Posted by: cherylyoung | February 9, 2012


Nestled at the entrance to enchanting Desolation Sound, tranquil and friendly Cortes Island is one of the most impressive of the Discovery Islands,

with its placid lakes, beaches, and rugged gorges.

Located between Campbell River on central Vancouver Island and the

mainland coast of British Columbia, the Discovery Islands dot the

intricate waterways in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

There are three settlements on Cortes: Whaletown at the ferry dock,

Manson’s Landing with its sandy beaches, and Squirrel Cove, and

anchorage facing Desolation Sound.

The moment you step onto a ferry heading for the islands, the pace

relaxes and the smiles break out.

Cortes Island is about 16 miles (25 km) long, 8 miles (13 km) wide and

13,000 hectares in area.

The southern half of Cortes lies in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island,

creating a drier climate than the northern half of the island.

Most of the island’s population lives on the southern end, along with

Arbutus and Manzanita trees that cling to the bleached granite bluffs.

Native to this part of British Columbia is the Klahoose First Nation,

a northern Coast Salish tribe who maintained seasonal and permanent

villages from Toba Inlet south to Cortes Island.

When the main villages in Toba Inlet were flooded in the 1800s, the

Klahoose Band selected their traditional winter settlement at

Squirrel Cove as their permanent site.

Cortes Island (pronounced Cortez) and nearby Hernando Island were

named  after the Spanish conqueror of Mexico, Hernando Cortes.

This unlikely link was established by the Spanish cartographer, Valdez,

who charted these waters in 1793.

The Spanish never settled the area, but Cortes and other Spanish

names remained.

The main islands in the Discovery Islands group are Quadra Island,

Cortes Island and the Outer Islands, the largest of which East and West

Thurlow Islands, Sonora Island, Stuart Island, Maurelle Island, Read Island,

Raza Island, and East and West Redonda Island.

Visitors from around the world are attracted to the Discovery Islands

for their scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.

Population: 950
Location: Located on the northern end of the Strait of Georgia, between
Campbell River on central Vancouver Island and the mainland coast of

British Columbia, Cortes Island is accessed via ferry from Heriot Bay

on the east coast of Quadra Island.

Campbell River is the departure point for ferry access to Quadra and Cortes.

A 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River lands you at Quathiaski Cove

on the west coast of Quadra Island.

A 15-minute drive across to the east coast of Quadra brings you to Heriot Bay,

the ferry terminal for the 45-min. ferry trip across Sutil Channel to Cortes.

Water taxis also operate out of Campbell River to Cortes.

The cost is divided amongst the number of passengers – the price can

range from $20 – $100 per person.

Those with their own boats can also launch at Lund on the Sunshine Coast.

By seaplane; Direct flights to Manson’s Landing on Cortes Island are available

during the summer months from Vancouver (1 hr) and Seattle (2 hrs).

By airplane; Air Canada runs daily flights to Campbell River

and Powell River (on the mainland) from Vancouver and Seattle.

From Campbell River airport, take the airport shuttle service to the

ferry terminal in downtown Campbell River.

From the Powell River Airport take a shuttle to Lund and then

a water taxi to Cortes.

You must make arrangements in advance for this service.

Pacific Coastal  also flies from the Vancouver Airport South Terminal

to Campbell River.

Cortes Island is a community rich in arts and culture. Crafts stores and

galleries offerdrawings, paintings and sculptures by local artists.

Pick up a copy of the Cortes Arts & Culture Lane brochure from island outlets;

a visitor guide to Galleries, Museums and Studios on Cortes Island.

Cortes Island Museum, on Beasley Road next to the firehall, provides a

fascinating glimpse into the cultural and natural history of

Whaletown and the surrounding area.

Varied displays include Windows on Whaletown and the work of

naturalist  and author Gilean Douglas

The museum is open from late spring until early fall.

Spawning Salmon: Several streams on Cortes Island are the spawning

grounds of Chum salmon.

They can be viewed in the Gorge Channel and Squirrel Cove in November

as they journey to the rivers of their birth to spawn and complete

the circle of life.

Thousands of smelt come to spawn on the southwestern tip of the island

in Smelt Bay Provincial Park. Smelts are a green-and-silver,

sardine-sized fish that frequents these waters in huge numbers

and attracts salmon.

Not difficult to net, they make a tasty meal.

There are numerous lagoons with abundant shellfish and shorebirds.

Manson’s landing provincial Park is the most accessible, and shellfish may

be legally collected here and at Smelt Bay, Squirrel cove and the beach south

of the government wharf in the Gorge Harbour.

Watch for posted signs, check the legal limits and keep away from oyster

and clam leases, which are marked with red concrete blocks at their corners.

Cortes Island is a dream destination for berry picking.

Blackberries, salal, huckleberries, salmonberries and

thimbleberries abound on the island in season. 

There’s a well-equipped marina in Gorge Harbour, and government

wharves are maintained at Cortes Bay, Whaletown, Squirrel Cove,

Manson’s Landing and Gorge Harbour.

Two yacht clubs supply member moorage at Cortes Bay. Quadra, Cortes

and Redonda Islands provide a gateway to that sailing enchantment,

Desolation Sound.

Salmon Fishing in the region is legendary.

The waters around Quadra and Cortes Islands have yielded some of

the largest salmon ever caught on BC’s west coast.

Although much of the activity is centred in nearby Campbell River on

Vancouver Island, there’s plenty of action around Quadra and Cortes Islands.

Spring salmon migrate from April through to September.

Bluejacks and Coho salmon arrive in May, followed by Tyee in July,

August and September

Charter boat operators are available for fishing & wildlife

viewing excursions.

Freshwater Fishing: If the fish aren’t biting in the saltchuk

(‘chuk’ is a Native word for water)  turn your attention to the fish

in  Hague Lake.

The freshwater lake is partly incorporated in Manson’s Landing Provincial Park,

a rarity in the Marine Provincial park system.

Hiking and Biking on old logging roads, many of which are overgrown,

will take the adventuresome into seldom visited habitats. Carrington Bay

& Von Donop Inlet provide a maze of trails, and Gunflint Lake and Hague Lake

are surrounded mostly by parklands, with a series of marked trails at the end

of Quais Bay Road and across the road from the Cortes Motel.

When hiking on Cortes, please remember that most small roads lead to

private residences, so take care when choosing your path.

Island Hopping: Travelling between the Southern Gulf Islands and

Northern Gulf Islands can be accomplished in small hops.

Each of these islands is a world unto itself, each with its own history,

culture and colourful characters – each island deserves at least a day

or two for exploring.







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