Well, this is it, one of Canada's best kept secrets - to Canadians that is. Signs on the canoe route are in English and German if that tells you anything about overseas popularity.
This route might be Canada's MOAB, Canada's Grand Canyon, take your pick. Another way to describe it as the scenery you get driving from Banff to Jasper, except you're in a canoe, everything is pristine, from crystal clear waters to majestic mountain slopes all in their original state. You can stop off at waterfalls, mini-hikes, visit old trapper's cabins, and witness nature as it has been for millenia. You'll find a bit of other canoe traffic on the circuit (which can be a good thing), but since this park is managed by B.C. Parks, you'll find that you only encounter congestion at pinch points, of which there are few. Instead you will mostly find beautiful pre-set up campsots (with bear caches), sandy beaches, rocky beaches, and lots of water-front camping and spectacular views.
The canoe circuit takes roughly 5-7 days and you travel a chain of lakes that takes you around an almost 'square' perimeter which encloses several mountain ranges. Click on "view/download GPS" to get an overview". Tall Peaks, rugged mountains, a few glaciers, very steep mountain sides heading right into the lake. You have several portages to make, however, B.C. Parks has been nice enough to maintain a proper set of trails between lakes. Portages aren't so bad because these days, canoers take a small set of wheels with them upon which you roll your canoe along with some of your gear. The longest portages are 2.5km roughly. A few sections of fast water on the circuit, but nothing that the average canoeist can't handle.
Basic directions are to get to Quesnel, in NorthEastern B.C. (a good 9 hour drive from Vancouver), and then continue on to do the Bowron Lakes, after which you can visit Barkerville. It is a 'living' museum, faithfully restored to it's wild west days when it was the largest city North of San Fran and West of Chicago. Very cool, not hokey! The lengths people will go to for Gold, which is still mined in the area. The rather large China town and the history of Chinese immigration presented in one of the houses is fascinating. The whole town is first class, with most town shops faithfully restored (Barber, surveyor's office, Gen's stores, Doctor, 2 real ghosts, etc.).
Here are a few things to look forward to;
The mountain scenery and clear water
Two or three large waterfalls to take side-trips to
Camping right on Sandy Lake was a hi-lite, full moon, big mountain scenery, big sandy beach, and swimmable warm water (otherwise too cold on the circuit)
Navigating through wetlands waterways in between Lakes
The chance to stay in authentic settlers cabins - in bunks
Connecting with nature, really connecting - bear and moose are common, as are mosquitoes, but you have to be up early to see a moose. The mosquitoes will find you.
Great exercise every day
The quiet after dinner, after a day of paddling - great evenings and nights by the fire
In short though, "Sandy Lake" had our favourite campspot. There are some cabins on the circuit that sleep 8 to 10. If it's raining, make an early start for one of those.
As far as directions go while on the route, you can do just fine with the parks map that is provided, and the route almost guides itself as the Lakes are mostly long and narrow. In marshy areas between lakes, where meandering 'rivulets' divide the tall grasslands, B.C. Parks has placed directional signs to keep you on track as you paddle to start of the the next Lake. No need for GPS here, you start where everyone starts at the Parks Canada office on Bowron Lake, and you go from there after watching their video on safety and etiquette. You pack it in, you pack it out. And be mindful not to leave any food lying around.
The seven day journey goes clockwise in the direction of Kibbee Lake, the shorter 3-day version heads down Bowron Lake in the opposite direction.
All of the lakes and streams are named after historical figures, quite fascinating if you pick up the local guide-book in Barkerville. If you'd like to share your Bowron Lakes experiences, feel free to post a review in the discussion forum attached to this trail.
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Posted By: bettina
- Fri Aug 02 12:25:07 EDT 2013
Question I'd recommend 7 days or more if you have time. Just for the pure enjoyment! ANSWERS are in this forum: Bowron Lakes
Posted By: kwasiruns
- Sat May 25 03:39:57 EDT 2013
QuestionHow difficult/safe would Bowron be with three in a canoe? I have two teenagers and would like to travel together. ANSWERS are in this forum: bowron 3 in a canoe?
