Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Canoe routes in BC are a bit hard to come by.  There simply aren’t a lot of looping lakes joined by rivers and portages to make circle routes.  So you’ll be pleased to hear that there is one more to add to the bucket list: Sayward Forest.  And this one is pretty close to Vancouver, has great access and a lovely variety of landscapes.

Vancouver Kayak Tours - Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Campsite overlooking Campbell Lake

Sayward Forest Canoe Route is 48kms of lakes, creeks and portage trails.  There are 6 big lakes (Mohun, Goose, Amor, Brewster, Fry and Campbell) and 6 smaller ones (Twin, Gray, Whymper, Gosling, Higgins and Lawier).  Between them are 7.4 kms of portage trails on smooth and well maintained trails, as well as some creeks that tie the whole route together into a nice 3-4 day loop.  Have a look at the Route Map.

Vancouver Kayak Tours - Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Nice beach campsite on north end of Brewster Lake

One of its main advantages is its ease of access.  It is located on Vancouver Island, just 20 kms east of Campbell River.  We started and ended at Morton Lake, but there are logging roads surrounding the route and there are many access points.  If you don’t want to do the whole thing, you could put in and simple enjoy one of lakes without having to take on big portages.

Vancouver Kayak Tours - Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Creek leading from Twin Lake to Amor Lake

Doing the route counterclockwise allows you to take advantage of the westerlies on Fry and Campbell lakes.  In August there were no bugs at all, great weather, and warm lakes for swimming.  This season water levels were a little lower than usual due to all the hot, dry weather we have been having, so some of the ends of portage trails were a bit muddier than normal, and more hauling through creeks was required. We opted to carry our boats, but the trails are good enough for canoe carts.

Vancouver Kayak Tours - Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Island campsite on Amor Lake

The lakes vary between big deep lakes, smaller pond-like lakes and creeks.  In a day you’ll paddle over big, deep lakes, backed by mountains, push through lily pads and reeds in the beaver ponds, and wind your way through narrow creeks.

Vancouver Kayak Tours - Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Higgins Lake

Have your choice of more rustic campsites that have fire pits and cleared areas for tents, but no other amenities, developed back-country sites with outhouses and tent pads, or simply find a quiet beach somewhere. This is a great way to spend a summer weekend, playing, paddling and swimming in warm fresh water.

Vancouver Kayak Tours - Sayward Forest Canoe Route

Looking north from a stunning white sand beach on Mohun Lake

Looking for more ideas?  Here are some other common routes in BC:
Bowron Lakes circuit (northern BC –  Barkerville, 120 kms east of Quesnel)
Powell Lakes route (Sunshine Coast – Powell River area)
Wells Gray / Clearwater (Central/Thompson BC – 135 kms north of Kamloops)

Happy Paddling!


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  1. Ellen Rocheleau says:

    Excellent information. Has anyone kayaked the Sayward Forest Route? Pros? Cons?
    Thank you Ellen

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