The Urban Oarsman rows (and sails!) to the top of Pitt Lake with the Hollyburn Sailing Club 2019 May Long Weekend Paddle.

The Urban Oarsman rows (and sails!) to the top of Pitt Lake with the Hollyburn Sailing Club 2019 May Long Weekend Paddle.Pitt Lake Trip, May long weekend 2019

The Urban Oarsman, and three paddlers leave the rain of Vancouver and paddle & row into the sunshine of Pitt Lake

Leaving the rain behind.

Heather and I arrive at the Grant Narrows boat launch. It is $15 for me to launch Gwragedd Annwn and free for car-topped kayaks. Paddlers get all the breaks. I also pay $20 for parking until Monday. The rain is just easing up.

Gwragedd Annwn at the dock, ready to depart. I have made a sailing rig for her. The mast is stepped and I am ready for any wind. There is none, so I row.

We will paddle on the East side of the lake for the trip up, West side for the trip down.

Departing the dock.

I am packed and ready to go. After stepping the mast, I row Gwragedd Annwn up river to Pitt Lake. Heather is still packing her Coop Kayak.

As Heather in her Coop Kayak is much faster than I, I head out while she is still packing. She will catch up with me and pass me soon.

The rain has stopped. The clouds are getting lighter to the South. Maciej and Sharron arrive as Heather departs Grant Narrows.

The clouds still look pretty dark up the lake.

Raven Creek campground is about 10km uplake from Grant Narrows.

There are pilings along the South End of the lake. Old log booming grounds.

The South shore of the lake has a number of old log boom pilings. Three of them have been put to good use by Ospreys. Several of the pilings have nesting platforms on top of them.

Osprey on the nest with chicks. Note the landing bar.

The South end of Pitt Lake has the largest negatively accreting delta in the world, and Pitt Lake is the second largest fresh water tidal lake in the world. We will have to make sure to bring the kayaks above the high tide line. There is a dredged channel leading along the South shore and then up into the lake. With the high water and our shallow draft, we can Row & Paddle anywhere.

Cruising along, between the pilings and the dyke, leaving the dark and damp behind.

The rain has stopped completely. There is no wind. Ideal conditions for paddling.

Heather passes another Osprey nest…and me.

Whenever you begin a paddle, things always get better….

Sunshine breaking through.

Good weather is on the way!

The beginning of a sunny long weekend!

Heather and I make it to the Raven Creek campground…Meanwhile…

HSC Kayak Captain Maciej and SKABC member, Sharron paddle along the dyke after leaving from Grant Narrows.

Heather and I do not see Maciej and Sharron. The Raven Creek delta blocks our view of the South shore of the lake.

Maciej and Sharron arrive at Raven Creek. We are happy to see them.

Maciej arrives at Raven Creek.
Sharron arrives at Raven Creek.
Happy to be here.
We do not pull Gwragedd Annwn up the beach, she is anchored at the shore.

We are all secure for the night. The kayaks pulled up and Gwragedd Annwn moored securely.

Supper time on the beach. Maciej is making “dessert”, a mulled wine digestif. 
You can see the high tide line behind us.

We make camp and make supper. The sun has dried everything out.

Interesting Polypores (Bracket fungi) at the campsite.

We have a modest campfire on the beach below the high tide line.

When the rising tide puts out the campfire, it is time for happy, tired paddlers to go to sleep.

The tide does rise quite high. The evening tide is the “low” high and the morning tide is the “high” high. We have about 12″ or so to go before our camp floods.

Impromptu bear cache.

The full moon tomorrow night will be the “Blue” moon and the tide will be at its highest then.

Saturday morning launch. We are going to Vickers Creek campground.

The tide is higher in the morning than it was last night.

The plan for Saturday is to paddle to Vickers Creek Campground, another 17km or so uplake (27km from the Grant Narrows launch).

Looks like some pictographs. This may be the pictograph shown on a map by Chris Arnett, Department of Anthropology, UBC, in his work “Rock Art of the Lower Fraser River Region”.
Pictograph of the Giant Black Salamanders of Pitt Lake!?!

