Central Coast Destinations

Fiordland Recreational Area (Part 2)

Friday, April 28, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA

It’s Way Back Wednesday (or Flashback Friday, in this case), an opportunity to dig through the files and pull out an old blog post to shed some new light on it. Over the years, I’ve written several posts about anchorages we’ve stayed in, including first-hand anchoring information (i.e. holding, protection, GPS coordinates), historical information and things to do. To date, I’ve done 26 of these (they can all be found on our Destinations page) and they’re some of my favourite posts. For the next six months, I’ll be highlighting one every Wednesday (from south to north) and adding a few new ones in where I can. This week, it’s a return to Mussel Inlet in Fiordland Recreational Area.

Disclaimer:  This blog article is not to be used for navigation.  It is solely an account of our personal experience and anchor location in Mussel Inlet during calm weather conditions.  What worked for us at one particular time is no guarantee or indication that it will work for others.  There are no services and any boat that enters should be self-sufficient.

One of the things we love the most about cruising in British Columbia is the number of glacial fjords and inlets there are to explore and the opportunity to travel into the mountains . . . by boat.  It’s a humbling experience and something we never seem to get tired of doing. 

In an area already known for its dramatic scenery and beauty, Fiordland Recreational Area stands out from the rest:  A place where glaciers have carved sheer granite cliffs, reaching heights over 1,000 metres (3,300 feet), waterfalls rumble to the sea and wildlife roams the shore.  Located in the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation territory, the nature reserve is managed in cooperation with the provincial government and includes 76,825 hectares and two main inlets – Kynoch and Mussel. 

By most accounts, Kynoch Inlet is the best.  But we disagree.  Though only five nautical miles long, Mussel Inlet is equally as beautiful and has just as much to offer the visiting boat . . . maybe more.

According to the BC Parks website, the Mussel River and Poison Cove estuaries, located at the head of Mussel Inlet, are among the most valuable wildlife habitat along the Central Coast, particularly for bears (both black and grizzly).  Strict guidelines for visiting the area are in place and enforced, none of which are found in cruising guides.  Many are geared towards commercial enterprises but apply to the visiting cruising vessel as well and are listed at the bottom of the page as they appear on the BC Parks website.

Despite the opportunities for an extraordinary wilderness experience while surrounded by dramatic scenery, Fiordland has one major shortcoming – the lack of good anchorages.  We’d love to be able to spend the night tucked away in one of its stunning bays and extend our time there but, apart from a few hours anchored at the head of Mussel Inlet, we’ve been unsuccessful so far. 

Possible Anchorages and Bays within Mussel Inlet:

Oatswich Bay:
Home to beautiful Lizzette Falls, the bay is too deep and steep-to for convenient anchoring.

David Bay:
Located on the south side of Mussel Inlet near the mouth, David Bay is striking but the head of the bay is steep-to and deep.

Mussel Bay:
In our opinion, Mussel Bay is a temporary day anchorage due to inflow winds and poor holding in sand.  Anchorage can be found along the eastern shore off the mud flats of the Mussel River in depths of 10 – 20 metres (22 – 33 feet).  From the head of Mussel Inlet, you’re 20 nautical miles (as the crow flies) from the head of Gardner Canal – now on the southern face of the same mountain range, most of the glaciers have long since melted. 

Poison Cove:
Named by Captain George Vancouver when several of his men fell ill after eating mussels tainted with PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) gathered there, Poison Cove offers better protection from wind than Mussel Inlet and is beautiful, ending in an alpine estuary.  The center channel is steep-to and goes from depths of 50 metres (165 feet) to 5 metres (16.5 feet) very quickly but it might be possible to find temporary anchorage in 20 metres (66 feet) along either the north or south shore – we’ve never tried.

Windy Bay:
The safest overnight anchorage (again, this is only our opinion) is Windy Bay which is located outside the park boundaries along the southern shore of Sheep Passage.  Anchorage can be found throughout the large bay in depths around 15 metres (50 feet) where the holding is good in sand and mud. 
Special Regulations Mussel River (Laig) / Poison Cove (Peak Fall Season)

When you arrive in the Mussel River / Poison Cove Area, please contact the Mussel River Guardian Watchmen on Marine Channel 6.  As listed below, there are very specific rules and regulations for this area

LAND BASED GUIDED ACCESSS ONLY IN SEPTEMBER in 2014 – with a permitted guide.


Water-Based Viewing Guidelines:

  • Check in with Mussel River Guardian Watchmen.
  • Maximum one vessel viewing at a time.
  • No viewing or boat access upstream of the lower Mussel River Island.
  • Jet boats are not permitted.
  • Maximum 18 people in total and all vessels must stay grouped together.
  • Stay at least 50 M (160 ft) away from bears.

Land- Based Viewing Guidelines:

  • Allowed with caution but not recommended.
  • Check in with Mussel River Guardian Watchmen.
  • Look for a series of rock cairns which will indicate viewing location; do not wander, proceed directly to viewing site and back to your vessel when safe to do so.
  • No visitor access on lower Mussel River Island and the Mussel Estuary other than designated viewing site. These areas are off limits to viewing, hiking or any other form of access.
  • Maximum of 14 people permitted on shore at one time. Visitors MUST stay grouped together.
  • Bear spray required by at least one person who is trained in its use.
  • Firearms may not be carried while viewing.
  • No pets are permitted in viewing areas.
  • Food is not recommended.

For more information, visit BC Parks Fiordland page on their website or the Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu.

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  1. So, Captain Vancouver had to be all negative just because he got poisoned and name the whole cove after one bad experience. Sounds like a typical reviewer to me!
    Once again, your pictures are beautiful and really makes us want to explore the PNW by boat.