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The Bowron Lakes
Canoeing the Bowron Lakes Chain
8, 4 and 1-day trips
The Bowron Lakes Chain has been rated as one of the ten best paddling trips in the world. It's no wonder. There may be no other place in the world where you can start and finish a canoe trip in the same place and never travel over the same water twice. Every day is a completely different experience. Imagine an enormous rectangle. You begin by paddling eastward across the top, penetrating deep into the Cariboo Mountains. Paddling down the east side, you are exposed to rugged mountain scenery and beautiful vistas, incredible sunsets. Moving back west, across the bottom of the circuit, we travel through stunning river and lake country, slicing our way under rugged glaciated peaks. Returning back up the west side of the rectangle we are treated to small lakes, sandy beaches, marshes and abundant wildlife.
Moose are common, both black and grizzly bear are regular visitors. Other wildlife include wolf, fox, beaver, muskrat, marten and other small mammals. Bird life abounds.
The full circuit is 116 km long and includes seven portages. Portages are wide and well-maintained for the provision of canoe carts which ease our travel and allow us to do each portage in one pass. Each evening we will camp at a beautiful and reserved campsite with tent pads, bear cache and outhouse. In the evenings you relax by the fire, enjoy your guides good cooking, go for an evening paddle, swim, or simply soak up the views.
Bowron Lakes Canoe Trip itinerary - 8 days SCHEDULE & PRICES
Day 1 Departure day. Guests load up and receive a complimentary breakfast before heading out to the Reception Centre to load the canoes, sign the travel book and depart for Kibbee Lake. This first portage and short paddle gets us into the back country where we can savour our escape to the wilderness and warm up our paddling skills.
Day 2 Now we travel across the north end of the chain, over two portages and beautiful Indianpoint Lake to arrive at the base of Wolverine Mountain on Isaac Lake. Our sheltered camp site is by a small creek, has great swimming and fishing and enjoys a spectacular view of the sunset on Wolverine Mountain.
Day 3 We paddle more of Isaac Lake, the longest lake on the chain at 38 kms, and slicing right down the heart of the Cariboo Mountains. Our third night is spent half-way down the lake at a secluded sandy campsite on a point overlooking Betty Wendle Creek and the surrounding mountains.
Day 4 sees us conclude Isaac lake and camp at "The Chutes" where we enjoy the sound of rushing water, practice your river skills under the tutelage of your guide and relax by the fire. We are in the very heart of the Cariboo and ringed by spectacular mountain scenery.
Day 5 Now we enter an environment dominated by the Isaac and Cariboo Rivers. Some sections of the Isaac are optional and, if you choose to paddle them, you will have learned all the strokes you need from us and learned how to read moving water. Otherwise the portage trail flanks the river through the rougher sections. Two short portages bypass "The Cascades" and the 11 metre Isaac Falls. A short paddle across McLeary Lake eases us into the silt-laden Cariboo River. A passage is revealed as the river flows between towering peaks running across the bottom of the chain. Your guide points to safety and here you are led through all the right channels to emerge on Lanezi Lake for your evening camp site.
Day 6 Lanezi and the Turner Creek camp site are spectacularly sandwiched between the Needle Point Range at your back and the range Cariboos dominated by the majestic Mount Ishpa. This mountain will remain with you for the rest of your stay regardless of where you are. Tranquil river sections and the sandy shores of lakes bring us to tiny Rum Lake - a jewel of the chain with its clear, warm water, surrounding mountain peaks and teeming wildlife. Adjacent to our camp, a 1.4 km hike brings us to short paddle across Rum and equally enchanting Unna Lake brings us to a 1.2 km hike to the magnificent 24m high Cariboo Falls, one of the great "must sees" of the Bowron Lakes.
Day 7 Now we move up the west side of the chain, crossing short low portages between clear, warm lakes in a habitat dominated by the moose. Here, animal sightings are at their most common and fishing is good. Up past Maternity Island where moose often choose to calve safe from wolves we enter the Bowron River and stop at a cabin and campsite on a bend in the river with a beautiful final view in to the interior mountains of the park.
Day 8 We leave early to catch the morning wildlife on the estuary of the Bowron River. Moose, beaver, black and grizzly bear feeding on salmon, eagles, osprey and a myriad of waterfowl all have the potential to be spotted. Exiting this stunning morning on the marsh, we stop for one last savour of our experience with a brunch served on the beach, looking back over our route. Then we cross Bowron Lake to return to civilization, happy and rejuvenated. We gather one more time, to celebrate our accomplishments at last and rejoin civilization with a complimentary breakfast at our take-out at the Bear River Mercantile.
