I retuned in 1998 love the place but it is a long way from Australia.
Philip Crooks
Sunday, September 28th, 2008 at 20:44:34

If it's any help, I did my trip through Due West Charters:

The trip from Winter Harbour to almost Brooks Peninsula. It took us about 3 days to get to Brooks, but the actual travel time was about 6 hours. (The Curve of Time isn't very fast, but that is kind of the point). Due West Charters kinds of picks a part of the west coast and then books trips in that area, but if you contact Jon, you might be able to convince him to do a trip there (especially if you can fill his boat).

There is a fishing company (or two) in town in Winter harbour. For example:

Will do "Adventure boat tours". I'd bet they can get you there. That said, I'm not sure what you will do when you get "there". Kayaking without support in that part of the world can be very hard (On a nice day the sea is rough and there aren't many nice days). There are no trails (that I know of) to walk and camp. I think there was an article in the Summer 2006 issue of Beautiful British Columbia magazine that might also be helpful if you are planning on doing something self propelled.

John Harvey
Thursday, December 4th, 2008 at 20:58:11

John, Thank you again for posting the photos of your trip in the Winter Harbour area. The photos of Browning Inlet, the marsh, the trail and Grant Bay (Open Bay to the "oldtimers") was like going on a W. H. community picnic in the 1940's The access to this wonderful beach was either by anchoring the salmon trollers off the beach and rowing ashore, in calmer weather or by Browning Inlet and the marsh. My family collected many glass balls. In your photo of the marsh are two old growth filled stumps. My father and grandfather told me these and many lother trees were felled by the First Nations people of the area pre European contact and iron tools. The trees were felled by placing hot coals in a circle to cut through the trunk. There is one of these culturally modified trees at the camping ground in W.H. Lots of history in this whole area. Thanks again, Evie
Evie Beaveridge (North)
Saturday, January 10th, 2009 at 15:02:51

These are great pictures. I Grew up in Winter Harbour and lived there from age 5 in 1956, through to the end of 1998. Our family commercial fished during summer months and logged for W.D. Moore Logging during the winter months. There was no better place on earth, I believe to grow up, it was one adventure after another. There was no roads access for many years and the only way in, or out was by boat or sea planes (beavers - cessnas) out of Port Hardy airport.
Harry Paulsen
Saturday, January 9th, 2010 at 20:53:18

Thanks for posting these pictures. I plan on visiting Winter Harbour this summer. I want to do some fishing and enjoy the serenity of the lovely area.
Chris Powell
Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 at 14:28:51

Hello : I lived on the light house shown from 1935 untill 1944. Very nice photo layout, brought back many memories. Wondering if there is a tour outfit that would run to Quatsino, Winter Harbour and Kains Island. Departing from possibly Coal Harbour, or Port Alice. Cheers.
Roy E. Carver
Thursday, February 24th, 2011 at 09:50:53

Winter Harbour looks like a great place for a new adventure. What was the accommodations like?
thanks again
Ed Lapins
Saturday, November 12th, 2011 at 08:06:49

We stayed on a ship that was moored at the dock - the Curve of Time. There is a B&B in Winter Harbour and I believe there is a fishing resort in town as well.
John Harvey
Sunday, November 13th, 2011 at 21:23:22

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