Walsh Cove | A jewel of Desolation Sound

Of the many anchorages in beautiful British Columbia, Desolation Sound’s Walsh Cove is a true gem. — By Greg Larsen

For boaters heading north each year towards Desolation Sound, Walsh Cove is a favorite destination. This pristine cove is nestled along the northern end of Waddington Channel on the northeast end of West Redonda Island.   

Walsh Cove is one of the many stunning marine parks that British Columbia has to offer. The park was established in 1989 and has a total of 39 hectares of upland and 46 hectares of foreshore for a total of 85 hectares. Fortunately, being a marine park hasn’t detracted from the beauty, mystery and spiritual aspects of Walsh Cove. Numerous cruising boaters frequent this cove annually to enjoy the tranquility and unspoiled atmosphere that lies within.

You can reach Walsh Cove by traveling north up Waddington Channel from Prideaux Haven or south down Waddington Channel, by turning south at Dean Point. It’s best to approach Walsh Cove from the south because the northern entrance into the cove, False Pass, is littered with rocks.

Walsh Cove consists of a number of small islands collectively known as Gorges Island. This small island group shelters the anchorage from wakes of the boat traffic that goes up and down Waddington Channel. Behind these islands you’ll find enough anchorage space for 15 to 25 boats. Like numerous anchorages in Desolation Sound, the depths in the middle of the cove are deep, but around the edges you can find shallower water. And when the anchorage gets crowded, stern ties are a must. For those that like a little more secluded anchorage there are a number of small bites to the south of Walsh Cove that offer some protection from the winds that can whip up and down Waddington Channel.  

The authors boat “Nordic Sun” and “Stormy” stern tied at the north end of Walsh Cove.

For swimmers, the waters can be quite warm here at times. The long, finger-shaped islands to the east of the cove offer many gentle sloping rocks that are mysteriously void of oysters. These angled swimming platforms warm the water as the tide comes in over the hot rocks during the summer months. My dogs enjoyed rocks, bare of oysters, for their daily ball fetching and swimming exercises.

For those that enjoy snorkeling, Walsh Cove has some great shallows and steep cliffs to explore. The crystal clear water lets you see to great depths. At low tide you can explore the shallow channels between the finger islands. If you venture into the cove at the northwest part of this marine park you might even find some old relics discarded from old logging operations.  

For the oyster lovers it is no surprise to find them abundant in this marine park. If you have a passion for oysters I’d suggest you pick your oysters on the outside of the finger island where they get a good flush from the currents running up and down Waddington Channel.   

You might also find numerous prawn pots set out in the Waddington Channel. In years past I’ve pulled my pot and found numerous prawns, but other years I’ve found relatively few. So if you enjoy prawns on your menu then it might be worth putting down your pot out in the inlet. This past summer I put my pot down on the east side of Waddington Channel and a little south of Walsh Cove. When I pulled my pot the next morning I found only a few shrimp, though a very unusual looking crab had its right pincher clinging tight to the mess of my pot. This crab looked very prehistoric. It was very big and round; about 10 inches across the back and spiny like a king crab. Its legs where short and then folded up underneath the body in little indentations specifically molded for each leg. When I grabbed the crab it fold up much like a turtle might do, by pulling in its legs up tight to its underbelly. We decided this crab was a brown box crab and returned it back to its deep sea home.   

Brown box crab found clinging to prawn trap.

For those that enjoy cliff diving, the largest Gorges Islands offers a number of launching points. But I would suggest you first scope out your landing spots with a mask and snorkel prior to taking the plunge. I’ve heard numerous stories of people being injured or killed from diving by not first picking an appropriate location for their free flight drop into the water below.

While Walsh Cove is certainly popular now, it has actually been a popular place for centuries. At the northern entrance to the cove a number of different pictographs can be found. The artwork most likely was left by one of the coast Salish bands of the first nation. The ancient artists left images of fish, people and numerous other symbols on the rock cliffs. Also, if you venture out of your dinghy along the shoreline, up next to the cliffs you can find soot cover cliffs, and overhangs as well as some midden piles. I assume the people of the first nation cooked their oysters, mussels, clams, crabs, fish and other bounties they gathered from the sea. These high cliffs and overhangs probably offered protection from harsh rains and winds that this area is known to get during the harsh winter months.

Pictographs left be the early people of this region.

I understand by reading one of my cruising guides that high grade pink granite was discovered in this cove in 1885. I was not able to visually find any evidence that supported granite was mined from this location, but in a small shallow cove at the north end of the park you can find artifacts left by turn of the century logging operations. In this cove you will find some rusty old logging machinery and a small stream. Long ago, someone placed a steel pipe in the stream to create a water spigot where you can fill a water jug, solar shower or whatever else you might like. If you plan to use this water for drinking it would be wise to treat it or boil it to kill any harmful organisms.  

Water fill pipe located at head of Walsh Cove.

The landscape surrounding the stream has a gentile uphill slope, and is quite open once you get through the small amount of brush surrounding the beach. If you are adventurous you can do some short trekking up into this lush moss covered landscape without too much trouble. In amongst the moss-covered fallen trees you find many old cedar stumps from the turn of the century logging operations. You can still make out the unmistakable chop marks that reveal how these old growth trees where cut down the old fashion way with springboards and buck saws. Many of the old stumps are nursing a new tree that have sprouted toward the heavens.

Old logging operation stump with spring board chop mark on the left side.

Year after year many boats trek up Waddington Channel or down Pryce Channel for a turn at Dean Point bound for Walsh Cove. Each time I stay here I’m reminded of the beauty and history this cove has to offer. If you haven’t stopped here before, you should put it on your list of destinations for your next trip to Desolation Sound. Walsh Cove is truly one of the Sound’s, and British Columbia’s, marine park jewels.      

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Editor’s Note: A big thank you to Greg Larsen for sharing his thoughts and experiences from Walsh Cove with Three Sheets readers. If you’ve got tales or destinations from cruising the Salish Sea to share, feel free to pass them along here or to to managing editor Andy Cross (andy@threesheetsnw.com). 

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One Response to Walsh Cove | A jewel of Desolation Sound

  1. mark lemon September 29, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    Nice report Greg,

    We just got back a few weeks ago from that area but missed Walsh. Definitely going to check it out next time. Maybe we’ll see you there.

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