A Paddlers Guide to the Sayward Canoe Route
Guest Blogger: @erinleeski
Erin is a local Campbellriverite who is passionate about the outdoors and exploring all our region has to offer. Last spring she took on the Sayward Canoe Route for the fist time. Read on for her tips for first timers to the canoe route.
The Sayward Forest Canoe Route is an amazingly accessible full loop paddling route located under an hour from downtown Campbell River. There are vehicle access points at almost every lake where you could start the canoe route but the most common starting point is midway along Mohun Lake at Morton Lake Provincial Park.
How to Get there
To reach Morton Lake Provincial Park drive north of Campbell River on Highway 19 for 15km before turning left onto Menzies Main. Proceed along Menzies Main for 7.5 km before turning right onto Morton Main. Morton Lake Provincial Park is 7km from the Morton Main turn off. There is good signage to guide you to Morton Lake and although the road is gravel after turning off of the highway it is kept in good condition and 2wd accessible. These gravel roads are active logging roads so it is important to be alert and yield to logging traffic.
Know Before you GO
The canoe route is about 50km of paddling and portaging and typically is done in 3-4 days. I completed the route in 3 days but it required some long and difficult days so I would recommend 4 days for optimal enjoyment. It is normally completed in the counterclockwise direction so you are paddling with the rivers and not against them.
There are a couple small sections of rapids in the rivers which can be skipped by an optional portage. I chose to try the rapids when I went in May but the water levels were too low and I ended up getting out and walking my canoe through most of it. If you are uncomfortable with fast-moving water and/or don’t want to scratch up your canoe I would recommend portaging around the rapids.
This was my first canoe trip involving portaging, and if I have one word of advice for fellow beginners it would be to budget lots of time for the portage sections. A canoe cart would make a world of difference and can be used on all the portages except Higgins Lake to Lawier Lake, where the trail is too rough. Another important thing to think about for the portages if you aren’t planning on using wheels is that if you can’t carry the canoe and all your stuff in one load you will have to double portage: meaning that you will carry the canoe across and then have to walk back to get your bags, resulting in walking the portage distance 3 times. I used the double portage method and it is definitely manageable, but very time consuming.
The three main big lakes are Mohun, Brewster and Lower Campbell. It isn’t uncommon for a strong breeze to pick up on these lakes, so tackling them in the morning before the wind picks up is the best plan.
If possible I would recommend staying at the boat-access-only campsites; they will be much quieter and nicer than the campsites that are shared with vehicle campers. Amor Lake has some beautiful campsites: sandy beach spots on the right hand side, little island campsites on the left hand side and an awesome more developed spot at the end of the lake called Mr. Canoehead which is roomy and suitable for big groups. There are also some nice boat-access-only sites on Mohun Lake, Brewster Lake and Fry Lake. Before you go check to see if there is a fire ban in place because if not you’re welcome to have campfires in the evenings. For more information as well as photos of the recreation site campgrounds check out the interactive map on http://www.sitesandtrailsbc.ca/.
Happy Paddling and Portaging!