Sunday 1 August 2010

Goose Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook 4th edition - Map 40 B5
Atlas of Canada Link:Mohun Lake (North)
Latitude and Longitude: 50° 8' 24" N 125° 29' 48" W
Decimal Degrees: 50.14° N 125.497° W
UTM Coordinates: 10U 321589 5557209
Topographic Map Sheet Number: 092K03

Trip Date: July 27 to 30th, 2010

Goose Lake Map

There is a lot of traffic on Goose Lake these days. As the first leg of the Sayward Forest Canoe Route there is a steady stream of canoes and kayaks heading north towards the portage to Twin Lake. The Northern bay has some decent trout in it too, so that brings anglers in skiffs, powerboats, and Zodiacs. The rotting pilings from the old bridges at the narrows keep the water skiers out, but not the jet skis. And it is only going to see more traffic as the population of Vancouver Island increases.

So why am I broadcasting the location to the world wide web? Because I would like to see this fragile and beautiful environment protected so people can keep on enjoying it for a long time to come. As Michel Gauthier points out in his excellent guide to the Canoe Circuit, "By using the resource, we plant a stake in the ground, a flag that represents our will, our wants, and our desire. The more of us who paddle the circuit, the bigger the flag, the more visible it is to them [the policy makers]. We become a constituency. Our use of the resource forces government officials to take us into consideration when they make decisions affecting the area we have claimed."

The beauty of this place may not be grandiose, but it is impressive in it's subtlety.

The first subtle beauty of the place is it's shallowness.

Notice the paddle swirls in the bottom mud behind Paul in this shot? there is something magical about zipping along over the honey colored silt only a few feet below. Schools of stickleback dart away and even the dusky speckled leaches are beautiful to watch as they nose alone sunken logs in search of hiding places.

The golden color comes from the lake bottom which is a soft blanket of decaying algae, pine pollen, and organic matter. In places you can thrust a paddle 4 feet into it without striking anything solid. All the water from Goose and Mohun lakes (and their tributaries) appears to drain out the small creek that leads to Morton Lake. For most of the year the flow is gentle, so the silt has a chance to settle out.

What this means is that it is a great place for aquatic plants to grow, particularly Yellow Pond Lilly, Watershield, Floating Leaved Pondweed, and Water Lobelia.

Floating-Leaved Pondweed
 Here Paul examines a bed of Verticillate Watermilfoil mixed with Widgeon grass:

The Milfoil, a native species, forms slightly disturbing underwater brain structures:

This is sedgebending territory, with a fair number of reeds and rushes for good measure.

The second subtle beauty of this place is the rock. There are a number of rocky islands and points, as well as rocky escarpments and rock gardens.

Rock Garden with Water Lobilia

I think the main rock here is a basalt. According to this map the Goose Lake area sits squarely atop Karmutsen Volcanic Rocks and Quatsino Limestone. One prospector states that "As we head north from Campbell River towards Sayward, the area is almost entirely underlain by Karmutsen basalts near the top of the section." On Goose Lake these volcanic bones emerge in places to add a solid contrast to the softer textures of water and woods.

All of the good campsites have this stone underfoot, but it is particularily obvious at G5, 6, and 7 and the un-numbered site in the Western Bay:

We appreciated the Shade to Eat Our Lunch In

There is a swirl of stone on this point that looks like it may have been a popped bubble of lava:

One of my favorite places on Goose Lake is Lone Tree Island, which I will devote another post to entirely. This island is a large stone projecting from the water with a beautiful pine with undulating roots that stretch out across the rock:

Lone Tree Island contains the third subtle beauty: Pines. Shore Pines to be exact. Also called Bonsai Pines and Bog Pines. The scientific name is Pinus contorta and it is well adapted to growing on rocks and beside the water.

Sunrise over Pine at Campsite G6
Campsite G6 is on the south side of a picturesque island on which are growing numerous beautiful specimens, not least of which are the ones growing in the campsite itself.

The dense "cloud-like" bunches of branches on these specimens make great shade and the trees are strategically located to provide shelter from the sun most of the day.

That tree on the right has a good example of how the pine trunch and branches twist and turn as they grow. Here is a close up:

The contorted pines continue to grace the landscape when they fall down and loose their bark, revealing their beautiful twisted interiors.

 This combination of shallow water, volcanic rock, and trees with deep character make this a place to experience wabi sabi in abundance. It is an experience worth savoring.

I hope that you will visit Goose Lake and tread lightly when you do. But please do visit, and tell your friends, and tell your political representatives that this unique and beautiful treasure needs to be protected, enhanced, and saved for your children and their children.

The campsites need better toilets and some signs to let people know how fragile the environment is. Tables would prevent the cutting of trees and small wooden docks in places would prevent the deterioration of the shoreline habitat.

A big thanks must be given to the Comox Valley Paddlers who have installed the cedar toilet boxes in some campsites.

Lets hope that Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts which now managers the area will receive funding to maintain and protect this valuable natural resource. This is a premier recreational location in western Canada and deserves careful management.


  1. Wonderful post. I will be very interested in your process to get this place protected. I myself am thnking of something similar for a beautiful spot.

  2. Hi Richard
    Goose lake is a beautiful place. And I hope it stays that way,there are lots of Lochs in Scotland that have lost their sanctuary. As speed boats and jet skis carve up the waters .You live in a wonderful part of the world :)Brian(:

  3. I have some time off later this week and next and am thinking of heading up this way. Thanks for the intro and notes on things to watch for.

  4. Thanks richard for sharing this with us