For a moment, I think that I see a clue to the Giant Salamander mystery.

A seal checks us out

Perhaps another clue to the Giant Black Salamanders of Pitt Lake mystery…a miss-identified seal sighting.

With the recent rain, the Pitt Lake waterfalls are flowing.

As afternoon arrives, a slight breeze picks up. I decide to try sailing.

This is the idea…too windy to row, Sail. Not enough wind to sail, Row.

Gwragedd Annwn running under sail.

I put my rudder on, drop the leeboards and hoist my 104 square foot balanced lug sail for a downwind run.


We meet mid-lake. Heather, Maciej and Sharron are much faster in the kayaks and have checked out the Vickers Creek campsite. They say the beach is too jammed with drift logs for a landing.

Making plans to check out Pitt River delta for a campsite

They have also checked out Ashby Creek and have come to the same conclusion. We decide to check out the north end of Pitt Lake for a campsite.

Sailing to the North end of Pitt Lake, where the Pitt River enters.

The kayakers are so quick that they can check out the sites and have a break and meet me before before I arrive at the North end of the lake.

Pitt River delta in the distance.

Even under sail, the kayaks are still faster than Gwragedd Annwn. They will paddle up and scout for a campsite. If they do not find anything, they will return and we will try Vickers or Ashby…..

Going up Pitt River, looking for a campsite.

In his book “The Vancouver Paddler”, Glen Stedham says that there are sandy beaches near the mouth of Red Slough, on the Eastern shore suitable for camping. With Pitt Lake water level so high, will the beaches are under water?

The kayakers arrive at a gravel bar upriver.

Maciej decides to explore the Pitt River delta area for a campsite.

This is as far up as I can get…The current is too strong and the water too shallow to row up any further. I beach Gwragedd Annwn, tie her up and on my way upriver to tell the kayakers, I discover a good, high and sandy campsite on the bank behind the willows.

The camp is sandy, with willows sprouting. The tops of the willows have been eaten by Moose…In the sand, we see their hoof prints and their scat.

Maciej at the Pitt River camp. Even he is tired from paddling against the river current.

We hope that we do not get stepped on by browsing moose in the night.

Suppertime at the Pitt River willow camp.

I am using my wife’s Trangia stove, still going strong after all these years. This methyl alcohol stove burns silently, boils AND simmers well. Great stove. Lightweight…quiet as the wilderness itself.

We have solved the Giant Black Salamanders of Pitt Lake mystery. There are not giant salamanders, but giant toads!

There were hundreds of Western Toad (Bufo boreas) toadlets hopping around at the campsite.

This one seems to be eyeing up Maciej.

Evening falls on our camp.

Tonight is the night of the Blue Moon. Heather wakes up to see it.

Gwragedd Annwn tied up for the night with Golden Ears in the background.

The moon is scenic through the clouds. Sadly, no photos turned out.

In the morning, Heather and Sharron break camp.

We have discussed where to spend our last night. With both Vickers and Ashby Creek campsites being log-jammed, we decide to return to Raven Creek.

Rowing, this time with the current, down Pitt River for Raven Creek campsite.

The kayakers paddle down river too.

Departing the Pitt River Delta for Raven Creek.
Yet, again, the kayakers pass me. Maciej’s picture.

The kayakers will go to Ashby Creek and try to intercept our one night campers. We do not have any cell phone or internet service here to communicate with them.

My picture of Maciej.

Kayakers having a rest stop.

Kayaker rest stop.
Some beaches are very difficult, even for kayaks, to land at.

For Gwragedd Annwn and I, the wind picks up and I try sailing again. With inflow wind speeds of up to and sometimes over 8 kts, I get over 5.5 kts, most of the time in the right direction. I hope the wind holds!!!

I sail right past Ashby Creek and do not see any kayakers.

Coming up to Cozen Point. Note the lack of movement of the smoke on the far shore. (sigh!) Barely a ripple in the water…wind is fading fast.

No wind.

