Johnstone Strait Kayak Touring and Information
THE JOHNSTONE STRAIT
Paddling the Johnstone Strait
The Johnstone Strait is undoubtedly the place that won British Columbia its spot on the map of the world’s greatest sea kayaking destinations. In fact, the photo on the back of the old Canadian $5 bill was of a fishing boat on the Johnstone Strait. This is where paddlers from across the globe come to glide alongside migrating killer whales and there is no better place to view one of these spectacular mammals than from the cabin of a kayak. The quiet approach of the kayak often allows paddlers to get within feet of the orcas; so close that they’re bound to feel the spray of a breathing whale.
The Johnstone Strait is a passageway carved by melted glaciers. It rests between the northern part of Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. Just to the east of the strait is Discovery Passage and Queen Charlotte Strait is just to the west. The Johnstone Strait’s enclosed location keeps the waters fairly tame, making the area ideal for even the most inexperienced kayakers.
As mentioned before, the Johnstone Strait is a top-notch migration destination for orcas, also known as killer whales. Approximately 200 orcas are residents of the Johnstone Strait. The strait has the highest recorded density of orcas in the Northern Hemisphere and is the best-known place in the world to view these intelligent, magnificent mammals. The reason this location is so popular among orcas is simple, there is a lot to eat. Every year, hundreds of salmon making their annual run through the Johnstone Strait swim instead into the mouths of waiting orcas. This is why the best time to view whales is during the salmon run, starting in late June and on through the summer months.
If the Johnstone Strait is the orca’s house, then the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve is their living room. The reserve, 20 kilometers south of the Telegraph Cove launch site, is almost a guarantee for paddlers wanting to see whales. Pods of orcas are attracted to this specific part of the strait because they enjoy rubbing themselves on the barnacle-encrusted rocks and gravel sea floor here. Robson Bight was designated an ecological reserve in 1982 in recognition of its importance to an endangered orca population. While this designation means human access to the reserve is limited out of respect for the whales, there are still plenty of spots in the nearby water where eager whale-watchers can paddle to catch a glimpse of these special creatures.
Sightseeing in the Johnstone Strait is not limited to orca spotting and there is an abundance of other land, wildlife and water begging to be explored here. Kayakers traveling south from Telegraph Cove to see whales may not realize there is another paddlers’ paradise to the north. On the northern side of the strait is the Broughton Archipelago Provincial Marine Park, the largest marine park in British Columbia. This maze of islands is rich with beautiful beaches, lush vegetation and an abundance of wildlife. The water, protected by land on all sides, is almost always calm, making it a great place to take day trips, exploring one island after another.
Learn more about Kayaking the Johnstone Strait with Kits Kayaking Tours