Posted By: camshaft
- Tue Aug 24 16:37:37 EDT 2010
Upsidegreat weather, very few people
CommentMy GPS recorded 130km round trip and 4 days 6 hours Forecast was for a sun all week long !! YES ! Orientation was a AM a large group of 24-26 people but 3/4 where not ready to start after. I was first off with 3 canoes and 6 people from Vancouver behind me. Left the 6 canoeist at site 8 as it was only 4pm. Continued to site 11 by 5pm and stopped because of may warnings about full campgrounds by early evening. Which I learned very quickly was not the story of this trip because I hadn't seen a soul. Left on Isaac for some amazing mountain views and water falls and stopped at 21 for lunch. On the water is was beautiful no bugs to be seen but once you hit land Geeze. I couldn't eat and leave fast enough to get relief from the bugs. Continued and stopped at 25 because I could see canoes at 26 and assumed 27 and 28 might be the same. Plus 25 wasn't a bad spot to put me in a good distance of the rapids and portage to McLeary lake. Met a group of 3 canoeist from Britain with plans to complete the west coast trail after bowron trip. Good luck guys ! Left 25 went right into the rapids had a little fun splashing around. Bumped into 4 people from Vernon at the middle portage. Passed them doing second half of rapids and got ready for McLeary and cariboo river. Hiked up to the falls look up and took some pics. Bumped into 2 people at 31 with a beautiful wooden canoe WOW work of art. Continued down McLeary into Cariboo river towards Lanezi lake then stopped at 35 with great views of the mountains. Next day left 35 and continued to sandy lake then back into cariboo river. Then off shoot into unna lake with access to the cariboo falls. Lots of people at Unna lake site but didn't see anyone on the falls trail. Hiked 10-15minutes to cariboo falls then back up the cariboo river to the Babcook portage. Paddle Babcook then portage to Skoi Lake paddle Skoi then portage to spectacle lakes. Pass a group of 4 people at site 44 then 2 at spot 45 and planned to stop at 46. Some parks confusion as they listed 46 as a individual site but bumped into scout group 27 from seattle. A small group of 4 kids and 3 leaders that left the day before me. Left site 35 and continued up swan lake and stopped for lunch at 50. Bumped into a couple from Germany on a day paddle from the lodge. On my paddle from 50 to bowron lake saw 1 canoe and 5 single kayaks. Then a bit of wind and waves on Bowron lake but nothing huge for a sea kayak. Then to finish at the dock from hell.. Cheers C Videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXejvQ_Q54Q
zbynala posted below.. Please just search google with bowron rentals. www.bcadventure.com/bowron beckerslodge.ca/Beckers-Canoes.html
Posted By: zbynala
- Mon Aug 09 16:31:51 EDT 2010
QuestionHello, I want to go on this route. But I don´t have any canoe and other things for paddling. So, is there someone who knows where can I hire it? ANSWERS are in this forum: Rent a canoe
Posted By: n8ureguyde
- Wed Oct 15 19:08:04 EDT 2008
UpsideIf you just want to get away from it all, this is the place to go! Even though there are many tourists, the route is so big, you may not even come across somebody for hours at a time and even then, see them from a distance. This area is abundant in wildlife, mostly moose though. Quietness, serenity and beauty....... this explains it all.
DownsideMosquitoes are bad, just make sure you bring a lot of bug spray or head nets and you'll be good.
CommentMe and my dad only did the west side trip, but took it slowly over a period of 5 days. We had the wind to our backs the entire time and had great weather, even on our way back, which was lucky. Took the hike out to Cariboo falls which was amazing! The kinds of wildlife we saw were moose,eagles,swallows, beavers, and even a martin. Some others mentioned they saw a bear and her cubs. There is great fishing along the way. Definitely doing the full trip in the future!
Posted By: Moeman
- Sun Sep 25 21:09:17 EDT 2005
UpsideExcellent time, met some nice people on trip. Park staff keep a close eye on things. So if anythings happens help is close bye. I highly recomend this trip to anyone interested in canoeing. Also Barkerville close by is a good time aswell...
Commentcompleted trip with my father when I was 14 in 2.5 days. was a relaxing time with easy portages. Next trip I plan to spend a liitle more time or I just may try a 24 trip...
Posted By: hawke_gh
- Thu Dec 16 14:24:34 EST 2004
UpsideIt's ALL good here. Note you can do this entire circuit either clockwise or counterclockwise. I've heard stories of groups who did it one way and as soon as they finished, turned right around and did it again the other way!
DownsideIf solitude is your goal, you will find this circuit very busy. To protect this circuit environmentally, there is a very stringent booking system. Book as early as they will let you so you get the time you want!
CommentI just had to review this again to up my trail rating to the 5 peaks it deserves!
Posted By: dkrahn
- Thu Apr 15 14:49:25 EDT 2004
UpsideMeeting lots of people along the way -- with the shared campsites, you can't help but make new friends!
DownsideWeather is unpredictable; but that also makes things more interesting.
CommentTwo girls can tackle this circuit in 7 days... it's a great adventure for anyone and everyone should try it at least once!
Posted By: hawke_gh
- Tue Dec 09 02:48:36 EST 2003
UpsideShort & sweet description of the highlights without giving away all the surprises Bowron Lakes has in store. Nice photos... brings back memories! Each Lake has its own special character that you can recognize if you've been there before!
DownsideNo mention of the awesome fishing that can be had in especially in early summer (24" + bull trout, 14" + rainbows & more)
CommentI've been up there 5 times now & it is always a "happy place" for me. It can also be cross-country skied in the winter months after the lakes are frozen.
Posted By: ronski
- Sun Oct 07 02:05:52 EDT 2001
CommentBowron Lake Great article on Bowron Lake Chain. This is a provincial park, managed by BC Parks not Parks Canada as mentioned in the article.