At Cozen Point, the wind drops to no wind and Pitt Lake is a flat as glass. Goose Island is to the right of centre in this photo.

I furl the sail and begin to row. Perfect rowing (or paddling) conditions. However, with no air movement whatsoever, brilliant sunshine, I am cooking. I have about an 8km row to Raven Creek beach. 3+hrs at the thwart?

In this heat, I row for about ten minutes, stop, wipe my forehead and neck with a wet bandanna, have a drink of water and row on…then repeat…and row on…repeat…and row on…and repeat and row on.

Back at Raven Creek campsite.

After three and a quarter hours of rowing and three litres of water later, I am at Raven Creek.

Gwragedd Annwn on the beach, with Goose Island to the left and Little Goose Island to the right. Cozen point just left of centre.

Maciej receives an email sent to him this morning that the two Sunday kayakers have left the Grant Narrows launch…We have missed them. We hope that they will have a good paddle and a good night.

Campfire on the beach again.

In the photo above, you can see the high tide line behind Sharron and Maciej, at the bow of Maciej’s kayak.

Many great stories are told.

Sunday evening sunset. It will be warmer tonight with the cloud cover.

As night falls, the clouds move in. Rain is predicted for Monday…

We are all prepared for a rainy Monday morning….

Early Monday morning…actually TOO early Monday morning…no rain yet. I get going while the going is good!

At 5:30 in the morning there is no rain and no wind. Because Gwragedd Annwn is so slow, I decide to leave earlier than planned. Do not want to row in the rain.

No stowaways allowed!!!

Expecting a wet morning, I prepacked and I am almost ready. I pack up my swag tent and remaining gear and leave. (I do, however, make enough noise, like a boy scout troop apparently, to wake everyone else up!)

No rain, no wind, high clouds…we may be lucky on the paddle home.

Being a true leader without knowing it, I have inspired the kayakers to leave too.

The kayakers pack-up before the rain too.

Hummmm…Seems as if we are paddling back to the rain we left on Friday!

As Maciej passes me, it begins to spit.

The rain eases up and hopefully we will be on the hard, packed up and away before it begins to rain hard.

Almost at Grant Narrows and the rain has stopped.

We all arrive at Grant Narrows and load up the kayaks and I put Gwragedd Annwn on her trailer. We pack-up all of our gear.

We go for breakfast.

A good end to a great trip!!!
My GPS track of the trip on Google Earth. The squiggly bit at the top is where I was sailing.

Distances, with a little sightseeing:

Day one, to Raven Creek campground 9.12km.

Day two, Raven Creek to Pitt River delta, 22.34km.

Day three, Pitt River delta to Raven Creek 21.17km

Day four, Raven Creek campground to Grant Narrows 10.14km.

Total: 62.77km.

There is no water level gauge on Pitt Lake that I know of. The nearest one is the Fenton Gauge.

Water Levels at the Fenton Gauge, May long weekend 2019.
This is the closest gauge to Pitt Lake. The tides going up the river to the lake arrive later, depending on how far up the lake you are.

May 17th, 5am. 1.0568m Low Low

May 18th, 8pm. 1.4628m Low High

May 18th, 3am. 1.36m High Low

May 18th, 8am. 1.75m High High

May 18th, 5pm. 0.94m Low Low

May 18th, 11pm. 1.66m Low High

May 19th, 3am. 1.59m High Low

May 19th, 9am. 1.79m High High

May 19th, 5pm. 0.96m Low Low

May 20th, Midnight. 1.69m Low High

May 20th, 5am. 1.68m High Low

May 20th, 8am. 1.7874m High High

The gauge is located on the river near Sheridan Hill, South of Addington Point.

We sighted Ospreys, Canada Geese, Eagles, Mergansers, Humming Birds, Ducks, Seals, Beavers, Western Spotted Toads, Loons, Ravens, Downy Woodpeckers, Crows and saw Moose sign.

Sharron has forgotten her keens at the Pitt River willow camp.

I found a great (well after it is cleaned) camping spoon.

Pitt Lake is a great row…Enjoy!

Good Rowing to you,