Destinations the Inside Passage

Mitlenatch Island at a Glance

Friday, January 09, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

Mitlenatch Island

What goes up must come down; it’s a simple law of physics.  As much we hate moving south for the winter, it has to be done and dropping below 50° N is particularly difficult for us.  To help make the process as painless as possible, we like to visit new anchorages whenever we can.  This time around we chose Mitlenatch Island in the northern Strait of Georgia.

Once an important seasonal camp for the Coast Salish, Mitlenatch was purchased by the Manson family of Cortes Island who raised sheep and cattle there from 1894 to 1959.  In 1961, the island became a Provincial Nature Park and is now an internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA). 

Harlequin ducks on Mitlenatch Island.

Now home to over 10,000 birds (including the Glaucous-winged Gulls, Plagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots and Black Oystercatchers), Mitlenatch is the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia.  For viewing nesting birds, spring is best.  But every season has something different to offer.  From May to July, wildflowers and cactus are in bloom.  And from the late fall until the summer, Steller and California sea lions can be found lazing along the shoreline along with hundreds of harbour seals.  Transient orca whales (not the resident salmon-eating orcas) can be seen hunting around the island during these months.

Steller sealion, Mitlenatch Island

Steller sealion, Mitlenatch Island

Temporary anchorage can be found in Camp Bay on the southeastern side of the island in 5 to 10 metres (16 to 33 feet).  The holding is poor in rock and the anchorage is open to swell from the Strait of Georgia with little swing room.  In settled conditions, anchorage can also be found on the northern side of the island off North Beach in 10 to 20 metres (33 to 66 feet).  Again, the holding is poor and you’re subject to the swell. 

Cambria, Salubrious and another boat at anchor in Camp Bay, Mitlenatch Island.

Mitlenatch Island with Camp Bay in the southeast corner.

Mitlenatch is considered a sensitive ecosystem and a large section of the island is off-limits.  These two anchorages, Camp Bay and North Beach, offer the only shore access to visiting boaters.  Visitors are asked to stay on the trails and view nesting birds from the bird blind.  Marine life within 300 metres (1000 feet) of the coastline is protected and boats are asked to stay at least 50 metres (165 feet) off shore to keep from disturbing the wildlife.  No pets or camping are allowed on the island.

The bird blind on Mitlenatch Island.

Walking the trail to North Beach on Mitlenatch Island.

Things to Do:
Bird Watching
Wildlife Watching

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