Canoeing Widgeon Creek – Pitt Meadows
Activity:I couldn’t remember the last time we had a Sunday on our hands with only one child at home. Even more unlikely was that none of us had anywhere to go or anything urgent to do. It was a perfect day for an adventure. A canoe trip up Widgeon Creek was an outing waiting to happen for several months. Today was the day!
We heard the round trip could take up to six hours, so we set off plenty early—for us that would be 9:00 AM. We rented a canoe at Grant Narrows Park. None of us really knew what we were doing, but it didn’t seem to matter. We simply climbed into the canoe, the attendant handed us each a paddle, and we started paddling across the Pitt River to Widgeon Creek. We had to sweet-talk Coleman out of taking a paddle. He finally gave in when we told him he would have the more important job of being Captain, and he was even allowed to order us around. He fancied himself as Davey Crockett, dodging arrows and hunting for raccoons to make another hat.
That kept him busy for a while until we started running aground on the creek bed. You see, the water level of Widgeon Creek fluctuates because Pitt Lake is tidal. In fact, it’s the largest tidal lake in North America. My husband says it’s a ripple effect caused by the tide pushing up the Fraser River, which eventually pushes up the Pitt River into Pitt Lake.
Anyway, Coleman wasn’t interested in any of that. He was now Sinbad the Sailor on a quest for treasure. Each time we hit bottom we had to inspect the creek bed for any sparkly objects that didn’t move. These were exciting times to say the least.
The fact of the matter was each time our canoe hit bottom it was necessary for us to lighten our load—meaning one of us had to get out, get their feet wet, take the rope attached to the bow, and start hauling the canoe. (This was late August and water in Widgeon creek was extremely shallow combined with low tide meant in some place the creek was only 8 to 12 inches deep.) Since the canoe trip was my husband’s idea, he felt obligated to take on the job. At first Coleman found it amusing to “crack the whip.” I have to admit, I found it funny as well. The only person, of course, who didn’t find it funny was Kelvin. After I lost count of how many times Kelvin got out of the canoe, I figured it was time for me to relieve him of his duties.
I wondered if we shouldn’t all three be getting out of the canoe and lifting it clear of the rocks. I mean, weren’t we scraping the heck out of the bottom. Kelvin asked me if I’d seen even a single canoe being lifted over the rocks. I couldn’t say I did: case closed.
Eventually I gave Coleman what he wanted—a paddle. I took up the middle spot in the canoe and quickly got used to doing nothing. I was on the look-out for deer, bears, birds, and other wildlife. Kelvin made the mistake of promising Coleman lots of animals. Unfortunately, we came up empty-handed on all counts. Coleman came up another idea: counting trees. He didn’t seem to notice that Widgeon Creek, as a slough, had very few trees; the banks were mostly made up of grasses and old logs.
Before Coleman felt the need to change what he was counting we reached our destination: a small beach dotted with a dozen or two canoes turned upside-down. Coleman couldn’t help himself: “This is it? I thought we were going somewhere cool. This place doesn’t even have a McDonalds!”
This opened up a whole new can of worms: what are we having for lunch? “We better not be having anything healthy,” Coleman added. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. I don’t know what I did wrong (definitely not set the wrong example), but my kids prefer processed, white food. This is a whole story in and of itself, which I’ll save for another time. Suffice it to say, my husband calls our children the Food Monsters.
When all was said and done, Coleman was so hungry, it didn’t much matter what he ate. We were finished eating within ten minutes and ready to set off for phase two of our trip: hiking to the waterfall. I don’t remember much about the hike, except that it lasted about 40 minutes. The terrain wasn’t hard, but then it wasn’t easy either. As we neared the waterfall we could hear people laughing and splashing in the water.
I was glad I remembered to bring our bathing suits: beads of water were forming on the tips of Coleman’s hair. Even Kelvin was starting to perspire, which was highly unusual for him. A cool dip in the potholes and pools was just what we all needed. Unfortunately, what we hadn’t banked on was the two dozen other people having the same idea as us. “Maybe not,” I thought to myself. Coleman couldn’t contain himself: he was losing balance from taking his clothes off so quickly. “Come on you guys,” he egged us on. “Next time,” Kelvin assured him. “Next time, there won’t be a next time,” Coleman wasn’t going to let us off the hook that easily. As luck would have it, and before we knew it, he was trying to scoop tiny fish out of the water with his bare hands, and forgot all about us.
The hike back seemed long. Clearly we weren’t looking forward to the paddling and hauling we still had ahead of us. “Why don’t we stay overnight here, and go back tomorrow,” Coleman suggested. Not a bad idea except our family has never tried camping before, and we didn’t have a single thing that would help us get through the night. “That’s a great idea; maybe next time,” Kelvin said as optimistically as he could. “Yah, right,” Coleman replied. “You guys are boring.”
That discussion was cut short by us reaching our canoe. “We’ll be back before you know it,” I reassured Coleman. This time there was no fighting over the paddles; Coleman didn’t feel like paddling anymore. My husband and I chuckled at the three teenagers we paddled by. Their miniature motor packed it in, and somehow the two boys managed to sweet-talk their female companion into pulling them, while they laid back and enjoyed the sunshine. “Shouldn’t the boys be pulling the girl?” Coleman asked. “You would think so,” I answered. “She must be madly in love with one of them,” he deduced. “Maybe,” I replied.
Finally the time came when we could see the canoe rental across the river. “Look, there it is!” Coleman shouted. “Can I have a paddle now?” he asked, feeling a sudden resurgence of energy. Unfortunately the answer was “No.” There were a number of speed boats zipping back and forth making big waves, plus a strong wind had come up taking us in the direction we didn’t want to go. I thought we were never going to get across. Coleman was loving every minute of it. Each and every big wave was like a mini roller-coaster ride at the fair. “Wow, this is fun. Can we stay longer out here?” he asked. Once again the answer was, “No.” “You guys are no fun,” he complained. Half-an-hour later we brushed up alongside the dock. I was ready to kiss the guy who helped us get out of the canoe. “How was it,” he asked. “The best time ever,” Coleman answered. “We’re coming back soon, right Mom and Dad?” and next time we’re bringing our sleeping bags,” he laughed.
Age group:This is an all ages adult supervised activity.
Expense rating:You need to rent canoes, current rates are at this website: Ayla Canoes
:What a feeling: the sun's out, the fresh air and wilderness, your paddling to your heart's content, and you even get to portage once in a while like an early explorer.
:You have to cross the Pitt River to get to Widgeon Creek. As I mentioned the Pitt River is affected by the tides, so it can sometimes be quite choppy, so you need to be in decent shape to paddle across the river.
Details:The canoe launch is at Grant Narrows Regional Park. Canoes can be rented at Ayla Canoes at Grant Narrows Regional Park. Information about Grant Narrow Regional Park and Widgeon Creek can by found at Metrovancouver.org
Educational highlights:The Pitt River and Widgeon Creek are tidal, and that Pitt Lake is the largest tidal lake in North America.
Fun for the adult?:Besides my husband's sore arms, sore legs, and being sun-burned, I have to say our outing was a fun and memorable one.