Cultus Lake Circumnavigation

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

We did a family camping trip to Cultus Lake with my brother’s family and my dad. I had not been to Cultus Lake before to camp so I was intrigued with what it would be like. We were camping on the south side of the lake at the Maple Bay Campground. And I was keen to do some flatwater paddling on the lake. Unfortunately, my brother was out of commission for paddling with acute discogenic back pain with radicular neurological symptoms. He was on the mend but not paddle-ready yet. We had planned to check out a few of the Blueways in the Chilliwack area but that would have to be postponed to a later date.

I had seen the Neowise Comet a few days early after doing an evening paddle down the Fraser River from Fraser River Park to the log jam site near Iona Beach Regional Park with Trevor. We had stopped at Foreshore Park en route to Spanish Banks after we saw a crowd that we assumed must be out in search of the comet too. So I was anticipating that the reduced background light pollution at Cultus Lake would make the comet all the more spectacular. Unfortunately, my naive cosmological assumption would prove to be false. Below is the comet as seen from the dock near Maple Bay. The comet is the short streak of light seen in the centre of the image just about the silhouetted tree line. The comet is straight down vertically from the line that would be midway between the two rightmost stars of the big dipper. Surprising to me, was that it was much more spectacular from my viewing near UBC.

A faint view of the Neowise comet seen from Cultus Lake.

I woke up early after our first night of camping to get out to explore the lake. Launching from the dock near Maple Bay I paddle up the west shoreline. See the map below for the path I paddled. This paddle inspired me to try to circumnavigate the lake the following morning.

A paddle up the west shore of Cultus Lake.

We spent the afternoon playing around the beach with the kids. I did some light paddling and tried to perfect my pivot turn. See the videos below that Annie took unbeknownst to me. I am getting better but there is still some room for improvement.

I just about bite it on the one below trying to get the nose of my board out as high as possible.

I was up early the next morning to attempt my circumnavigation. This time I launched from the dock at Maple Bay. Below is the view from the dock before I set out. The waters were calm and idyllic.

The view from the south shore of Chilliwack Lake.

I tried to hug the shore as much as possible. There were a lot of paddleboards on the shoreline at the various properties that I passed. A common one was the Body Glove board that was being sold at Costco.

There was a decent headwind as I paddle up the eastern shoreline from approximately 3 km to 4.5 km (see the image below). The conditions were much different from the way the lake looked when I set out.

I was curious to see what the tip of the north end of the lake looked like. Were you able to paddle out of the Sweltzer River to join the Chilliwack River? By the time I made it there, I didn’t have the time nor the energy to explore. I took a quick look but it would have to be something to investigate at another time.

This was my longest paddle to date so I felt a huge sense of achievement when I finally completed the circuit. In the end, it was over two and a half hours on the board so I was happy to land onshore.

Here is the map of my route recorded with Google Fit.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

And here are the statistics from my paddle recorded with Google Fit.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

One tragic piece of news that was eery as it happened a few days after our stay at Cultus Lake was a young man who drowned at Entrance Bay. After having paddle through there I could see how an unsuspecting lake-goer could fall off the edge of the land shelf. As at many points I could see the drop-off below my board in the water. I am an advocate for teaching swimming as a life skill for just that reason. It should be one of the basics that everyone is taught to a minimum level of proficiency.

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