Anyone who has had anything to do with boating or waters in the Pacific Northwest has heard of the legendary Sechelt Rapids at Skookumchuk Narrows. Boats, especially sail boats, need to pay careful attention to tide charts, and only attempt the narrow pass between Sechelt and Jervis Inlets at slack tide.
Spectators and kayakers, of course prefer their waters wild.
Skookum is “strong” or “powerful” in Chinook Jargon, the Amerind pidgin long used in the Pacific Northwest as a trade language. Chuck means water, so skookumchuck is literally “strong water”: “rapids” or “whitewater”. Like many other works from Chinook, the word is in common usage today in the English of British Columbia, and refers to the powerful tidal rapids at the mouths of most of the major coastal inlets.
The waters at Skookumchuk Narrows live up to their name: they are famous for their spectacular whirlpools and whitewater. “On a 3 metre tide, 200 billion gallons of water flow through the narrows” at speeds up to – and sometimes exceeding – 30km an hour. Depending on the height of the prevaling tides, there can be more than 2 metres drop in water level from one side of the rapids to the other.
I grew up hearing stories about the rapids and had always wanted to see them. Located on the north end of the Sechelt Peninsula, vehicle access is reliant on car ferries. We had a small window of opportunity last summer, on our way to the Earls Cove Ferry Terminal, just north of Egmont where the 4 km walking trail to the Narrows starts.
Watching the kayakers paddling madly against the oncoming currents and tides rather made me wish I was a little better at it!
We settled for the brisk walk back to the car and a quick drive to the Earls Cove Ferry, where our water transport was much more sedate.
‘Till next time!