Rowena’s Airstrip Open after flooding (Sandpiper Golf Course, BC)

rowenaAfter recent flooding of the Fraser River, the airstrip at Sandpiper Golf Course (Rowena’s) is now open again.  A phone call to the golf course confirmed that several GA aircraft have landed and departed from the recovered airstrip, and a fly-over confirmed that the river looks back in it usual place. No more underwater runway. Yay!

Rowena's post-flood
Rowena’s, post-flood

Rowena’s is a fantastic spot to fly into and great for impressing visitors. More info: Rowena’s Airstrip.

Underwater runway, Rowena’s airstrip, Harrison Mills, BC

Record snow-pack at the headwaters of the Fraser River, combined with above-normal temperatures for May 2018 in British Columbia, has led to a sudden rise in water levels all along the mighty Fraser.  One of our favorite little airstrips has been hard-hit by the resultant flooding: the gravel runway at Rowena’s (Sandpiper Golf Course).

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Aerial view of Rowena’s/Sandpiper airstrip (pre-flood)

We’d planned to impress visitors with a dinner flight to the scenic riverside restaurant at Rowena’s.  But as we flew east up the Fraser from Pitt Meadows, above mile after mile of flooded farmland in the Sumas/Chilliwack region, we realized that a backup plan may be in order.

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Flooded farmland, Chilliwack

 Sure enough, as soon as we turned north up the Harrison River, our backup plan proved essential.  It took a moment to even recognize Rowena’s because flooding so drastically altered the once-familiar terrain.

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Mid-downwind 20, flooded
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Actual length of runway

The boat dock on the southeast end of the golf course was a floating island, several meters away from land.  And the runway? An airstrip for a pastoral Lost City of Atlantis. rowena2a

Here’s a couple of photos that show the stark contrast between our usual final approach for runway 20 and “submerged runway” flyover of the same final approach:

Our thoughts go out to all the farmers and businesses affected by the flooding and evacuations.

Here’s a great little video which shows the dramatic snow-melt that’s occurred in just a two week period in our province: Meteorologist Tyler Hamilton’s video.

The Fellowship of the Raven–Gillies Bay, Texada Island

“One of the fellowship will greet you.”

It sounded as if we were to meet a wizard or elf, which seemed fitting, surrounded as we were by stately cedars and hemlocks on a secluded, sparsely populated island.  But the volunteer driver who picked us up from the Texada airstrip carried no otherworldly staff, nor did he sport pointy elfin ears.

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Elvin houses, Gillies Bay

Retired from the Canadian military & originally hailing from Alberta, he did, however, have a generous nature.  Ray not only drove us to the Ravenous Raven Restaurant for lunch, but he also toured us around the town of Gillies Bay in his car.

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A very realistic (AirBuzz Mk II) flight simulator with a professional grade computer program for flight training! A display on multiple monitors shows the attitude of the aircraft as it would be viewed from a real cockpit.

Ray knew Texada airport well, having taught for several years at the Texada AeroSpace Camp.  I wish I were 10 years old again, so could go to the camp!  They have  super-cool equipment & demos, such as a wind tunnel with computer driven sensors, a half-scale Sopwith Pup, and a working model rocket launching system, designed by Texada resident Sandra Sims (pictured above).

Gillies Bay low tide
Gillies Bay at low tide

Just past the residential town of Gillies Bay, on the western shore of Texada Island, we stopped for a photo of Dick’s Island, which is only an island at high tide and is currently for sale at a cool $3 million.

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Dick’s Island

Nearby Shelter Point Park is a gorgeous, forested area fronted with a beach-side view of the Georgia Strait.  Ray informed us that the adjacent Bella Maria Campground  is extremely popular in the summer.

 

After our mini-tour, Ray dropped us off at the Ravenous Raven. We’d phoned in advance (604) 486-0471 and talked with Janet Bott, island inhabitant and one of the owners of the Raven.  It was she who had provided phone numbers for “the fellowship”, several resident volunteers who drive visitors about for a donation.

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We strongly recommend that pilots bring along a tire pump if they want to use the loaner bikes! (there’s a donation box for use of bikes)

There are a number of bicycles available at the airport for those who wish to ride into town, but we’d been uncertain of how steep the climb would be returning from town to airport.  We can happily report that the quiet, pretty road into town from the airport is a gentle descent, and we’re determined to cycle it on our next visit.

 

The congenial atmosphere at the Raven perfectly complemented the mouth-watering food. I had a home-made vegetarian bean burger & salad, and David went with a succulent and flaky halibut with chips.  The heavenly chocolate orange cheesecake is made by Janet herself.

 

Afterwards, Janet showed us one of the delightful rooms available for rent above the Raven, which boasts a lovely balcony view of the Bay itself.

 

Filled to the brim with great food, we strolled along  the Dr. Sanderson trail, which meanders beside the western shore of Gillies Bay.  The little trail provides  picturesque views of the beach, as well as glimpses into the inventive backyards of the locals.

 

For visiting pilots who’d like a more vigorous hike after lunch at the Raven, Paxton Lake is easily accessible from the airport (see my post here on Paxton Lake),  and an old, winding logging road from the airport leads down to a very secluded beach some distance west of Gillies Bay (see my post here).

 

For those who don’t have a plane, you can fly into Texada via KD Air .  If you’re not flying into Texada, you can reach the island by car by taking a 35 minute ferry ride from Westview in Powell River to Blubber Bay on Texada Island; check out the BC Ferry Schedule hereIf you’re coming from Vancouver, you’ll first have to take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons, then drive to Powell River.

Beach Access
Gillies Bay beach access, across the road & westward a wee bit from the Raven

Avgas is available at Texada/Gillies Bay airport (CYGB).  The airport is camping-under-the-wing friendly & has a flush-able toilet and potable water. cygb