Nicomekl River Paddle


  • Parking and Launching: Ward’s Marina next to Elgin Heritage Park
  • Launching type: low profile dock or a boat ramp
  • Difficulty – imperceptible river flow, water level follows tidal changes; very shallow areas covered with sharp oyster shells at low tide
  • Boat traffic – moderate motor boat traffic
  • View – a few twists and turns in the river, remote views of north shore mountains on a clear day, otherwise fairly limited views until you get to Crescent Beach
  • Facilities – free parking, public washroom
  • Overall score – 6/10

Nicomekl is a calm, historic river in Surrey. The popular paddle section flows from the Elgin Road Dam to Blackie Spit, where the river drains into Boundary Bay. Due to the dam, which intentionally cuts off the river almost completely so that sea water doesn’t flow into the farmlands upstream, the river doesn’t actually flow much at all in this section.

There are a few marinas and boat docks on this river, which means there is a moderate amount of boat traffic. They are usually courteous towards paddlers on the river, but when it’s too crowded, it may be hard for the boaters to avoid traveling close.

The best places to launch on the river is from Ward’s Marina, which is adjacent to Elgin Heritage Park where a public washroom is available.

One could also launch from the Elgin Road Dam or Blackie Spit. The water current is basically entirely determined by tides, and it’s best to go at high tide due to the shallow river bed in some sections, which is not only muddy and slippery, it’s also covered in razor sharp oyster shells.

Paddle Report: October 2020, Ward’s Marina to Crescent Beach

After a morning to the nearby Crescent Park, Tina and the gang dropped me off at Elgin Heritage Park for a nice little paddle down the Nicomekle River in a cool, misty fall afternoon.

I pumped up my board at the parking lot, which is only about 200m to Ward’s Marina where I launched.

I came when the tide was somewhat low, and I soon found out why people recommend coming during higher tides. For the first few hundred meters on the river, I was scraping on oyster shells in very shallow water. Thankfully there was just enough clearance that I didn’t have to walk my board, as I imagine the mud is quite slippery and yucky.

The river is almost perfectly still. But under the glassy surface, the water was only several inches deep in surprisingly large portion of the river.
Ward’s Marina.

I paddled downstream at a leisurely pace. A few boats came by and they were nice enough to slow right down when they saw me.

A heron flew over the bank the lined the north side of the river.

I arrived at the mouth of the river, where a metal bridge with a mechanized rotating section crosses the river. It’s a bridge for freight trains. The rotating section opened to let a fishing boat into the river as I paddled under the bridge.

I rounded the corner on Blackie Spit, where a guy was fishing right at the tippy end.

Tina had already driven the car to Crescent Beach Park and started strolling down the trail we reviewed last month, so I paddled along Crescent Beach to catch up to her. We then had a friendly race to a small ramp at Blackie Spit where I pulled the board out. We found out that my paddling is just about the same speed as Tina’s brisk walk pushing a loaded double stroller.

Tina waving at me.
Crescent Beach in the mist.

Overall, the paddle was quite enjoyable. It’s very quiet, save for the occasional boats. I would have liked a little longer paddle on the river, as it only took just over 30 minutes from launching at Ward’s Marina to the metal bridge. I could have gone upstream a little to the dam, then came back down, which I estimate would add about 30 minutes to the paddle.

Given that the weather was rather gloomy, I couldn’t see much of a view. I think this paddle deserves a second go around, and when I do, I will come back to update.

Quick note on gear: I was wearing merino wool base layer, a wool sweater, a rain jacket, and a hat for the forecasted light rain and temperature of 12 degrees celsius. I started the paddle with some neoprene gloves but it got too warm so I took them off. I also had neoprene boots on, which were helpful.

Paddle Report: August 2023, Ward’s Marina to Elgin Road Dam

As promised to myself, I came back on a clear day to visit the river again. This time, I traveled upstream to check out the dam.

The difference in weather made a huge difference, as I could peek over the dykes and see the north shore mountains.

Very quickly I hit the dead end that is the Elgin Road Dam.

I landed and hopped across the road to take a look at what the river is like upstream from the dam. A few cars were parked on a small pull out area next to the dam, which could take about 5-6 cars. It’s actually called “Nicomekl Portage Park“, which I think makes sense as it’s primary function seems to help people park and/or portage over the dam to paddle the Nicomekl River.

After a very short, cleared trail, one could launch on the upstream side of the dam quite easily. But the water was very, very stale. It does not inspire much enthusiasm to continue paddling.

I’ll let my paddle friend Mon Jef describe what paddling this section of the Nicomekl River might look like.


3 responses to “Nicomekl River Paddle”

  1. […] As a river paddle, Alouette River was definitely among my favorite. It’s much easier to launch and pull out from compared with Widgeon Creek, which contents with fast motorboats and currents in the Pitt River. It’s calmer than River of Golden Dreams. It is quieter and offers better views than Deas Slough and Nicomekl River. […]

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