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Kayaking Murtle Lake In Wells Gray Park

Kayaking Murtle Lake in Wells Gray Park

A four night/five day kayaking trip on Murtle Lake in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Park gives you a taste of the beauty in this waterfall-filled park, but you’ll likely leave wishing you’d planned on a longer stay.

Murtle Lake isn’t a place many have heard of but if you like paddling, make it a point to visit one summer. The lake is pristine. The setting, ringed by mountains is gorgeous, especially at the end of the north arm. While it is heavily forested around Murtle Lake, there are loads of white sandy beaches that make perfect camping sites.

Fabulous scenery on Murtle Lake

Fabulous scenery on Murtle Lake

One of the few groups of paddlers we saw over four days

One of the few groups of paddlers we saw over four days

Did you know Murtle Lake is the largest lake in North America that doesn’t allow motor boats?

Murtle Lake may even be the largest lake in the world that doesn’t allow motor boats – with one exception, the ranger’s boat. You can paddle over 100 kilometres of shoreline and hike on six marked trails ranging in length from three kilometres to 15 kilometres round trip. You can swim too though it takes some time for the water to warm up. And if you’re into fishing you’ll want to bring a rod and try your luck. (Buy a fishing license ahead of time.) The lake is famous for its rainbow trout and kokanee, also known as freshwater salmon.

Echoing mountains and calm waters on Murtle Lake

Echoing mountains and calm waters on Murtle Lake

Getting to Murtle Lake in Wells Grey Park is no small feat. 

First you have to get to the town of Blue River, probably best known for being the base of Mike Wiegle Helicopter Skiing. Blue River sits on the Yellowhead Highway, about three hours west of Jasper or three hours north of Kamloops depending on where you’re coming from. From there it’s a 27 kilometre drive on a rough but passable gravel road that winds its way up thousands of feet to a parking lot.

You’re still not there. 

It’s a 2.5 kilometre portage on a wide trail from the parking lot to the put-in at the Murtle Lagoon through old-growth forest of cedar and hemlock. We elected to rent kayaks from Murtle Canoes for this trip. It simplified the portage since they’re waiting for you at the other end. Plus we didn’t have to worry about unlocked kayaks on top of our car for the next 10 days of our holiday.

The launch point in Murtle Lagoon

The launch point in Murtle Lagoon

However you do still have to portage the rest of your gear in. Fortunately Murtle Canoes made it easy by providing large carts for anyone that rents a canoe or kayak. They’re just sitting there in the parking lot.

It's a 2.4 km portage with carts to make it easy

It’s a 2.4 km portage with carts to make it easy

The Park Ranger showed up with our kayaks about 10 minutes after we got to the lake. If you are renting a boat you have a narrow window to show up – between 11 AM and 12 noon. Sign the waivers, load up your boats and then make the decision on where to paddle. And don’t forget to pay – $5 per person per night in cash at the put-in.

The park ranger is the only one who has a motorized boat

The park ranger, Daryl is the only one who has a motorized boat

Exploring the North Arm of Murtle Lake

We chose to explore the north arm of Murtle Lake only. It’s a big lake and unless you have a week or more it’s probably best to focus on either the north arm or the west arm. We chose to paddle to the end of the north arm – mostly because fewer people paddle here but also because it can be less windy. Plus Daryl the ranger said that some of the best campsites were in the north arm.

Sunshine Cove campsite, Murtle Lake

Sunshine Cove campsite, Murtle Lake

Heading to the Murtle Beach campsite - the buggiest one of all

Heading to the Murtle Beach campsite – the buggiest one of all

What a backdrop for a campsite

What a backdrop for a campsite

Caught this reflection behind our tent at the Murtle Beach campsite

Caught this reflection behind our tent at the Murtle Beach campsite

Fresh blueberries will be a nice addition to our pancakes

Fresh blueberries will be a nice addition to our pancakes

We spent the last few nights at campsite 19. It’s a big campsite that can accommodate multiple groups. Even though we had to share the space it was worth it. It’s that beautiful! Plus it’s just a five minute paddle to the Wavy Range Trailhead.

The beauty of Campsite 19 on Murtle Lake

The beauty of Campsite 19 on Murtle Lake

Our campsite on Murtle Lake

Our campsite on Murtle Lake

There are some excellent hiking trails accessible from Murtle Lake if you want a change of pace

There are some excellent hiking trails accessible from Murtle Lake if you want a change of pace

Hiking through old growth forest

Hiking through old growth forest

What are the best campsites on Murtle Lake?

The best campsites in the north arm are as follows: 13 (shady but no bugs), 14 , 15, 16 and 19. I have no regrets staying down at campsite 16 but I can’t remember when I last saw so many mosquitoes at once. My husband won’t use bug repellent so each ankle along had about 50 bites. Fortunately the mosquitoes were much less of an issue at all other campsites.

For more information visit the Wells Gray Provincial Park website.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Kayaking Murtle Lake in Wells Gray Park

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 30 Comments
  1. That sounds like an amazing trip. I love the lack of motorized boats, they are so noisy.
    Onto the mossies, I hate them and they can make outdoor activities miserable, but sometimes you just have to deal with them. I will use bug spray but I don’t like it. I try to use deet-free stuff but resort to chemicals if I have too.

  2. I think it’s great that this lake doesn’t allow motor boats. It looks so pristine and relaxing. What a wonderful vacation that must have been!

    1. @Jenny It’s easy to forget about bugs and mosquitoes when you live in a city and have little to do with them. Being out on Murtle Lake was a reminder of what our ancestors put up with so long ago.

  3. This is an incredible collection. That shot of mountains echoing just will haunt me–it looks like an abstract painting. But this entire collection is an award winner. And what a good idea to have carts to take your stuff to your kayak.

  4. What a spectacular setting, and you did such a great job capturing it in your photos. Looks like all that work to get there was worth it! If it meant camping at such an amazing place, I’d be okay dealing with the mosquitoes…maybe there are special nets for camping?

  5. We celebrated one wedding anniversary a few years ago by pitching a tent in a Methow Valley (Washington State) camp ground. We’d planned to cook steaks and have red wine along with pre-baked potatoes. . .ah, a bit of romance. However, the minute the steaks came out of the wrapper, an entire community of mosquitoes invited themselves to our celebration. We cooked rapidly and raced to the safety of the tent where we hunkered down for the rest of the evening. Mosquitos for being so small can make for large outdoor memories!

    1. @Jackie Fortunately it was only one night that was bad. We did eat dinner and breakfast the following day with plate in hand standing knee deep in water. And I resorted to bug dope to make it bearable. It will be an unforgettable night – even more so because our fuel canister leaked and started on fire and my husband had to roll in the sand to stop the fire spreading to him. Only singed hairs on his arm.

  6. You are definitely the go-to person for outdoor adventure in BC (& elsewhere, of course)! I can’t say that I’m an avid kayaker, but would love to do a bit of it in such a gorgeous place. Mosquitoes? Well, I’ve survived them while camping before, but I use bug repellent! Love your echoing mountains pic.

  7. Beautiful!! I don’t think I could pull of five days in a kayak, but that nature is gorgeous… minus the mosquitos that is.

  8. Me, personally – I would NEVER camp knowing that mosquitoes were such an issue because I always get bit really badly. But, how cool that it’s the largest lake without any motor boats allowed. It must have been so peaceful there.

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