Texada's Hidden NE Bays
A favourite backroads ride
Known to many as 'The Rock', Texada is the largest of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. It's 50kms long and 10kms wide. For cyclists, it's accessible via a 20 minute ferry hop from Powell River to Blubber Bay at the north tip.
The distances on this ride are modest, but the riding is on sparsely trafficked backroads, with a few nasty climbs up from the shores, and a virtually decommissioned track down into remote, mostly overgrown NE Bay (a gem!).
Living in nearby Courtenay, I can catch the early (620am!) ferry from Comox and be riding on Texada by 9am. Check out the 2 other favourite rides on Texada:
a Fav ride for all on the better (mostly paved) roads of the north Island (Texada Island North).
backroads ride down the rugged spine of Texada (up over 650m!), past informal camping options to incredible Anderson Bay at the south (Texada Island Rough)
My trip was in the first week of May. The forecast was for great weather - which was exactly what I got. I planned this to be a chance for some fine seaside camping, and arrived at the different bays by mid-day, with time to enjoy nature, the sun & the seaside.
Great oceanside camping. Saw lots of seals and sea lions frollicking & cruising the shores. Fine views across the Malaspina Strait to the Sunshine Coast.
- Real remote sense. I did not see a soul at any of the 3 bays I camped at. I only saw one other vehicle my entire trip south from Van Anda.
Some tough hill riding on older, partially overgrown routes. In particular, the ride down to NE Bay (and then push/ride back up!) was on a real basic track, with a creek running in spots, a few trees down, and lots of loose stone. A heads up, though: someone in Van Anda told me they might log this area in the next year or two, which would mean an upgraded road - and a real hit to the sense of wilderness.
Texada Island is part of traditional Tla'amin First Nation land. They call the island Say yeh yeen. It was interesting to see that a more recent map I found in Powell River called Pocahantas Bay the Tla'amin name, Shehtekwahn Bay.
History has been colourful, with an outsized cast of characters. Starting in the latter 1800s, mining was a cornerstone of Texada. First iron ore, then copper and gold (!), then marble. Today, there are 3 active limestone quarries. Around 1898, the town of Van Anda was a boomtown, boasting the only opera house north of San Francisco, and three hotels with saloons, a hospital, and more. During US prohibition, Texada had a reputation for illegal distilleries. In more recent times, it had a reputation for growing marijuana.
The NE island area for this ride was logged in early days, and logging continues to this day. Recent logging was not visible down near the seaside camping areas. Interestingly, though, one could see a few fading signs of earlier docks and structures. Shehtekwahn Bay (Pocahantas Bay) had been a booming bay to gather logs to be towed off island.
I visited 4 distinct seaside spots along the NE coast where one could camp (and camped at 3 of them). I've included this group in my honourable mention Fav campgrounds. I started from Van Anda, itself along the NE coast, and headed SE. My first night at Shehtekwahn Bay, I intermittently heard distant engine noises: this puzzled me until I finally figured out it was tug boats out in the Malaspina Strait. Wonderfully, all 4 camping spots are right at the mouths of creeks.
Here's the 4 camps, all of them recommended:
Raven Bay - I did not camp here. Close to Van Anda, with a rough but short (1km) access track off Central High Road. Fine grassy clearing alongside Rumbottle Creek, with lots of fire pits, in small bay looking up to north Sunshine Coast. I wonder if that the proximity to Van Anda could make this a local gathering spot in summer.
Shehtekwahn Bay (aka Pocahantas Bay) - the biggest, nicest (my favourite) and best protected bay, with expansive grassy area up from main beach area, and another smaller grassy area overlooking bay at the south (where I camped - see top pic). Whisky Still Creek is at hand for water (is there a theme, with Rumbottle & Whisky Still Creeks?!). Reached via 4+km track descending 200m to shores. A number of vehicle tracks around the beach suggests this may also be a gathering spot in summer.
NE Bay - rough, remote access track, with a few fallen trees to be clambered over, descending several hundred metres to shores. In the morning, if you are heading south, you'll start with a killer 400m climb. Nature has almost reclaimed the camping area. There's a few clearings, largely overgrown with moss. Across Russ Creek, there's the spot I camped, with a little bush table (pic below). Really atmospheric spot.
Hydro Sub-Station - the furthest south, and more a beach than a bay. This is where the power cable from the mainland Sunshine Coast comes ashore and feeds the Island power line. You'll descend over 450m along a good dirt road to reach the hydro plant, complete with high fences and fearsome signs. But the track skirts the seaside fence, then you'll see a track down to an extended grassy area just up from the rocky beach. There's a fire pit and some bush furniture, so it appears they are comfortable with campers (pic down the page). Great spot.
My camp at NE Bay, just up from the beach. Had to ford modest sized Russ Creek, which could be a challenge if there have been rains (there are 2 other small clearings on the easy to reach side of the creek). As you can see, this camp is slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Days for Ride:
As noted above, I planned this ride as a chance for some kick back camping time along the seaside. I had 3 nights. You could easily do this as an overnighter:
choose Shehtekwahn Bay if you want the most confortable Bay
choose NE Bay if you want the most rough and remote destination
choose Hydro Sub-Station if you want the furthest ride
You could also add a day or two, by continuing south all the way to Anderson Bay (see Texada Island Rough fav ride), or by checking out Shingle Beach Rec Camp along the west shores, an Honourable Mention Fav Campground.
