On a warm May afternoon aboard a small ship I watched as deep, swirling currents formed whirlpools in the channel ahead. Little did I know, I was about to have an unforgettable Seymour Narrows travel experience.
We had been fighting the tide for a while and making slow progress. As we reached Seymour Narrows, where the current can reach 15 knots, conditions warranted a cautious approach. Our ship anchored in a sheltered cove and we went ashore for a safe view of the treacherous channel
After a short zodiac trip to a small dock and a trailhead, we were welcomed by a bright grassy path leading toward a dark forest. The cool air of the shade on Maud Island Trail offered relief from the heat. As we hiked up the rocky path. a view of water gradually appeared through the trees. We had reached a mossy bluff overlooking Seymour Narrows below.
Seymour Narrows & Ripple Rock History
These waterways and the surrounding landscape are the traditional territory of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation. It is noted in their background & historical information that “The regularly treacherous waterways and passages of places like Seymour Narrows, Race Point and Arran Rapids were utilized strategically in warfare to successfully defend against raids by northern tribes of the Haida and Bella Coola.” It has been fascinating to learn more about the rich regional history and modern-day presence of the Wei Wai Kum indigenous communities here.
Seymour Narrows is a short and powerful stretch of water in British Columbia, Canada. It is part of the Discovery Channel, along the Northeastern coast of Vancouver Island. Along with being an important shipping channel, it is known for being the site of an enormous man-made explosion. In 1958 the underwater mountain Ripple Rock was “moved” to make transiting the narrows safer. If you are curious, there is an excellent short film and more information about this bit of Ripple Rock history here.
Meditations on the Tide
We spent some time resting on cushions of deep moss along the top of the bluff, watching the rushing water below.
Snowy mountain peaks rose in the distance as small boats rode the tide South through the channel. Whirlpools swirled across the glittering dark blue and silvery water. An especially frothy patch of water churned where Ripple Rock lurks beneath the waves.
Returning to the ship, our skipper decided that the timing was right to catch a sunset slack tide through the narrows. Our overnight anchorage was just a little further North at Deep Bay. By the time we entered Seymour Narrows the whirlpools and rapids had calmed. A cold wind swept down from the mountains. I particularly enjoy these moments on the bow, quiet and contemplative. I had read about Seymour Narrows, but experiencing it firsthand has put into perspective just how powerful the changing tides can be in this part of the world.
This was an especially memorable afternoon and a fun travel photography challenge, as the conditions changed quickly and often. Find my Maud Island/Seymour Narrows travel gallery here, and my full expedition story here. As of the writing of this post, I still have many more photos to edit and stories from this journey to assemble, so be sure to check back or even better, subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss future updates.