Main Lakes Provincial Park

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In late “winter”/ early “spring” our old friend Macy decided to come visit Vancouver Island from Texas. She requested a paddling trip, so that’s exactly what we did. While our initial thought was to paddle the beautiful Sayward Lakes loop, the lakes still had too much ice in March, so we decided instead for Main Lakes Provincial Park. We drove from Victoria to Campbell River, took a short but expensive ferry over to Quadra Island, picked up a friendly hitchhiker, and were soon launching our canoe for a beautiful and quiet weekend that would also include two of the most bizarre and rarest wildlife events we had ever encountered.


Almost as charming as Main Lakes are the little boat-access only cabins that we paddled by before even entering the park. It’s not hard to imagine the small channel warming up in summer and being inviting for an evening swim, with friendly neighbours out on their docks at sunset and visits just a short paddle away.


The main lakes are all connected to one another, and a few are accessible by a portage or weedy paddle through small channels depending on the water level. We were mostly content with pulling up on the sandy beach of what is clearly the best campsite in the park, just to the right after entering Main lake. Only low HP boats are allowed on the lakes, but this early in the year there weren’t even any of those. We were totally alone, without seeing another soul for three days, and it was utterly calm, peaceful, and quiet. The weather even cooperated, with a bit of clouds but also plenty of sun. This is prime canoe country, and the tranquility was a reminder of just how perfect canoe camping can be.

We did paddle around a few of the lakes. The reedy passages between lakes are fun and have a tiny bit of current, while one campsite with a portage trail to the sea had barnacle-laden oyster shells betraying their true origins despite resting on the shores of a freshwater lake.

On our first evening, Macy and Elliott headed about 100m down the shore from the campsite to gather deadfall wood from a less picked over area. While searching for some dry, dead wood, Elliott was shocked to discover a fresh, juicy fish simply sitting on the log several meters from the water. It was if it had crawled out of the water, climbed a couple of trees, and nestled itself between two logs to shelter itself from the sky. There was a spot of fresh blood on the tree beside it, and fish slime that made it appear as though it had just come out of the water. Very bizarre.


While admiring the absolute puzzle of how a fish could have found its way to the log in the very recent past (a bird? a fishing rodent? growing legs?), Elliott suddenly heard a large splash in the otherwise glass-still lake. Macy had been pumping water a few meters from shore and he thought she surely must have decided to go for a frosty late night dip. Looking up, he was even more puzzled to discover that she was fine, and right behind her a medium sized black tailed deer had simply plunged into the lake, full speed ahead, and upon noticing her in the canoe it turned immediately around and swam back for sure. This type of behaviour seemed pretty odd, and coupled with the fish of a few minutes proir, nothing seemed to quite be making sense.

The deer made its way off through the woods, parallel to the lake, in plain view. How bizarre! And suddenly there were sounds of yet another deer following in its footsteps. A few seconds later, however, it turned out not to be another deer, but a sleek, browny-black form darting through the woods in pursuit of the deer. It was a wolf! As it zig-zagged through the forest it briefly came Elliott’s way, clearly seeing him, and he had his bear spray out in a flash (always be on the ready!) and challenged the wolf with a gut-reaction “whoa bear!” The wolf didn’t seem to mind being called a bear, and didn’t seem to mind Elliott much at all, simply making its way off through the woods further in pursuit of the deer.

In the heat of the moment Elliott wasn’t able to snap any pictures. The fate of the deer remained unknown, although we were quite certain that we saw some sort of ungulate swimming across the lake just a couple minutes later to the safety of an island, and we were hopeful it was the very same deer.

And where was Lisa during all of this? At the camp, tending the fire, only a hundred or so meters away, but completely oblivious to the whole thing! Bad luck! The rest of our stay in Main Lakes was uneventful, with not another soul seen the entire time. Though the wolf was a highlight, the entire weekend was excellent. Main Lakes Provincial Park is great canoe country with lots to offer, so check it out if you get the chance!

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