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Skookumchuk Narrows Ian Ban
By Kimberly Walker
Have you ever seen 200 billion gallons of water flow past you at up to 30 kilometres per hour? If not, a trip to Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park is just what you need to add to your summer bucket list.
Located near the community of Egmont on the Sunshine Coast, Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park brings visitors to a spectacular show put on by Mother Nature. “Skookumchuck” is a Chinook word meaning turbulent water. As the tides change direction, the water at Skookumchuck reverses, creating a standing wave of up to 2 metres high. The massive power of the water makes Skookumchuck a world-renowned destination for extreme whitewater kayakers and scuba divers.
For those of us who prefer our vacation adventures a little less risky, a four-kilometre trail brings visitors from the parking lot to the viewing point at Roland Point. The trail is mostly flat and meanders through second-growth forest and along the edge of Brown Lake. The trail passes several interpretive signs, which detail everything from local flora and fauna to human history, including the logging history of the area. On a warm day, the forest provides a refreshing place to hike. On a cool and rainy day, the trail takes on a misty and mysterious west coast feeling.
Timing is of the essence when visiting Skookumchuck Narrows. Before your trip, make sure you check the Skookumchuck Viewing Times brochure available on the Sunshine Coast Tourism website. If you want big waves, plan your trip for the flood (rising) tide, and if you want to see whirlpools, visit at the ebb (falling) tide. The viewing times brochure breaks down the daily tidal exchange by size and direction. Tides range from small to extra large, meaning the speed of the current varies from under seven kilometres per hour on a small tide to well over twenty kilometres per hour on an extra large tidal exchange. While there is a specific peak to each tide, there is a window of viewing opportunity spanning twenty to thirty minutes on each side of that peak. If you are really ambitious, pack a picnic, bring a book, and spend the day at the rapids in order to take in both the ebb and flood.
Skookumchuck Narrows is an extremely popular destination, particularly on an extra large tide. When we visited, the parking area was packed and the trail to the falls felt a bit like a walk in a forested shopping mall. If I were to do it again, I would take my time, arrive well before the peak tidal exchange, and avoid the crowds on the trail on the way to the viewpoints. We noticed that many people left right after the peak viewing time, and by hanging back and taking our time to explore both the Roland Point and North Point viewing areas, we ended up having the site largely to ourselves outside of the peak window which was much more peaceful and just as beautiful.
Skookumchuck Narrows is the only way to access Sechelt, Narrows, and Salmon Inlets. As such, it is a frequently used and integral waterway. If you wish to get a more up-close experience of the tidal exchange, a variety of tour operators can get you out on the water to experience the current first hand. For a birds’ eye view, check out the tour operators offering flights over the rapids.
Mother Nature has many wonders to behold, and the experience of seeing one of the fastest tidal currents in the world at Skookumchuck Narrows is definitely worth it, whether you do that by land, sea, or air.
For more adventures on the Sunshine Coast, consider a visit to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park and spend some time soaking up the sun on the sandy beaches and exploring local waterways.
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Published: April 20, 2023
Last Updated: April 20, 2023
Kimberly is a Special Education, Elementary School teacher in Hope, BC. Previously having worked ten years at the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum promoting tourism in Hope and British Columbia, Kimberly worked on many local history projects in the museum as well as researching and writing articles for the local newspaper. Kimberly loves travelling with her husband Dale and their dog Alpine. In the fall of 2014, they spent the first 78 days of married life travelling and camping their way across Canada - just the two of them and the dog - travelling in a Hyundai Elantra! Kimberly loves various outdoor recreation types and exploring our beautiful province.