Read Canoeing The Canadian Wilderness - One man's published account of his Bowron Lakes trip with us. [pdf 247K]
4 Days on the Wild Side SCHEDULE & PRICES
Spend four days and three nights on the Bowron Lakes Chain - west side. This is a good sampler for those who don't have the time to experience all the chain has to offer but want to immerse themselves in the joy of a wilderness canoe trip. These trips are scheduled in the spring and fall when the fewest people are on the chain. Until the end of June, everybody's having babies and there are lots of animals with young to be observed. In the fall the colours on the chain are stunning and the evenings are crisp.
Day 1 We paddle up the lakes and channels of the Bowron River. The unique Bowron marsh must be navigated as we wind our way into the Cariboo mountains. At the end of the day we set up camp at a sandy beach with beautiful mountain views.
Day 2 We travel over a series of short portages and small lakes which are habitat for a wide variety of wild creatures. Moose, deer and other animals are almost guaranteed to be seen. Our destination is Unna Lake, ringed by the mountains and highlands of the Cariboo. A short evening walk from the lake takes us to the spectacular Cariboo Falls. Or we might spend our time walking over a headland to look for moose grazing in the river meadows
Day 3 After a beautiful breakfast at this remote lake, we might visit the Falls again, just to enjoy it with the morning light shining on its face. Then with pleasure we retrace our route up the lakes, enjoying the new perspective and opportunities to observe wildlife. We spend our evening at another exceptional Bowron Circuit camp site along Spectacle Lake. On our third morning we pack up after a delicious and leisurely breakfast. With a sense of satisfaction at having sampled the Bowron Chain, we wander back down the lakes and out through the beautiful Bowron Marsh before returning to Wells to ponder our experience.
Day 4 On our fourth morning we pack up after a delicious and leisurely breakfast. With a sense of satisfaction at having sampled the Bowron Chain, we wander back down the lakes and out through the beautiful Bowron Marsh before returning to Wells to ponder our experience.
1-Day Bowron Marsh Wildlife Tour
The Bowron marsh is a rich riverine environment, which, with one splash of water, wilderness and wildlife, and running up against glaciated peaks, encapsulates the essence of the Bowron Lake Chain. An easy wildlife-viewing experience with endless photographic potential and a great family, group or romantic outing. Lunch, equipment, guides and interpretation provided. Visit our Day Tour Page for more photos, video and details.
For your Information
In addition, Bowron Lakes Provincial Park grants us exclusive use of prime, designated campsites. This allows us to travel at a leisurely pace and still know that we will have an uncrowded campsite guaranteeing us privacy and security. We provide high quality two-person tents, canoes and all safety gear. Canoes are portaged on wheeled carts and with some of the gear in them, thus avoiding heavy loads on your shoulders. You need to bring only your own personal gear. If you don't have your own, sleeping bags, pads, and backpacks are also available for rent. We also provide you with delicious and varied hot cooked meals and snacks.
Safety is our highest priority on the chain. Your guide has extensive first aid and wilderness medical skills including BC Ambulance Paramedic Training. We carry a satellite phone for instant communication in the unlikely event of an emergency. Your peace of mind, comfort, and enjoyment are our goal.
Good health, reasonable fitness, and enthusiasm are all that are required. Both seniors and young children enjoy trips with us. However, this is a wilderness experience. Paddling can be challenging in inclement weather and some portages may be hilly or muddy, requiring considerable energy to cross. Having said that, count on your guides to do everything possible to make your trip an enjoyable and memorable one.
I have travelled all over the world to see the sights and been in every national monument in the United States. I have participated in tours which range from luxurious to rustic . . . I don't believe that I have ever been on a trip which has been led with such calmness and assurance . . . Dave never seemed to let a situation fluster him and I enjoyed his songs and humour which were our constant companion. . . . he seemed to relish the opportunity to be of service. His canoeing skills are consummate . . . he must have been born in a canoe. - Tom Rivell, San Francisco
Phone: 1 250 994-2345
Wells & District Chamber of Commerce
Recreational Canoeing Association of British Columbia
Cariboo Tourism Association