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GET YOUR ASS OUTSIDE: On Exploring Up The Indian Arm With A Tent And A Paddle

by Ariel Taylor | I thought I’d try switching things up just a bit this time and share with you a spot that’s become an annual tradition for me and about half a dozen friends. You won’t need hiking boots to get there, but life jackets are usually a good idea. Indian Arm is a familiar name to many Vancouverites, but it took years of living here before I finally made it to Deep Cove with a canoe. Four years later, this paddle marks for me the beginning of another summer spent outside.

The Spot

Sandwiched between Mount Seymour Provincial Park and the Coquitlam Watershed, the Indian Arm spans 18km of largely protected waterway from Deep Cove (or Belcarra). Though highly developed with waterfront residences, it doesn’t take long before the mansions thin and give way to modest cabins and rugged shorelines. A few tiny islands help to mark your path and provide some level of protection against the wake of passing motorboats. At the far end of the Arm, Granite Falls thunders with spring runoff, the Estuary provides peaceful mating grounds for aquatic birds, and the Wigwam Inn brings Royal Vancouver Yachters off their boats and onto dry land. There are three campgrounds to choose from depending on how far you’re willing to paddle. Fires are prohibited, but all campsites are free of charge.

Twin Island is your first option. Less than an hour’s paddle from Deep Cove, there are two outhouses, five wooden tent platforms, a floating dock, and plenty of forest canopy. Though well set up and maintained, most continue on further up the Arm to sites at Bishop Creek or Granite Falls. The former is located just west of Crocker Island and provides flat grassland and pebble beaches at low tide. There is an outhouse, but no tent platforms so be prepared to sleep on the (potentially wet) ground. In contrast, Granite Falls is located on the adjacent shoreline just a little further north and provides a spectacular roar of falling water. A bit of advice – camp as far south of the falls as possible as spray and shifting winds can make for cold, damp conditions (a rain jacket is never a bad idea).

The Route

From downtown Vancouver cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge and merge onto Marine Drive heading east. Turn left onto Capilano Road, staying right to merge onto Hwy 1 east. Take exit 22 toward Lynn Creek/Capilano University and turn left onto Fern St. Then there’s a quick right onto Mt. Seymour Pkwy and finally left onto Deep Cove Road. If you’re over in East Vancouver, hit up Hwy 1 via the Iron Workers Bridge and take the exit for Mt. Seymour Pkwy. If you’re riding public transit take bus #210 to Phibbs Exchange and transfer to the #212 for Deep Cove.

The Advice

For those of you without wheels or who don’t care to transport a canoe/kayak to the public launch at Deep Cove, not to worry. There is a convenient, albeit over-priced, alternative. Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak is located on the pebble beach just beside the boat launch and would be happy to take your money in exchange for a seaworthy vessel. As far as I know, they have a monopoly on rentals in the area, so if you’re able I would suggest hitting up Mountain Equipment Co-Op (or possibly a friend) and saving some of your coins in the long run. Also note that Deep Cove’s Honey Donuts make a pretty nice treat after a day (or two) spent on the water. Can’t miss it in the wee village.

Once you’ve launched, head left out of the cove sticking to the shoreline. If stopping on Twin Island is your prerogative, cross the channel directly, staying out of the middle and avoiding larger waves. If you stick to the western shoreline, keep an eye out for Silver Falls located about halfway up the Arm. You’ll also pass a summer camp and two power stations dating back to the early 1900s. They were designed to pump water down from Buntzen Lake – approximately 150m above you. If you plan to paddle all the way to the end remember that it’s about 18km one way and will likely take anywhere from 3-5 hours.

Just because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean this isn’t exercise – expect sore arms and maybe even a blister or two. It’s always smart to bring a basic first aid kit, lots of water, a life jacket and some yummy, restorative food. You may even want an extra set of clothes in case you get wet (you probably will). And lastly, if you’re anything like me, maybe you’ll even wishfully pack your bathing suit. Is it summer yet or what?


Ariel Taylor is a writer and professional student living and working in the West End. Though never short on opinions, she approaches most things in life with an open mind and a grain of salt. She suffers from acute wanderlust (hence her Get Your Ass Outside column) and as a result can be packed for most adventures in 10 minutes or less.

There are 3 comments

  1. Anyone reading you columns would think you loved getting down and dirty..and wet..but hey!..it’s SO WORTH IT!!!

    “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

  2. Where to park my over night, while kayaking and camping indian arm. Im thinking of launching woodhaven side.