Steveston Channel Paddle

Quick Facts

  • Parking: 49°07’22.9″N 123°10’39.6″W
  • Launch: 49°07’20.2″N 123°10’39.6″W
  • Traffic: moderate
  • Launching type: dock
  • Motor boat traffic: moderate (commercial fishing vessels)
  • Typical paddling distance: 5km loop in the Steveston Channel
  • Facilities: no toilets available at launch site, free parking, tons of activities in Steveston village
  • View – unique views of historic sites, fishing boats, waterfront condos, and marsh wilderness. From the western end of the channel on a good day, gorgeous views of Mt. Baker in the distance.
  • Difficulty – very calm waters punctuated by boat wakes
  • Overall score – 6/10

Richmond’s Steveston is a great neighborhood with rich history, vibrant shops, and great restaurants. Buying seafood right off the fishing boats is one of my parents’ favorite weekend activities. But one thing had puzzled me: I almost never see anyone paddling in the Steveston Channel.

Steveston sits at the mouth of the South Arm of Fraser River, and the Steveston Channel is a very well-protected strip of water between Richmond and Shady Island. There is minimal current flow in the channel, and the large ships avoid this narrow channel. There are lots to explore, from the urban wilderness on Shady Island to the working fishing boats in the harbour, to the waterfront historic sites.

Given the proximity to urban populations, the calm, protected waters and easy launching options, it’s surprising to me that not more people come here to paddle. Out of dozens of visits, I have only seen a couple of kayaks a few times and a paddleboard once. I even tried to look up whether paddling here is prohibited (it’s not).

Paddle Report: October 2020

On a cloudy autumn afternoon, I found a chance to paddle the channel. Parking in Steveston can be tricky on a busy day, but I came at a quiet time and had no trouble finding parking near the Imperial Landing Docks, which is a public fishing pier.

Parking is free along Bayview Street, and there is a small parking lot near the pier with free 3-hour parking.
Steveston is great for strolling and Junior loves biking here, so they are happy to come here and send me off on my merry waterway.
A few common-sense rules: stay clear of other vessels and fishing lines, watch the river flow, and a warning not to venture out of the protected channel.

The water was grayish and muddy, about what we would expect in an industrial/fishing harbour with fairly stagnant water.

Some interesting boats.
Old abandoned boat.
A flock of seagulls took flight as I paddled by. Thankfully I did not get pooped on.
A row of logs mark the eastern end of the channel.

I paddled from Imperial Landing to London Landing, which is another public wharf where one can easily launch a kayak or a paddleboard.

The dock at London Landing has a step-off that makes it a little easier to launch and pull out.

I turned back and headed back to Imperial Landing. The channel seems short, but just doing this lap actually took a good 45 minutes.

Looking west in in the Steveston Channel.

A random castle on a broken floating dock.
The Historical Britania Shipyard

I didn’t have time to head further westward to explore the Fisherman’s Wharf, as the sun was starting to set.

It’s definitely a great place to paddle and explore a working fishing village. I estimate it would take about 1 hour to paddle the full length of the channel and back, which may be a little short for some, but just right for a quick paddle fix for me.

As a working harbour, there are small and medium fishing boats that travel this channel. They tend to go very slowly here, but they are very heavy and do make a considerable wave even at low speed.

Paddle Report: December 2020

Who knew December could be a great time to paddleboard in Canada? Sure, it’s been 90% rain in the past several weeks, but during the occasional sunny breaks, it is an exceptional time to paddle. It’s calm, quiet, and refreshing to be out in the open air at this time of the year.

I thought my paddling season was over and put away my gear and board for a few days, only to regret on the next sunny day and took everything out again.

This past weekend was such a day. The sun was out, the temperature was a cool 5 or 6 degrees celsius, and it was nearly windless. I headed to Steveston, Richmond again.

Steveston in Late Fall.

I launched from the Imperial Landing Docks again, and there were actually another kayaker getting ready to launch. We exchanged some pleasantries about how lucky we were to be able to paddle in mid December.

I decided to throw on some wool base layers, a light polyester jacket, and a water resistant wind breaker. I already got some neoprene boots and gloves previously, and I added a pair of polyester, water resistant winter cycling pants recently, which strikes a perfect balance: it has the comfort and mobility of regular sweatpants, with 60% of the thermo insulation and 20% of the water resistance of neoprene diving pants. As long as I don’t fall in, this set up is perfect for this weather.

Soon after I started paddling in the afternoon sun, I got hot enough to put away the gloves and I wanted to take off a layer or two.

I headed west first to peek at Garry Point Park, paddling past some tourists on the Fisherman’s Wharf taking photos.

Garry Point Park.

I dodged a few waves from passing boats, and headed east. From this end of the channel, Mt. Baker stands prominently in the South East.

Mt. Baker in the distance.

I paddled along Shady Island to the east, and spotted a few bald eagles. They were making some legit eagle calls which I don’t think I’ve heard before. It’s probably because of the quiet around us that I picked it up.

At the eastern end of the channel, I saw an enormous ship gliding soundlessly on the Fraser River. It was at least several stories tall and a hundred meters long. I wondered just how deep Fraser River is around here to allow for such a ship to come through.

I headed back to the launch site, stopping at the Britannia Shipyard for a quick look.

The whole 6km paddle took 1.5 hours with lots of photo breaks. I could probably take 15 minutes off the time if I concentrate on paddling.

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