This August I hope to become the first person to swim from one end of Powell Lake the other. The 50-kilometre lake in that traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation in northern Sunshine Coast, British Columbia (BC), flows to the ocean through Powell River and features an island in the centre: Goat Island. The lake serves as a reservoir for a small hydroelectric generating station built to serve the city’s paper mill, and as a water supply.
Powell Lake is a series of six interconnected basins and one of the deepest lakes in BC with a recorded depth of 1,800 feet. The lake, which was created by glaciers, is believed to have an ancient sea at its base. In 1962 salty water was discovered at about 400 feet. It was hypothesized that 10,000-year-old sea water was trapped at the bottom of the lake when the glaciers retreated, and the land rose.
Dubbed the North Sea, Powell Lake is a fjord lake surrounded by peaks up to 5,000 feet. Weather can change quickly as the thermal winds build creating waves as high as 8-feet and water-spouts. Wind will be strongest between 1:00 and 7:00 PM. Timing as to where I should be on the lake when, is proving to be a challenge. My friend Kevin Lessor who lives in a house on the lake in the summer has been providing me with local knowledge.
The hottest month of the year in Powell River is July, with an average high of 23 °C and low of 14 °C. This is when thermal winds will be strongest. August, when I hope to make the attempt will be similar. Night-time temperatures, which need to be considered on a 24-hour swim, are between 7 and 18°C; hopefully closer to 18!
I will have approximately 14 hours of sunlight and 10 hours of darkness with the sunrising at around 6:00 AM and setting at 8:30 PM.
For the first third of the swim there is a “long open spot of sheer steepness on both sides” of the lake. It will be the most challenging part of the swim from a wind perspective should the thermals build. With sunrise around 6:00 AM, I will likely meet my first crew, Pat and Bill, at about 5:00 AM. We will make our way down the lake for a 7:00 AM start. Not the blue markings on the map. This is where the greatest risks will be with wind.
My second crew, Sherry and Jim, will meet me around 8 hours later when I reach Goat Island. 8 to 10 hours later I hope to be through the Goat Island channel where I will be joined by Heather and Jim.
I am very much looking forward to seeing this very special place. My start point will be a homestead that was flooded in 1912 when the dam was raised. My finish point, should I make it, will be the beach at Mowat Bay Park.