For anyone eager to get out on a lake or reservoir in Alberta, you'll find…
A chance to paddle British Columbia’s gorgeous Bowron Lakes canoe circuit is on the wish list of almost ever canoeist or kayaker. It’s the equivalent of a Boston Marathon for a runner or the Annapurna Trek for a hiker.
The Bowron Lakes canoe circuit attract an international crowd looking for adventure and solitude. You don’t have to paddle a canoe. A kayak is great too but take a kayak cart!
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Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit description
The 116 km (72 mile) Bowron Lake Circuit is typically paddled over 7-10 days. The journey involves six major lakes and two rivers linked by numerous portages with the Cariboo Mountains serving as a backdrop. A canoe cart is highly recommended to make the portages tolerable.
Reservations for the Bowron Lakes
The Bowron Lakes Circuit opens on May 15th and remains open until September 30th. Visit in May, June and September for solitude but make reservations for summer.
A total of 50 people or 25 canoes per day are permitted to start daily. Reservations can be made up to 4 days beforehand and four spaces are held every day for walk-ons on a first come first served basis. Fees are $Cdn 60 per person.
The weather is notoriously unpredictable. Rain, wind and thunderstorms are common and it can snow at any time of the year. Hypothermia is a real risk.
Bowron Lakes Provincial Park publishes a downloadable pre-trip booklet with a list of essential items. Don’t leave home without them. Also bring clothing for four seasons and a few days of extra food in case of emergency. Wind can keep you shore bound for a day or two.
The Bowron Lakes Circuit takes you into bear and moose country. We were lucky enough to see several moose on our trip, including a family with a young one, but never a bear. Fortunately every campsite and portage has metal bear proof boxes.
This trip has been one of my favourite adventures. Stunning mountain vistas, clear lakes, wildlife and solitude (despite what the numbers would have you believe) make this a first class experience. I have met many people who return year after year.
Getting to the Bowron Lakes
The Bowron Lakes are accessed via Quesnel. Driving time from Vancouver is about 9 hours in total. Orientation sessions are required before heading out so it’s just about impossible to leave Vancouver and start the same day.
Fortunately you can stay in Quesnel, about 90 minutes away, or camp in the park and start the following day. Canoes and carts can be rented in the park.
Some items you might want for this paddling trip
I’d suggest carrying a copy of the 1:50,000 scale waterproof map of the Bowron Lakes.
A gear barrel is always a useful piece of gear, especially for portaging.
Don’t forget the lightweight camp chair for a far more comfortable outing.
Further reading on paddling adventures in Canada
- 9 of the Best Places to Paddle in Alberta
- A Canoe Trip on the remote Thelon River in Canada’s Arctic
- A Sea Kayaking Trip in the Broken Group of Islands
- Kayaking Georgian Bay Over a Long Weekend
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