Friday, 18 January 2008

Sarita Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook - Maps 7 and 8

Atlas of Canada Link:
Sarita Lake

Google Earth: Type in Sarita and zoom out a bit, the lake is East of Sarita
Latitude: 48°54'18.85"N
Longitude: 124°53'17.03"W

Trip Date: January 16, 2008

After morning errands I loaded up the Tracker and left Nanaimo at 10:35 heading for lakes located along the road to Bamfield. At the Summit of #4 Highway between Cameron Lake and Port Alberni I took the connector road over to the Cameron River Main, down past Bainbridge Lake and on to the Bamfield Road. I arrived at Lizard Pond at 1:20. Finding both Lizard Pond and Hawthorn Lake frozen over, I returned to Bamfield Road and continued on the Sarita Lake, arriving at 2:25.

The bridge right before the lake that spans a tributary of Sarita River gave a glimpse of a very large log jam, cleaved in the middle by the creek. Just past the bridge on a muddy landing was a drilling machine of the sort used to drill into rock during road building. “hmmm...” I wondered, “did they dynamite the log jam?”

The Atlas of Canada map indicates a campground on the southern shore near the Eastern end of the lake, and the Backroad Mapbook placed the campsite further down the lake, so I watched intently for a road access. Recent grader work was evident creating a large furl of rock and gravel at the road edge, but I spied no turn off until reaching a road further down the lake, which I turned into. This turn off revealed the campsite nestled under deciduous trees, right where the Backroad Mapbook said it would be. It is a pleasant forestry style campsite with direct access to the lake via a gentle grassy boat ramp. The campground and boat ramp seemed oddly cluttered with logs and woody debris. I unloaded the canoe and headed out onto the water, my attention drawn immediately to a large white bird gliding along the far shore. A determined but stealthy paddle towards the bird nevertheless scared it into flight. I took several photographs of it winging its way to the far end of the lake, but it was too far away to make out the exact species. It was probably a Trumpeter Swan. Turning east I paddled towards the inflow of the Sarita River and was completely dumbstruck by the view. I had been so focused on the Swan, I had not fully appreciated it. White barked trees of the type at the campground, probably alders, were showing a red haze about their branch tips, the tightly bound buds waiting for spring. Sunlight, breaking through the cloud cover, striped the hillside behind.

As I approached the southern shoreline again, I noted a number of large logs and tree stumps clustered together in an odd tangled mess. Spanning between two of these stumps were other pieces of driftwood. Could it be that the forest company had, in fact, blasted the log jam causing a wave of water to wash these specimens into the lake? If that was the case, the water level must have risen to depth 10 or 12 feet above the level I was resting on?
Pondering other possible explanations I rounded the next small point of land and drifted past a flock of Golden Crowned Kinglets peeping to each other in the underbrush. A Junco and Winter Wren were also gleaning the shoreline logs and their activity drew my attention to a graceful piece of driftwood.

Rounding the next promontory where I had initially expected the campsite to be I startled into flight two black and white ducks, probably Ringnecks, from an area of shore where a creek had recently deposited large amounts of sand and gravel, arranged on the lake bottom like a multicoloured fan. The water turbidity was moderate, though the river had seemed relatively clear when I had crossed it.
After paddling around the eastern side of the lake I headed back toward the put in, sun descending behind snowy mountains. A mist was forming as I took the canoe out of the water and the temperature was dropping steadily. My thumbs were feeling it, even through my titanium lined neoprene gloves. As with all paddles during the winter months, the limited daylight hours, and temperature mean the paddling time always seems a little too rushed. Nevertheless, I was pleases to have paddled the lake on such a calm and tranquil day.

Summation: Sarita Lake has a nice shoreline with moderately interesting hillsides surrounding the lake on all sides. The most striking aspect of the lake is the long line of Alders (?) on the Eastern shore by the inlet from Sarita River. This panorama is breathtaking. I would like to see it both in its spring raiment and summer greenery. I expect that the lake is used heavily in the summer, being so close to a main road and less than two hours drive from Port Alberni. It may, however, be overlooked by many who are heading to and from the West Coast Trail, providing for them only a brief visual break from the miles of forest and clear cuts. I will not make Sarita Lake a destination lake during the warmer months, but if I should happen to be in the neighbourhood, I will definitely swing by to check it out again.

Recommendation: If you plan to visit Sarita Lake in the winter months, be prepared for cold water and possible changes in water level. The roads this winter are heavily used by forest vehicles and graders will most likly be working, I passed one on the trip. I also passed two loaded logging trucks, and another with its trailer piggybacked, and numerous of the ubiquitous white forest company chevy pickups. Also two cars. Tracks in the snow indicated that at least two vehicles had visited Lizard Pond, the snow being over a foot deep in places. This is a high use area because of the active logging.


