Get Outta Town: Powell River

Words By Chris Armstrong
Photos By Kyle Hansen

I moved to Powell River when I was 12. At that time it was just another mill town where the primary goals in life were to one day own a jacked up 4×4, a nice big house and a cabin up the lake. The once thriving pulp and paper mill has been slowly thinning its workforce and with it some of that old school culture. The town is maturing and adapting, finding much needed diversity, with people coming from all over to enjoy Powell River beyond the mill. During my teaching practicum at Brooks Secondary school I asked a class how many parents work at the mill, about 10% of the students put their hands up. When I was in school it would have been 90%. This has led to some great changes in the community.

There is a lot to enjoy here, although it took me a while to appreciate that as a kid. My teenage years were spent travelling over to Vancouver Island for surfing and skateboarding. Powell River had nothing to offer me in those areas, although it now boasts an incredible new skate park and bike jump park. My personal perspective of the town truly shifted the day a friend took me rappelling at one of the local rock climbing areas, “Higgyland”. That day changed my outlook of Powell River forever. If you are an open eyed outdoor enthusiast, Powell River has everything. Amazing mountain bike trails, rock climbing and hiking areas, world class diving, hunting and fishing.

After that fateful day rappelling I was hooked. I quickly bought some climbing gear and connected with a handful of local climbers that introduced me to the incredible seaside bouldering of the “stacks” at Stillwater Bay. They also took me out to some of the great local hikes, including Tin Hat Mountain, a beautiful hike that gets you into the Alpine quickly to see some amazing views.

Those teenage summers included lots of time at the rivers and lakes. The unofficial opening of summer was the yearly pilgrimage to Savary Island off of Lund to sleep overnight on the sandy south beach. This small island is getting more popular each year with good reason; it’s well worth a visit via the water taxi from Lund. Don’t forget to grab one of the cinnamon buns from Nancy’s bakery. The Eagle River swimming area is a locals favourite, with amazing cliffs to jump and waterfalls to explore all along its edges. Mowat Bay on Powell Lake is great day out, with its large grassy area to hang out and cliff edges on the far side of the bay. There are many amazing ocean beaches as well, including Mahoods and Donkersley south of town.

From board riding to rock climbing and mountain hikes, now as an adult hailing from Cumberland, my return pilgrimages to Powell River have become cycling centric. I’ve been exploring the incredibly well groomed trails used in the BC Bike Race circuit. Good for hours of exploration and well worth a visit.

No truly matured cultural experience of Powell River would be complete without savouring a pint of craft beer from the heritage heart of downtown at Townsite Brewery. Sip on one of Brewmaster Cédric Dauchot’s recipes and plan your next journey to Powell River.