There aren’t too many places in Canada where you can enjoy year-round paddling; unless you’re a polar bear, most of us tend to avoid open water during the winter months. But, in B.C., it’s a whole different paddling ball game. A new website called PaddleBC.ca has just launched to promote the province as a four-season paddling destination. Whether you’re into stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, or kayak fishing, this site offers a directory of paddling destinations in all six regions of the province, including some excellent paddling opportunities in the winter months. Truly, you don’t need to look far to see people out on their SUPs in places like English Bay, Sasamat Lake, or on the Howe Sound near Squamish. In places like Tofino, you can partake in guided experiences like their famous winter sea kayak tours, and even farther north, there are no shortage of options. So, if you’re looking for a new way to get outdoors this winter, here’s what you need to know to try all-season paddling in B.C., along with a list of six world-class paddling destinations we’re best known for. —Monica Krake
first, decide where you want to go. British Columbia is the only province in Canada that offers year-round paddling experiences and the excellent part about travelling in B.C. during the winter is the fact there are far fewer tourists out. The preferred regions for winter paddling are found around Vancouver and Vancouver Island. One of the best places to visit is Squamish because it’s an easy drive from Vancouver and situated on the shores of Howe Sound, making it easy to access the ocean. There are forty-six kilometres of beautiful ocean paddling to be had in Howe Sound whether you prefer multi-day island-hopping excursions in sea kayaks or quick afternoon jaunts on paddleboards.
second, choose the type of experience you’d like to have. There are a vast array of paddling experiences to be discovered in British Columbia—are you looking for a quiet lake, a wild river, or an ocean experience? The Kicking Horse River flowing through Golden is world renowned and the Elk and Bull rivers near Fernie are just as famous. Alternatively, gentle lake travel and kayak fishing are popular, especially near Castlegar, where the largest Kokanee salmon in the world was caught on Lower Arrow Lake. For something more cultural, consider an indigenous paddling tour on the Thompson River. You can search all your options on PaddleBC.ca.
third, ensure you have the right gear for the trip. Whether you’re canoeing a serene lake, kayaking a white-water river, or paddleboarding on the ocean, there are some universal gear needs. Here are five must-have items for every winter paddling excursion in B.C.:
- A Canadian-certified lifejacket. (A leash on your stand up paddleboard is not an alternative to a lifejacket and you could be fined for not wearing one.)
- Buoyant heaving line that’s a minimum of 15 metres (50 feet) long.
- Bailer or manual bilge pump (sit-on-top kayaks and SUPs are exempt).
- A whistle or another sound signalling device.
- Warm underlayers and a waterproof shell.
finally, here are six of B.C.’s world-renowned paddling destinations.
- Moccasin Trails experience (Kamloops)
- Kicking Horse River (Golden)
- Bowron lakes (Cariboo Chilcotin Coast)
- Elk River (Fernie)
- Howe Sound (Squamish)
- Columbia River (Castlegar)