Call of the Broughtons

When Norm called me back in the spring of 2022 to see if I would help guide a trip in the Broughton Archipelago that summer, I didn’t take too long to ponder the decision. It’s not that I hadn’t been there before. As a sea kayak guide, I’d shepherded clients up and down, back and forth across Johnston Strait in search of Orca encounters. We’d played in the tidal rapids of Blackney Passage and explored the sheltered waters of Indian Channel with its intriguing mess of islands, rocky islets, channels, and coves at the south end of the Archipelago.

But for this trip, we would launch our boards in the far north, in the intimate and sheltered waters of the Burdwood Group, and work our way south. It was a chance to revisit the past and explore new territory in what I already knew was one of the most alluring seascapes on the West Coast. It felt a little bit like getting back to my guiding roots. So yeah, I was all in.

Well, short story, that trip was all I thought it might be and more. So good in fact, I returned later in the summer for another trip, touring out of Paddler’s Inn with Jacquie. And I returned yet again the next spring for back-to-back trips with Norm. It’s hard to separate all those trips in my mind. The time is not so much a blur of detail, as much as it is a blend of memories, feelings, and perceptions. So what I hope to offer you here is not so much a trip report, but rather a compilation of experiences cutting across all of these excursions. 

Our trips into the Broughton Archipelago begin and end with a water taxi. Departing from historic Telegraph Cove we hopscotch across the exposed waters of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, weaving s-turns through the narrow rock-lined channels of the Plumbers, before carving a long, slow arc that takes us into the entrance to Knight Inlet. En route we have slipped past bobbing sea otters and slowed to view breaching humpback whales. We get a sense of where we are – a group of remote islands perched on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait pinned between Vancouver Island and the mighty Coast Range of coastal BC. We unload boards and gear onto the beach. The boat motors off into the distance. The silence grows and grows. And all of a sudden we are just there. It feels like the middle of nowhere.    

Paddling through the Broughtons is a bit like navigating a labyrinth. The islands are an intricate maze of over 200 islands, rocky cliffs and headlands, criss-crossing channels, secretive coves, and hidden beaches. Finding your way is complex and the land, water, and sky shift constantly in appearance, shape, and color, never the same twice. Efficient wayfinding here requires not just merely your attention, but your immersion, in the patterns and nuances of the sky, land, wind, waves, and tidal currents. But we don’t travel through the islands simply to get from one place to another. It’s not only about finding our way. We are trying to connect to the place we are in and to find ourselves within it. It takes some time but when we do, rather than feeling like an outsider moving through a foreign land, it feels like the landscape is unfolding around you. And that’s a cool feeling. 

The Broughtons are not as wild as it might first seem. This is Kwakwaka’ wakw First Nations territory and as we become aware we begin to see signs of the past – clam walls, shell beaches, middens, and village sights all around us. It brings a sense of timelessness, and a bit of mystique. What must it have been like? Human history runs deep here. Perhaps no less interesting are the legend, exploits, and tales of Billy Proctor who was born here, and of many others who came to call the Broughtons home. It is a wild landscape to us as visitors. To many others, it is a working landscape. And it is home.           

The wildlife. I could start listing the species but it’s the experiences that we remember and that speak to us years and decades later. Black bears rummaging for food along still, rocky beaches, tossing boulders aside like paperweights. Sitting on the rocky outcrops of Flower Island while a lone humpback whale slowly feeds just offshore. Eagles perched in bare-topped trees welcoming us to camp after a long day paddling. A pod of Orca that rises out of the fog and passes right through our little flotilla. Two gigantic male sea lions battling for supremacy of their rocks and tumbling down the cliffs and into the water. A lone deer silhouetted against the early morning fog in the outer islets. You never know what you will see. But you will remember it.  

And then there is us. The little group, the community that you share all this with. Those who host and support you getting out here. Those you paddle and camp with. Sharing the challenge, the effort, and the discoveries with your team. Camp cooking, stories, laughter and camaraderie. Sharing the rhythm of this place, the ebb and flow of the tides, sunrise and sunset, moon and stars. Your group becomes a little family.

On our last morning, we wait to hear the thrum of our shuttle boat across the water. The boat glides in silently, we load up, idle away from the beach and off we go. Now the landscape is more familiar and you check off the places you recognize as we make our way back. We slow as a black bear makes its way swimming across the mile-wide channel in front of us. As we cross Blackfish Sound a Humpback whale breaches for us in a farewell salute.  

For us, that’s why we guide, why we keep coming back to places like this. To try and share a bit of all this magic with you. So I’m glad I said yes to coming back to the Broughton Archipelago again and again. These are lifetime memories. I bet you will be glad you came to experience this place too!


If you would like to join one of our Broughton Archipelago Trips this year check out the details on the website or send an email to 


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