Bays, Pacific Northwest
Located where the Sayward Valley joins the ocean on North Vancouver Island in British Columbia, is the small coastal settlement of Kelsey Bay. Kelsey Bay is accessed by a 12 km paved road off the Island Highway. Kelsey Bay is under one hour from Campbell River in the south and about 2 hours from Port Hardy to the north. Kelsey Bay can also be reached by boat via Johnstone Strait.
As with all communities on northern Vancouver Island, Kelsey Bay was only easily accessible by water in the past. It was not until after World War II that a gravel road connected Sayward and Kelsey Bay with Campbell River was built. In 1979 the road was extended to the north island from Sayward Valley.
Kelsey Bay was at one time the southern terminus for the B.C. Ferries Inside Passage route, then in 1978, when Highway 19 was extended north to Port Hardy, the terminal was moved to Port Hardy.
Kelsey Bay is now a put in point for sport fishing and tourism. From here you can access a wonderful area of islands and inlets, a great place to put in a kayak, a great place to start a wilderness adventure that you will never forget.
Fall and winter are good times to visit the Salmon River estuary to view winter waterfowl. Spring is also a delightful time due to the prolific nesting around the estuary. At one time the Salmon River estuary was home to the island’s largest wintering population of Trumpeter Swans, which are still numerous here. The village maintains the path along the estuary to make your viewing experience even more special.
Kelsey Bay harbor is the only small craft harbor located between Campbell River and Port McNeil. It offers a loading ramp, a derrick, a break water system and a boat launch ramp is located at the end of the old BC Ferries’ parking lot. There are several small stores to stock up on supplies and a few great little eateries to grub up in. Places like the cable cafe, this building is built with welded walls of old logging cable, will stand for many years to come.
The Salmon River is a popular river for exhilarating river rafting and canoeing in the Sayward community, and the lakes and rivers in the area offer a range of canoeing and kayaking routes. When I was a young man, my friends and I, in January, would put our canoes in at the bridge at big tree creek and spend 4 days canoeing down the Salmon river, enjoying some incredible sights like elk and bears as well as some awesome fishing. It was cold, with snow and sleet, but the river would be running high and this is what we were after, love running the winter rapids.
The Sayward Forest Canoe Route covers almost 50 km of lakes east of Sayward. Allow three to four days to complete the circuit, which begins on Campbell Lake. Wisdom has it that the best approach to the route is to journey in a counterclockwise direction, putting in at the boat launch on Mohun Lake in Morton Lake Provincial Park. The well-marked route continues through 10 lakes before returning to the park.
Road access to most of the lakes within the canoe route means that paddlers can pick and choose from a variety of put in and take-out points. I was employed by the BC Forest service in the 80s and was a member of a team who worked one winter on this route, it was a great chance to enjoy this canoe route.
The nearest large provincial park to Sayward is Schoen Lake Provincial Park, considered by some to be the most beautiful camping area and lake on Vancouver Island, offering wilderness hiking, canoeing, fishing and spectacular mountain scenery.
This campground will take your breath away. The mountains in the area are some of the most spectacular on the island.