Level: Easy

Distance: 36 km

Time: 6 hr

Tide Table: Vancouver

Red Tide Administrative Unit: Area 28

Marine Chart: 3495

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Warning: Heavy Traffic

Access: The #211 Seymour bus provides a direct connection between Burrard Station in Downtown Vancouver and Deep Cove where the paddling begins. Alternately the #210 Upper Lynn Valley and the #212 Deep Cove buses follow essentially the same route with a single transfer at Phibbs Exchange in North Vancouver. Visit TransLink for exact scheduling.

Protected waters and plenty of marine traffic make this local inlet an excellent place from which to embark on your maiden voyage. Indian Arm is the perfect place for a full day of exploring or, better yet, an easy overnighter. Rent your kayaks at Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak then, once you've balanced your supplies in the front and rear compartments, head north out of Deep Cove.


Weekend Warriors: A quickie lesson in how not to bivouac for the night. Live trees were cut to frame a lean-to and used for firewood. Of course they didn’t burn. Garbage was left littering the campsite. Let’s hope the mosquitos ate them alive. Indian Arm is in the background.

While heavy marine traffic is handy in the event of an emergency, recreational boaters are the primary hazard in the inlet. At times, the level of care taken by boaters is appalling indeed. For this reason kayakers must make themselves especially visible by wearing bright clothing. Moreover it is wise to hug the shoreline and avoid allowing your group to become scattered. A tight group is much easier to see and avoid than a succession of single craft spread out all over the sea-lanes. Only cross the sea-lanes when it is absolutely necessary to do so and don't dawdle in the middle. For the sake of this excursion it is advised that you hug the western shore on the outbound leg and the eastern shore on the way back. Descriptions in this book, however, will address main features on either side as they appear.

As you head north you'll soon leave the beachfront homes of Deep Cove and Woodlands behind. On your right you'll notice Racoon Island then Twin Islands, which, taken together, make up the Indian Arm Provincial Marine Park. Camping is permitted on the Twin Islands though only a few rustic sites exist and water is limited to a small spring on the north island.

Continuing northwards you'll pass a number of small recreational communities. Interspersed between these small beaches are stretches of steep, rocky bluffs that dive straight down into the inlet, giving Indian Arm that typical fjord-like appearance found throughout the coast of British Columbia. In fact Indian Arm is the southernmost such inlet on the west coast of North America.

Some 8 km into the paddle you'll notice two old-fashioned looking concrete structures on the eastern shore. Built in 1903 and expanded in 1914 these power generating stations were Vancouver's first hydroelectric facilities. Drawing water from Buntzen Lake high on the bluffs above, these two small power plants still provide significant power to the city, together producing 76,700 kW. A service road from the second power facility to Buntzen Lake itself provides a pleasant half hour stroll and a chance to stretch the kayak cramps out of the legs.

From the power stations on you'll leave civilization largely behind. After 4 more kilometres attractive Silver Falls can be seen pouring off cliffs on the western shore. Watch for large spawning jellyfish in the water in front of the falls. A further 2½ km will bring you to Bishop's Creek Provincial Marine Park opposite Croker Island whose steep sides forbid landing or camping.

Adjacent to the north end of the island, on the eastern shore is spectacular Granite Falls a popular destination since the late 1800s when the Union Steamship Company began offering weekend excursions for curious Vancouver residents.

North of Granite Falls a short trail leads to a viewpoint with vistas of the head of the inlet and beyond. Note Wigwam Inn to the left of the Indian River estuary. Built in 1910 as a luxury resort for the international rich and spoiled, the Wigwam Inn is now an outport for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Plan to visit the Spray of Pearl Falls a few minutes on foot by trail from the lodge. Camping sites can be found across the head of Indian Arm at deserted logging or mining sites. Though not the prettiest sites the price is certainly right and exploring the abandoned equipment will prove interesting. A word of warning however: wear thick-soled shoes to avoid cutting your feet on jagged metal and rusted cables left behind once the rape of the land was completed.

The Indian River estuary at high tide makes a great place for further explorations. If you thought to bring a hand line or crab trap you may want to try flounder, cod or crab for dinner. Be sure you have a valid Salt Water Fishing License. Avoid shellfish in Indian Arm as pollution and red tide tends to become concentrated in these filter feeders.

The End


Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura