Historic Marine Paddle Route Re-Discovered

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Historic Marine Paddle Route Re-Discovered

Victoria Waterways Loop –  A Circle Paddle Route

Portage

The Portage

Victoria, BC has a unique marine water way that almost connects Victoria Harbour with Esquimalt Harbour a few kilometers to the west. All that lays between them is a short portage across a 1 km strip of land.  In the past this route was used extensively by First Nations People but has only remained in use by a few of the most ardent paddlers.  Recently interest has been increasing to improve access to this historic route.  The Municipality of View Royal has improved the paths through Portage Park and more recently the creation of the E&N multi-use path has created easy passage across the Old Island Highway.  There is now movement to build access ramps from Portage Inlet to allow better access to the trails connecting to Portage Park and an even more ambitious goal is to recreate the walkway under the Tillicum Bridge to make passage around the reversing falls easier and safer for all levels of paddlers.

The Route

The proposed Victoria Waterways Loop is a 22 km route which allows a paddler to complete a one way trip starting at any number of access points along the Gorge Waterway, Portage Inlet or Victoria Harbour.  You would be able to start paddling in either direction, make the short 1 km portage through Portage Park in View Royal, then continue your journey back to your starting point.

For more details on paddling this route check this post:  Victoria Circle Paddle Route

Capital-Marine-Trail-route

Capital Marine Trail Route

Proposed Improvements

Tillicum Walkway 1900s

Tillicum Walkway 1900s

Beyond the improvements already completed in Portage Park and the construction of the E&N Trail, the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club (VCKC) were influential in advocating for the beautiful Shoreline Portage Trail completed behind Shoreline school in 2015.  This trail has allowed much easier access from Portage Inlet onto  the Old Island Hwy and the trails of Portage Park.  Now they and others are campaigning for a vastly improved marine route which will include at least 15 amazing landing / launch locations in 5 municipalities!   These will typically have good access, historic interest, and a range of useful amenities including washrooms, water fountains, food services etc, making the journey fun for all, including novice paddlers.  As already mentioned, the immediate and most beneficial improvements they are looking at is a boat ramp across the road from Shoreline school, which will allow low tide access to the portage route as well as shortening the distance for those who don’t want to paddle up around the Shoreline peninsula. The added benefit of this ramp is speedier access for the View Royal Fire Department Rescue crews.  Another boat ramp is also being proposed for the head of Portage Inlet at Linear Park.

Stern Wheeler at the Falls

Stern Wheeler at the Reversing Falls

The most ambitious goal of the project is to create a walkway underneath the Tillicum bridge with docks at both ends, (there is already a dock on the east side). A walkway would allow paddlers of all experience levels to easily and safely bypass the reversing rapids without having to wait on favorable tides. The idea of a walkway at this location is not.  There was one built in the early 1900’s and remained there in various forms until its removal in 1967 when the existing bridge was built.

View of 'Camossung' from the Walkway

View of ‘Camossung’ from the Walkway

The History

The reversing falls at Tillicum Bridge is a historically significant spot and it used to be much more impressive due to large boulders in its center, which the Songhees First nations named “Camossung”. Young braves would dive in to the rapids as a cleansing ritual and to obtain special powers. Later it was a popular swimming and boating location for locals although there were many drowning incidents because of the rapids. It was also a popular tourist destination with people lining the bridge and walkway to view the rapids. There was even a stern paddle wheeler that brought folks right up to the rapids for a first hand view. Whether very sad or  beneficial, the rapids were changed forever in June 1960 when a local boater, Robert Southwell, without approval of the authorities, dynamited the rocks. This permanently tamed the rapids to some degree and has made it safer for boaters attempting to navigate them.

Tillicum Narrows Today

Tillicum Narrows Today

There is an immense amount of history as well as beauty all along this very unique circular marine trail. We are hoping it will become a world class paddling route for locals as well as visitors to our city.  The 5oth Anniversary of the Gorge Beautification Project, which runs from Admirals Rd  to Tilicum Rd, is coming up in 2018. This would be the icing on the cake for that project.

Would you like to get involved in this project?

Presently John Rogers a View Royal Councillor, Brian Henry of Ocean River Sports and Darelle Butler a Victoria Canoe & Kayak Club Executive are spearheading the project. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer to help support and/or fund raise please contact them.

ContactsVictoria Waterways Loop Logo

John Rogers, View Royal Councilor: john.rogers007@shaw.ca

Brian Henry, Ocean River Sports: bigkahuna@oceanriver.com

Darelle Butler, VCKC Executive: dabrmt@hotmail.com

Tours

If you are interested in a kayak tour of this historic route, Ocean River Sports Adventures is now offering one.  Check it out by clicking this link:  Circle Route Tour

Gorge Bridge 1866

The Gorge Bridge 1866

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About the Author:

Bruce is an avid sea kayaker and whitewater paddler, a writer and photograher. He and his wife Linda RV full time, love to explore, hike, paddle, bike and write about their adventures.

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