False Creek Paddle from Science World


False Creek is an iconic feature of Vancouver, and it’s quite accessible for kayaks and paddleboards. It is surrounded by the concrete jungle of downtown, crowned by the landmark metal ball at Science World, and there are lots of opportunities to watch interesting people on the Seawall.

Science World.

However, being right next to the densely populated downtown core and home to hundreds of boats, the water at East False Creek (the end of the creek near Science World) is much too dirty to swim in. In fact, a sign read in part that “this is the dirtiest water in Metro Vancouver”, and it’s 10 times dirtier than the recommended maximum level of E coli for “primary contact recreational activities”. This is quite remarkable since there are some pretty dirty waters in Metro Vancouver like sewage outflows and small swampy lakes.

With that said, just don’t fall in and you should be fine!

There is a public dock about 1 minute walk from the Science World parking lot where I launched from. The parking here is expensive, $4.25 per hour. I didn’t want to park on a random street because I don’t want to block the sidewalk while pumping up the board.

Launching from a dock is definitely trickier than from a beach, and pulling out of the water even more so. If you haven’t done it a few times, I wouldn’t recommend practicing dock launching in the “dirtiest waters of Metro Vancouver”.

The hazards in False Creek doesn’t come from the ocean waves, because it’s very well protected. The water is as still as a lake. However, there are many motor boats crisscrossing these waters, especially the Aquabus that run on a regular interval.

Aquabus stops. The service runs every 15 minutes, so I crossed paths with more than 6 of them on my 1 hour paddle. Copyright: Aquabus. They aren’t even the only ferry company here; False Creek Ferries also operate many boats here.
They may be small, but they do kick up a fair chop especially if they are close to you.
I also came across a themed pirate ship (I think they are Pirate Cruises).

Between Science World and Granville Island, there are 4 marinas and dozens of boats anchored in the channel. It’s pretty interesting to navigate through them.

All in all, it’s pretty neat to paddle this iconic waterfront in Vancouver, but with the water quality, heavy boat traffic, high fee for parking, and being close enough to smell cigarette and marijuana smoke from the shore, I think this may be a one-time visit on the paddleboard for me. For a city-view paddle, I would recommend going a bit further out west and explore Sunset Beach, English Bay, and Second Beach, all of which have very clean waters. The water does get choppier out there, but the current is what keeps those waters clean.

  • Difficulty – launching from a dock and sudden waves from boats
  • Boat traffic – very heavy motor boat traffic, but they do travel at a very slow speed here
  • View – concrete jungle
  • Facilities – no easily accessible public washrooms near the parking lot
  • Overall score – 3/10

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