British Columbia Hot Springs

Destination: Weewanie (Not So) Hot Springs

Sunday, September 14, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

The bath house in Weewanie with a view out to Devastation Channel.


Entrance: 53°41.810’ N, 128°47.631’ W
Mooring:  53°41.774’ N, 128°47.350’ W

I like lists.  I like making them.  I like thinking about them.  But more than anything else, I like completing them.  It doesn’t really matter what’s on the list or how long it is, just that it gets done.  So, after our first visit to Bishop Bay Hot Springs last year, I hit the cruising guides and put together a list of accessible* hot springs in the area:  Eucott Bay (check), Nascall Bay (check . . . sort of), Bishop Bay (check), Europa Bay (check), Weewanie.  And I was really looking forward to ticking the last box. 

When we were tied up in Ocean Falls for a few days last season before heading down the West Coast of Vancouver Island, we met Mark Bunzel, the editor of Waggoner Cruising Guide.  He’d just been to Weewanie and told us that it was better than Bishop Bay.  Much better.  So, I could hardly wait. 

Located just off Devastation Channel, Weewanie is difficult to spot.  The bath house and small cove blend into the shoreline so well that if you blink, you could miss them.  The bay itself very pretty in a “Pacific Northwest” kind of way:  The shore is lined with evergreen trees and backed by steep, granite walls.  But it’s exposed to some of the wind and chop along Devastation Channel (a name that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence) and would most likely be uncomfortable in anything other than settled weather. 

Until last year, there were two mooring buoys in the bay but one of them floated away in a storm and isn’t going to be replaced.  It’s possible to anchor southwest of the existing buoy in approximately 20 metres (66 feet) but the holding is reported to be poor in rock and you’d need to be careful to avoid the ground tackle for the former mooring, which hasn’t been removed.   

Salubrious and Cambria sharing the mooring in Weewanie.

The bath house was originally built by the Kitmat Aquanauts Scuba Club but is now maintained by BC Parks and can be accessed two ways: directly from the shore by climbing the rocks below the hot spring or from the beach at the head of the bay that leads to a trail past a campsite and down to the bath house.  If the tide is low, the latter option would be a lot easier.

There are two tubs inside, a smaller one for washing that (by looking at older pictures) appears to have had its own water source at one time so you could actually shower underneath.  Unfortunately, new piping has been installed and now the water only flows into the main tub which spills over into the smaller one.  So, if you want to wash, do it first because the water is COLD!  The second tub is larger but can only comfortably seat four or five people.  Both are pretty basic in appearance and are made entirely out of concrete.  In fact, apart from the water, there’s nothing natural about Weewanie.

From the source, the water is a decent temperature.  We didn’t bring a thermometer with us but guessed it was somewhere in the range of 32°C (90°F) – much lower than the reported 44°C at the source (112°F) and 38°C (101°F) in the tub.  But it loses warmth quickly to the concrete.  The outer tub was somewhere in the range of 27°C (80°F), low enough to cause you to shiver.  All and all, a huge disappointment. 

When we arrived in Kitimat the following day, I asked around the marina to see if anyone knew what the story was.  Nobody really did but someone told me that the water went cold about 20 months ago when the big earthquake hit Haida Gwaii (they sit on the same fault line).  It sounded reasonable but still didn’t explain Mark Bunzel’s reaction to Weewanie only 14 months ago and six months after the quake.

A few days later when we were moored in Bishop Bay two park rangers stopped by to say hello, so we asked them the same question:  No.  The earthquake didn’t affect the temperature or flow of the hot springs in Weewanie, but the temperature varies with the amount of rain (it had rained quite a bit the week before we were there).  And the intake gets clogged with roots and debris, which affects the flow, so they’ll be adding a screen filter to help address the problem.  They also told us that the second mooring buoy broke away some time last year.  They recovered it and attempted to reinstall it but weren’t able to locate the anchor point.  Because most people didn’t care to use that mooring (it left you too close to shore), they decided not to replace it and add a third one in Bishop Bay, which is more popular, instead. 

So, even though our visit to Weewanie wasn’t the best that may have been a condition of our timing – a week earlier or later, and our opinion about the water might be different.  And surely adding a screen to filter out debris will improve the situation.  But nothing can change the aesthetics of the bath house which is cold and uninviting.  If the “shower” was still flowing, then giving Weewanie a second chance might be in order but, considering it’s off the beaten path, I don’t see a return visit anytime soon in our future. 

* There are actually more hot springs along the Central and North Coast but these are the ones that offer a secure anchorage.  

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