Jan 10, 2019

Green Head Big Burnsby Park Santa BrussouwFor the adventurous boater Bunsby Marine Provincial Park is a special place, situated due south of Brooks Peninsula / Muquin Provincial Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island, south of Port Alice. The park encompasses the easternmost island of the Bunsby Islands group, between Quoukinsh Inlet and Malksope Inlet.

Nature viewing opportunities in the area of Big Bunsby Marine Park are excellent, as much of the area surrounding the islands has been set aside as an ecological reserve.

This 639-hectare park (392 hectares upland and 247 hectares foreshore) was established to focus recreation use away from the adjacent Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve, and offers sea kayaking, wilderness camping, fishing and swimming.

Burnsby IslandOffshore you may be fortunate enough to spot a rare sea otter that inhabits only isolated areas of the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. The area is adjacent to Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve, an extensive area of marine shoreline, reefs and islets providing habitat for BC’s recovering Sea Otter population. Decimated by the fur trade in the early 1900s, and extirpated in BC by the late 1920s, sea otters from Alaska were transplanted to the northwest coastal waters in 1969-1972. The present population on Vancouver Island is estimated at 2000.

Burnsby ParkThe re-introduction of the sea otters has become something of an issue in neighbouring kyuquot Sound recently, as the sea otters compete with the Native Indians for crabs, abalone and sea urchins. The unfortunate result is a decline in the sea otter numbers. With the elimination of the endearing whiskered critters by greedy and thoughtless European fur traders and native hunters in the late 18th and early 19th century, the otters’ natural foods became more abundant, decimating their own natural foods, predominantly kelp. With the return of the sea otters to their natural habitat, the crabs, sea urchins and abalone are now being kept in check, with the revival of the kelp beds so important as a source of food, shelter and spawning grounds for so many species of fish and other marine life. This is having a positive affect on the marine life along this coastline. The Natives are upset that the sea otters are depleting the local shellfish levels, and the sea otters…well, they just want to continue doing what sea otters were doing for thousands of years before Natives and Europeans arrived and laid claim to their waters.

Boaters will find the best all-weather anchorage on the eastern side of Bunsby Island, tucked inside a small cove – mud bottom, 36 foot depth. There is another good anchorage on the south shore of Bunsby Island. There is no boat launch in the park. The nearest boat launches are at Fair Harbour and Artlish.
Although there are no developed campsites at this park, boaters and kayakers seeking a wilderness experience will find plenty of places to set up camp on Big Bunsby.

Sailboat At BurnsbyWorld-class kayaking and canoeing opportunities exist around the Bunsby Islands in the Checleset Bay Area. Brooks Peninsula / Muquin Provincial Park is within a day’s paddle of Big Bunsby. The sheltered waters around the park make the area an excellent place to sea kayak or canoe. Although the Bunsby Islands are relatively sheltered, the access from Kyuquot to the Islands is exposed to rough seas and extreme weather conditions at times. Kayakers should be aware that winds can pick up quickly in this area, as can rough water, and should always practice caution. Kayakers should always take the ebb and flow of tides into consideration and be prepared for heavy fog at any time.

Most kayakers launch from Fair Harbour, although the use of water taxis is becoming more and more popular as a method of quickly reaching the park. Water taxis can be found in Kyuquot and Zeballos.

A number of known archaeological sites exist in the area. There are no facilities in this park.

Big Bunsby Marine Provincial Park is located about 19 miles (30 km) south of Port Alice on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and is accessed by boat only, from Kyuquot or the Malksope Inlet.

Photos by Santa Brussouw

Nearby Regions & Towns

• Kyuquot Sound
• Fair Harbour
• Port Alice

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By Joan Wenner, J.D.

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