Destinations the Inside Passage

Destination: Bishop Bay Hot Springs

Sunday, August 24, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

Bishop Bay Hot Springs (Bishop Bay, The North Coast)

Entrance:   53°26.24’N, 128°54.76’W
Anchor:      53°28.03’N, 128°50.77’W
Dock:        53°28.22’N, 128°50.20’W

Cambria is tied to the dock and barely visible in the center of the picture.  The two boats, bottom right, are tied to one of the park moorings and Salubrious (to the left) is tied to the other.

Bishop Bay Hot Springs, situated at the head of Bishop Bay on the east side of Ursula Channel, is a popular destination for residents of nearby Kitimat and those en route to or from Alaska.  And it’s easy to understand why.

The 15-metre (50-foot) dock that lies along the northeastern shore is free to use but is short and rafting with other boats is the norm – sometimes as many as five or six deep.  If tying up, a rock shoal extends on both sides and only shallow draft boats should use the ends closest to shore.  BC Parks, who maintains the area along with local residents, has posted a sign on the gangway that requires boats over 30 feet to anchor or use one of the two mooring buoys located near the head of the bay (a request that is rarely followed . . . or enforced).  The concern is that if the wind picks up, larger boats could un-anchor or move the dock – something that happened during storm conditions recently. 

Cambria tied to the dock (overhanging by 15 feet) in July of 2013.
If you chose to use the dock, take care to leave plenty of room for other boats, especially if you’re longer than 30 feet.  And be prepared to share your space – the dock can be a lively place and there are occasions when the “quiet time” rules that are the norm for most provincial parks are overlooked. 

The holding in the bay is reported to be fair to poor in rock and gravel and the bottom slopes quickly into deep water, from depths of 20 to 86 metres (66 to 284 feet), so it’s preferable to use one of the two mooring buoys that were installed by BC Parks a few years ago:  They’re marked “Private” but are for public use.  According to two rangers we spoke with, a third mooring will be added later this year.  If they’re occupied, anchorage can be found along the southwestern shore (along the head of the bay) in depths of 20 metres (66 feet).  We’ve been told by people with local knowledge that it’s best to use a stern-tie, but we’ve seen plenty of boats swing freely at anchor without a problem during calm conditions.     

The bath house nestled in amongst the trees along the northern shore.

The hot springs are located in a covered bath house that sits along the northern shore.  To reach them, turn left after walking up the gangway on the dock and follow the boardwalk to its end; the trail continues uphill and leads to a composting outhouse.  A campsite with three tent platforms and a fire ring is located in the opposite direction (turn right after walking up the gangway), toward the head of the bay.

The bath house in Bishop Bay (2013).
There are three tubs in all.  The main tub, the largest, is under cover and hot, odorless water is piped in from a crevice in the bedrock beside the bath house.  At the source, it’s 41° C (105.8° F) and cools to 39° C (102.2° F) in the main tub.  From there, water flows to a secondary, smaller tub outside where the temperature is cooler and the tub is slightly smaller.  And finally, there’s a small tub to the side of the bath house for bathing with soap.  There’s a hole in the bottom side that’s plugged with a bung and, when you’re finished, you simply remove it to empty the water.  Once the tub is clean, replace the bung to fill it up for the next bather. 

A view of two of the tubs: the outside (bottom) and main pools. 

In the past, fenders and floats decked out with boat names and dates hung from the rafters of the bath house and made for interesting reading while taking a soak; but over the winter, they were removed.  Visitors are replenishing the collection, but progress is slow.  We made our first trip to Bishop Bay last year and David crafted a plaque that we hung in the changing room.  It, along with three or four others, survived.  We have no idea why, but are happy that it did.

David hanging our plaque in July of 2013.

Things to Do:

  • Soak in the hot springs
  • Kayak
  • Crab
  • Fish

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