  1. Hi Richard
    A beautiful place here!
    Excellent post! Nice photos.
    You are Master.
    Thank you.
    have a good day

  2. According to the TSA, it was a winter storm that caused the damage you saw:

    Sarita Lake Campsite – closed permanently – site wiped out by storm damage.

    So, take that as you will. I guess you were still able to get in there to launch your boat. Wonder if that will remain open for much longer, though... You might want to call the MOF and find out before you publish your book.

    At Backroad Mapbooks.

  3. Further looking at my map (fishing map, not the book map) the site you went to was the picnic site. The recreation site is actually towards the north end of the lake (where the AOC showed it). That is now closed for good.


    (Addendum: Called Frank Ullmann at TSA, yes, he says, the campground is closed. You launched from the picnic site.)

  4. Hey Trent,

    Thanks for that information. By TSA do you mean the Transportation Security Administration? How did you contact them to find this out?

    The north end of the lake does have an area where a campsite could easily be, so no doubt the remains are still there. The alluvial fans at the inflows from the two creeks on the north end of the lake were large and fresh, so I expect part of the campsite may have washed away. There were a number of trees down as well.

    The picnic area from which I launched was very nice, though no tables or fire pits. I did have to drive over the hummock of dirt turned up by the grader to get into the site, but unless they do more to decommission it access will be possible by virtually anyone.

    Regarding your note to call the MOF, I’m assuming that is Ministry of Forests? Is there someone you would recommend to call?
    Thanks again, I appreciate the help.


  5. Hey Richard:

    No, I mean Ministry of Tourism, Sports and the Arts, who are in charge of the Forestry Sites.

    They took over from Ministry of Forests, and it was my bad when I said call MOF, although the guys who run the programs are still the old MOF guys, and they still work, as far as I know, in the MOF office.

    MOF will be able to help you with roads and road closures (at least we hope they can; there's so much private forest lands down there...), while TSA will know about the rec sites.

    The two people you'll deal with most is Charlie Cornfeild (north island) and Frank Ullmann (south island).

    The picnic site is not decommissioned, so go ahead and launch from there with impunity.

    You can keep tabs on what's happening with the sites (if you are planning on publishing a book, good to know the current state, as things can close (and open) at a moment's notice.

    Check for all you need to know about recreation sites.

    If you have any questions, that At Backroad Mapbooks was an email address as well. So will get to me. As long as by me you put my name, and not the letters M and E.

    I'm curious to know what you find around access issues. Timberwest and Island Timberlands have gone gate happy the last few years.

  6. Trent,

    Excellent, very helpful. I will definitely follow up on those contacts.

    Regarding the access to private forest company lands, this is becoming more and more of an issue. There is a very large sign on the connector turn off that I mentioned that spells out the dos and don’ts on the company’s land. I believe this included “no fires” and “no overnight camping.” But I wasn’t thinking at the time and should have taken a picture of it to remember correctly.

    This page indicated a number of lakes that have been closed by Timber West. I sent an e-mail to TW asking for more information, but have received no reply.

    Closures like these are a shame because a few of the lakes on the list used to be considered excellent for fly fishing. Several of the lakes are water reservoirs for municipalities, and I understand limiting access to these areas, and I understand that many people in sensitive area’s can be cause irreparable damage. But not more damage, I would think, than the practice of forestry itself, so I have to wonder if these regulations come more from concerns over possible litigation.

    With the fire ban, I expect it is a cost issue - putting out run away fires is expensive. I am assuming a forest company who owns the land they harvest also pays for fire control, but I’m not sure. Do you know?


  7. I'm told its more a liability thing. Because it is private land, the forest company may be held responsible for anything that happens on it. I think that's a bit of a red herring, but it's the best I've heard so far from anything resembling an official source.

    That closure list is what has got me thinking about the whole thing, because I am just updating the Van Isle fishing book and had to strike a couple lakes because of it.

  8. We just drove through the area at the end of summer - the picnic tables were buried under sand and rock and the outhouses were smashed. It used to be a great stop...

  9. I was there today, and this time last year. The Rec Site is still accessible via 4x4. It is getting more difficult, however... there's remnants of the old sign among the rocks logs and sand, but no evidence of picnic tables or outhouses. I wish I had seen the site before the washout. I also wonder if the logging company there let the river wash the site out... looking at Flora lake rec site - which is now closed for "road repairs".. 6 months ago it looked like they were fixing the road.... now all the new bridge material has been pulled out and the left hand side of the road in has been logged.... extensively... I doubt it'll ever re-open. They dont want people out there anymore as evidenced by hunders of new private property, no trespass signs ect. I wish these companies would build more rec sites and maintain them... like they used to.