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Nimpkish River Valley

Bridge near Nimpkish Lake
Nimpkish Lake sunset
Nimpkish Lake
Nimpkish River
Nimpkish River Valley from the air
Looking towards the Nimpkish Valley

Nimpkish River Valley

North-east Vancouver Island

The Nimpkish River Valley, stretching more than 100km long from the ocean, is one of Vancouver Island’s most spectacular and remote watersheds. From its beginning in the mountains near Gold River, the valley winds its way towards Port Hardy, past Woss Lake, joining with numerous streams and creeks before depositing into Nimpkish Lake. From there, another short stretch of river leads to the ocean, where the river empties into the sea opposite Alert Bay.



The Nimpkish River Valley has a unique history on Vancouver Island in that apart from a few areas, it has never been extensively colonized by Europeans. Though plenty of land is available, the general ruggedness of the terrain, combined with the remote location in reference to other major cities on Vancouver Island, made the valley a generally unattractive place to settlers. The only major settlement in the valley is the town of Woss, on Woss Lake, which feeds into Woss Creek, and then into the Nimpkish River.

First Nations groups have utilized the surrounding area for at least a thousand years, and European settlers arrived in the area around the turn of he 20th century.


50 19’N 126 55’W


The Nimpkish River Valley is a broad, flat-bottomed geographical feature that is approximately 100km in length. It is oriented northwest-southeast for the majority of its course, except at Nimpkish Lake, where it is oriented almost directly north-south. It is shallow in incline, dropping only 280m over its course, most of that before Woss Lake.
The Nimpkish River, at the bottom of the valley, begins in the hills above Vernon Lake as a series of streams, and coalesces into a conventional river when it meets with the water sourced from Vernon Lake. It continues down becoming larger and dropping about 100m before reaching the junction with Woss Creek, which adds to the flow even more. By this point, the river is quite large, and continues to pick up from small feeder streams before emptying into Nimpkish Lake. The lake itself is the biggest on Vancouver Island north of the Campbell Lakes, and measures about 23km long. The funneling of wind down the valley onto the lake makes it a very popular spot for wind and kite surfing.

Though not settled, the valley is fairly extensively logged, with active tree removal still occurring and the clear-cuts plainly visible in satellite images. Much of the watershed is protected, and two Provincial Parks, Lower Nimpkish and Nimpkish Lake provide protection for the wilderness as well as recreational opportunities.



Access to Nimpkish Lake is easy as highway 19 borders it on the way to Port Hardy and a few rest stops offer trails down to the lakeshore. The two parks are easily accessible by boat, but no formal trails to them are available for hiking in. There is no road access to either park. Portions of the valley can be accessed from logging roads, from Woss, or from highway 19, which runs through the valley at many points. River rafting is possible on the upper reaches of the river, and is a breathtaking ride through some of BC’s finest wilderness scenery.



Web site ©: The Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research (ICOR) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada.