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MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2010

Bowron Lakes Provincial Park and Circuit

Looking for a great vacation idea? Want to experience the wilderness of British Columbia? Bowron Lakes Provincial Park in northern B.C. is the ideal location. This wilderness paddling adventure takes park visitors past glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, endless forests and through crystal clear lakes and rivers. The circuit is a 116km round trip travelling through several lakes, rivers and portages and is one of the top 50 adventures to do in British Columbia.

British Columbia's Bowron Lakes circuit is one of the most beautiful paddling adventures in Canada.British Columbia's Bowron Lakes are located in northern British Columbia, close to the historic gold rush town (now a national historic site) Barkerville. Named for John Bowron, a Gold Commissioner, the region was officially declared a Provincial Park in 1961, and since then its spectacular chain of lakes offering a 116km trip through British Columbia's remote interior has attracted thousands of people a year to paddle its natural locale.

Opening mid-May to October (it is busiest from July to August and it tends to be colder in May and September through October), the Bowron Lake Circuit offers fresh water lakes with an abundance of fish, birds and wildlife ranging from bears (mostly black bears), moose, beavers and cougars Moose can often be seen on the Bowron Lakes Circuit in British Columbiaas well as mountains with glaciers, waterfalls, pine forests and other flora. The Circuit can be completed in as little as five days, however, to appreciate its true beauty, a trip of seven days and longer is suggested.

The Bowron Lakes circuit can be done in two ways - a smaller route begins on Bowron Lake (which is the last lake on the full route) where paddlers can go up through the circuit backwards for a day trip or overnight. The full route begins at the orientation centre in the Provincial Park where paddlers are required to learn about bear safety, proper stashing of foodstuffs, the location of woodlots and watch a video. After signing in (you must sign out when you return as well) and weighing your canoe equipment (the equipment inside the canoe cannot surpass 60lbs as it will damage the portage trails) paddlers must carry or roll their canoes (by canoe cart) for 2km to the first lake on the circuit. Although daunting, this first task will prepare you for the journey ahead. The following is a list of the lakes (and special locales) in the Bowron Lakes circuit:

  • Lanezi Lake is one of the most spectacular on the Bowron Lakes Circuit with mountains, glaciers, forest and waterfalls.Kibee Lake: The first lake is the smallest and begins in a shallow, marshy area and ends at a portage which takes paddlers to the next lake.

  • Indianpoint Lake: This lake sees many people stop for the night. Many birds such as Loons and Mergansers can be spotted diving for fish and it is one of the best on the circuit to try your own luck for varieties of fish such as Kokanee and Rainbow Trout. One cabin can be found on Indianpoint Lake and it ends in a marshy area with a portage to the next lake.

  • Issac Lake: After three portages, Issac Lake might be a welcome break as it is doubtful you can paddle it in one day. It is the most temperamental location weather wise on the circuit as sudden winds and storms can appear. There are several cabins on the lake as well as waterfalls - on the western edge of the lake a small trail takes hikers to Lewis falls which is surrounded by wild blueberries. It is best to stay on the eastern shore as all individual campsites are on that side of the lake. The lake culminates at a large campsite and the beginning of one of the toughest parts of the circuit.McLeary Lake is a beautiful lake overlooking the mountains and is located between the Issac River and Cariboo River on the Bowron Lakes Circuit.

  • Issac River: Paddlers can chose to forgo the river or paddle through it (you may want to think carefully about your equipment and abilities before you do as many people tip over in this section). The first section is a small set of rapids which can be bypassed by a portage (several hundred meters down the river you will have to portage regardless) while the second section everyone must paddle. Pay careful attention to the signs on the riverside telling you to get out of the river as the Issac Falls (which can be seen from the trail) not far from the exit point has claimed many canoes.

  • McLeary Lake: This small picturesque lake is a must-stay - it is the last of the clear lakes until Ulna Lake as the silt from the Cariboo River flows into the two next lakes on the chain. One cabin and campsite area is on McLeary Lake and the snow-capped mountains offer spectacular views. Osprey hunting for fish and moose have been frequently spotted in the region.

  • Cariboo River: This stretch of the circuit has also claimed its fair share of canoes (look for them along the shores and in the river) as snags and Paddlers often stop and spend their time enjoying the views or
building rudimentary inukshuks on the waters edge on the Bowron Lakes
Circuit.dead heads (underwater logs and sticks) frequently puncture holes into canoes of people who are not looking out. Moose can be spotted along the river and upon exiting the River paddlers can enjoy spectacular views of Lanezi Lake.

  • Lanezi Lake: This lake is edged by mountains and has one cabin which was built in case a canoe were to tip over in the Cariboo River. Stay especially close to the shoreline as interesting flora and fauna can be spotted as well as waterfalls from the glaciers overhead. For those with binoculars you might even spot mountain goats on the rocky slopes.

  • Sandy Lake: A small stretch of the Cariboo River takes paddlers into this small lake with sandy, boggy shorelines. Interested parties can cross to the southern side of the lake and take a short hike to Hunter Lake.

  • Cariboo River: Sandy Lake narrows into the Cariboo River and visitors have a choice of two routes. One carries onto the route to The Cariboo Falls is a sight to see as they thunder down into the canyon at the Bowron Lakes Circuit.Babcock Lake while the other leads to Ulna Lake, a popular camping location on the circuit.

  • Ulna Lake: If you decide to go this route take care to follow the signs. The river is more fast flowing as the Cariboo Falls are not far ahead. Once in the lake, the campsites are to the north while the Cariboo Falls trail is to the south. It is recommended to hike this trail as the waterfalls are spectacular and there are many blueberries along the trail from August to September.

  • Babcock/Skoi Lakes: Paddlers must double back to the small winding creek which leads to a portage. This leads to two small lakes: Babcock and Skoi with two small additional portages. Both are small with no camping areas, however, Skoi lake's marshy edge is perfect to spot animals.

  • Spectacle Lakes/Swan Lake: Once entering this lake, you have portaged your last portage. These lakes have a cabin and beautiful views. Swan Lake merges with Spectacle Lakes and ends at the entrance to the Bowron River.

  • Bowron River and Lake: The Bowron River is the last piece of undisturbed waterway as the Lake allows power boating and also has several cabins, homes and resorts along the shoreline. Quiet paddlers will see a wide variety of birds and animals including beavers, ducks, kingfishers and potentially Moose. The Lake is the last push as the outfitters and the Provincial Park Dock is at the end.

It is very important to pay attention to signs as hazards like waterfalls can be encountered on the Bowron Lakes circuit.This is not an experience for the unprepared - cold weather, wind rain and even snow can unexpectedly crop up and the journey is strictly pack in and pack out to minimize ecological damage. However, the circuit is well designed with outhouses at every campsite, frequently placed woodlots and sheltered cabins and emergency phones along the shorelines. Careful planning should always take into account detrimental weather and proper food planning (eliminate unnecessary pack weight by sticking to dried, powdered and tinned foods instead of fresh) as well as durable equipment such as tents, tarps, rope and paddling equipment. It is HIGHLY recommended to rent or purchase a canoe cart as there are several portages within the circuit. Several outfitters are located near the Park to provide equipment and last minute supplies.

Two books which are very helpful and informative are: Outdoor Guide: Bowron Lakes and The Bowron Lakes: A Guide to Paddling British Columbia's Wilderness Canoe Circuit. Also, a large circuit map with all the campsites and other useful information can be purchased at many outdoor and paddling shops.

The Bowron Lakes Circuit in Bowron Lakes Provincial Park is one of the most popular paddling adventures in British Columbia. This is truly the experience of a lifetime where you will enjoy the largely untamed wilderness of this beautiful province.

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