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GoldRiver400 - backcountry route from Campbell River to Sayward Junction. 80km, easy gravel roads.

Friday 8 December was promised to be the last dry and sunny day before who knew when... Carpe Diem, young Jedi! There are event routes to be scouted....

Myself, Tim and Ed allowed ourselves the luxury of a weekday jollyboys day out. I wanted to ride at least some of the backcountry roads that maze their way through the Campbell River water catchment area between Campbell River and Sayward Junction. I have previously promoted this set of routes as an alternative to Highway 28 to Gold River and there have been some developments potential travellers need to know about.

Firstly, where we went on Friday:

Campbell River is bottom right on this image, Sayward Junction top left.

180km is our total trip, there and back again. A comfortable two hour journey in one direction on a loaded adventure bike. At Sayward Junction you cross Hwy19 for fuel and food at the Crossroads Restaurant, turn left down White River Rd for Gold River a further 80km on.

The route starts at the logging bridge over the Campbell River three or four kilometres up Hwy28 out of Campbell River. Crown roads, no gates, road legal bikes and riders only please!

From there, you have an almost bewildering choice of roads, all constructed more than half a century ago when this area was at the frontiers of the logging industry. The forests are much quieter now but the road network continues to be regularly used by local people for non-industrial purposes.

This map corresponds to the first image and shows the extensive road networks on this part of Vancouver Island. I firmly believe if you study your copy of the maps of this part of the island you will find even more "through routes" to go along with these...

Cutting to the end of this account, I will continue with the roads that are not open and are likely to stay shut for the foreseeable future.

  • Brewster Rd over the John Hart lake dam. The dam is subject to a multi year renovation and the road will be shut for the duration.

  • Similarly Strathcona Dam road, over the Strathcona Dam separating Upper and Lower Campbell Lakes is closed, also for dam renovation.

  • Cooper Creek Main is closed due to fallen trees not yet cleared from the winter of 2021-22.

  • The hookup FSR between C Branch FSR and White River Main is also closed because of fallen trees from the same winter.

  • The continuation of Menzies Main through to Stewart Main and White River Main, called the Khyber Pass by the North Island 1000 people has now been cleared of the '21-'22 treefall, BUT, the significant difficulty (euphemistically called The Great Divide by the ATV community) still remains. It is a big ditch, perhaps 20 metres wide and 10 metres deep in soft sandy, friable soil that affords little traction and gets steeper every time someone tries it.... It is best avoided unless you specifically want to go and try it!

  • Between Brewster Lake and the Salmon River there are trails set aside specifically for the horse community. The Salmon-Brewster horse trails. Be a good neighbour and keep off these trails - we motorised people have more than enough to go at.

Finally, on Friday we (me, Tim and Ed) had a go at getting up and around the Middle Memekay River (pronounced Mem-m-Kay). We weren't able to follow the Memekay West Main far up the south side before we ran into the snow and ice left over from my last trip that way at the beginning of November... we very quickly turned around and headed off for lunch at The Crossroads. I expect the snow and ice will remain now until April next year.

Our route: was open, easy FSRs with no navigational difficulties provided you were paying attention to your Gaia... the continuation of the route to GoldRiver (White River Main, WR700, West Road and Gold River Rd) is only slightly more difficult having a steeper section over the White/Gold watershed (WR700).

This Campbell River forest will provide the venue for next September's VIME autumn event, now that the Port Alberni area has been twice visited and been exhausted of new navigation trial routes.

Travellers from Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria and Washington State now have a choice of routes to Gold River ranging in difficulty from paved highway (Hwys 1, 19 and 28) to backcountry gravel routes that extend the event weekend to a Vancouver Island backcountry tour.

I expect winter will close the backcountry off to motorcycles now until the spring when testing and setting the courses for the GR400 and the Sayward Autumn event will begin.

Best wishes to all my readers for Christmas and 2024.

Regards, Jonathan.

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Joanne Parkes
Joanne Parkes
Dec 10, 2023

I was up there as well clearing the Salmon Brewster Trail (horse trail)corridor with a trail clearing crew! We were in there from about 9:30-4pm. They were supposed to go back today but that didn’t happen! What a beautiful day it was!!

Replying to

But cold! I think no warmer than zero all day. I had my heated grips on all day.

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