Bowron Lake Provincial Park is beautifully situated on the western
slopes of the Cariboo Mountains and offers a wide variety of recreational
opportunities: camping, canoeing, boating, kayaking, hiking, swimming,
fishing, and winter recreation.
Wilfrid Laurier in the Cariboos
Particularly notable in this large backcountry
park is its renowned canoe circuit. Bowron park lies across
the boundaries of two regional landscapes.
The western portion of the park is in the Quesnel
Highlands (a subsection of the Interior Plateau) and the eastern
portion is in the Cariboo Mountains. The Bowron and Spectacle Lakes
waterway marks the boundary between these two landscapes.
For canoe enthusiasts desiring a challenge, the
Bowron Lakes Canoe Route circuit
certainly delivers. Its extended 72-mile (116-km) rectangular canoe
and kayak route through a chain of 6 major lakes, rivers, and creeks
linked by portages is legendary, drawing visitors from around the
globe. Plan on taking seven to ten days to complete the route, although
it can be done in less time.
You must prepare well for the Bowron circuit, and
paddlers should have some wilderness canoeing experience, unless
accompanied or led by an experienced guide. That means three things:
planning, physical fitness, and proper equipment (including food).
You may have to share your campsites with other parties, so it's
a good idea to limit the number in your group. If your number exceeds
six, you must obtain prior permission from the District Manager
to make the trip; reservations (for any size of party) are required
in summer. I recommend canoeing here in September - there will be
fewer people, fewer insects, and more beautiful colours than at
This wilderness canoe trip takes from 6 to 10 days
to complete, depending on your time frame and skill level. Even
if you're planning to do a seven-day trip, it's a good idea to bring
enough food for ten days. You may become stormbound for a day or
two. There can be high winds on the lake in the afternoons, and
the nights can be chilly. For those looking for a shorter trip,
the west side of the circuit can be paddled in 2 to 4 days. There
are several trappers’ cabins along the canoe circuit, dating from
Guides to the Bowron Lakes canoe route include
The Bowron Lakes; British Columbia's Wilderness Canoe Circuit
by Chris Harris and Jenny Wright, The Indispensable Guide To
Canoeing The Bowron Lakes by Chris Harris, and Canoeing Bowron
Lakes Provincial Park by Richard Wright.
The park has tremendous diversity in topography
and vegetation. The rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highlands on
the west side of the circuit have a unique character quite different
from the imposing Cariboo Mountains on the eastern and southern
sections of the circuit. The park is a place of many moods, from
bright sunshine and placid blue lakes to angry gray waters and torrential
The entire park is a wildlife sanctuary, including
prime habitat for moose and grizzly bears, so be on your best backcountry
camping behaviour, and take extra caution because of bears. A wide
variety of wildlife lives in the park, including moose, deer, mountain
goat caribou, black bear, grizzly bear, waterfowl, beaver, and otter.
Rainbow trout, lake trout, bull trout, Rocky Mountain whitefish
and Kokanee salmon inhabit the waters of the park. The Bowron Lakes
are also a major stopover on the bird migration route, so bring
your binoculars and telephoto lens. In the winter, trumpeter swans
depend on the open waters of the Bowron Marsh and Cariboo River.
Firearms and crossbows are prohibited in Bowron Lake Provincial
Park. Pepper spray is permitted only if it is clearly labelled by
the manufacturer "for bear use only". Use the bear caches near the
There are 25 vehicle/tent sites in a drive-in campground,
and numerous wilderness sites in the park. The campground is located
near the Registration Centre a short distance from Bowron Lake itself.
Reservations for the vehicle-access campground are not available.
All drive-in campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are also a few short walking trails nearby. To reduce the
impact on the park's natural resources, park rules and regulations
are in effect, and are strictly enforced.
Facilities within the 149,207-hectare park include
pit toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, firewood, and water. Cooking
shelters are located throughout the park, as well as weather shelters
for those needing to dry personal items. These shelters are intended
for cooking and drying, please do not use them for camping purposes. For
the drive-in campground, fees are collected from May to September.
Wilderness camping is allowed at camping areas
spaced out around the Circuit. The size of the sites varies from
two to eight tent pads. All sites provide bear food caches, outhouses
and fire rings. Some feature picnic shelters or rustic cabins.
Call 1-800-435 5622 for reservations and general
information. The Registration Centre is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
seven days per week, from May 15 to September 30. The canoe circuit
is closed for the season after September 30. Supplies, including
canoe rentals, are available at several lodges and resorts nearby,
and experienced, licenced guiding companies are located in Wells.
Bowron Lake Provincial Park is located due east
of Quesnel, Wells and Barkerville in the Cariboo region of British
Columbia. Drive the Cariboo Highway 97 to Quesnel, and take Highway
26 east of Quesnel for 68 miles (110 km). At the end of Highway
26, continue along the gravel access road for about 11 miles (18