Medium. Although distances are short, the difficulty comes from some good climbing, as well as the tough track into (and back up from!) remote NE Bay.
The road to Van Anda from Blubber Bay Ferry Terminal at north Texada is paved. Heading south from Van Anda, this ride is all on dirt tracks.
Some nearby side trip options to consider:
Coming from Powell River means you'll be starting and finishing this ride on the north Sunshine Coast. Check out the favourite ride for the Malaspina Peninsula, the new backroads fav North to Sarah Point, as well as the backroads ride into the incredible hinterland NE of Powell River.
As noted above, check out Texada Island Rough, particularly the tough ride down to Anderson Bay at the south tip of Texada.
Camp Shelter Bay Regional Park or Shingle Beach Rec Camp (Honourable mention Fav campground), both along the west shores.
Here's the elevation / distance view:
The track starts at Blubber Bay Ferry Terminal, but I think of the ride as actually starting from Van Anda (where it does end). SE from Van Anda, one takes Central High Road, and as you can see there's a climb up to 100m before the short (1km) descent to Raven Bay.
Around km21, up at ~200m elevation, one heads off Central High Road down to Shehtekwahn Bay. Heading next on to NE Bay, one does not head back to Central High Road, but still has a good climb up while heading south. You can see the sharp descent down to NE bay at ~km34 - the toughest stretch of riding here. Coming back up from NE Bay, one has to climb up the backroad roughly following Russ Creek to over 400m. You can then see Hydro Road down to the camp, and a bracing climb back out the next morning.
Coming back, we do not follow the more remote backroads along Russ Creek and east of Central High Road. Rather, we follow Hydro, then Bell, then Central High to reach Van Anda. Once you've done your morning climb up from Hydro Sub-Station camp, you get a fabulous stretch of mostly descent, with a few hills you can really bomb down. I couldn't believe how quickly I got back to Van Anda.
Here's the distance & direction guide. Unless you're planning a ride, you'll want to skip this. As you can see above in the distance / elevation guide, there are 'there and back' stretches to get into all 4 of the NE bays.
Coming off the ferry, follow Blubber Creek Road for ~9kms to the junction where you'll turn left into Van Anda on Gillies Bay Road. Once down in Van Anda, follow Midas Road east (up & down) for 1/2kms+ to where it turns into Wall Street at the edge of town. Wall Street shortly turns into a hard pack dirt road, and a while later morphs into Central High Road: follow it E/SE for almost 5 kms and you'll see a track to the left/east beside a farm. You may see Rumbottle Creek. It gets rougher after the first couple of hundred metres into nearby properties. There could be serious mud. It's 1km into Raven Bay.
Back on Central High Road, keep going SE another 4+kms to a junction to the left. Beautiful riding here. You'll head NE then East for ~4kms, when you'll see a track down to the seaside to the left/north. There are actually 2 tracks down to the sea, about 400m apart (I took the 2nd). It's then about 750m down to the bay and camping area at Shehtekwahn Bay (aka Pocahantas Bay).
Backtrack to the final turnoff down into Shehtekwahn Bay, but now you want to take the road to the left/SE for almost 5kms, where'll you'll reach a Y junction. Keep left/NE (though note the road that climbs to the south along Russ Creek, as you'll need to head up that way in the morning on your way further south to the Hydro Sub-Station Camp). Anyway, the road gets more basic here: continue ~700m, then keep your eye open for a partially overgrown track off to your left. Take this. It loops about a bit. It descends and is very rough, with several fallen trees across the track. It's ~2kms down to the seaside. You'll find several moss overgrown clearings, with a 3rd just across Russ Creek.
Next morning, climb back to the junction noted above that climbs south near Russ Creek (nearby - you won't see the creek). Follow this road (more climbing) for 6+kms. There are a few intersecting backroads, but keep to the most used track and you'll be good. This will take you to the junction with Bell Road from the west, Hydro Road from the east, and the road out to Bob's Lake & Anderson Bay to the SE. Take Hydro Main to the east (the best maintained). After a while it angles SE. Follow for ~8kms to the hydro station. Follow the basic track in a seaside direction once you reach the fence, and you'll see this goes around the station where, to the south, you'll see a track down to the grassy seaside camping area. See pic above.
On the way back, we take the direct route to Van Anda. Once we're back up to the junction with Hydro & Bell & Russ (etc), head west on Bell, and you'll love the descent. After ~4.5kms, you'll reach the 3 way junction with Central High Road to the north and Shelter Point Road (paved) to the south. Follow Central High, and 15+kms of sweet riding will get you back to Van Anda.
The shores of remote NE Bay at dusk. I'm looking out over Malaspina Strait to the shores of the north Sunshine Coast