The small community of McLeese Lake is a family vacation spot along the Cariboo Highway in the beautiful interior of British Columbia, between Williams Lake and Quesnel.
The route from Williams Lake to Quesnel follows the Fraser River, passing points of interest including McLeese Lake, First Nations attractions at Soda Creek, and the trip across the Fraser River via the Marguerite Ferry.
Formerly called Mud Lake, McLeese Lake is named in honour of Robert McLeese, a resident of Soda Creek from 1863 until his death in the 1880s. Robert McLeese was a hotel keeper, store owner, postmaster of Soda Creek for 25 years, owner of a sternwheel river boat, and member of the Legislative Assembly.
The tiny settlement of Soda Creek, located 10 kilometres south of McLeese Lake, is the head of the upper Fraser Canyon, and the beginning of 650 km of navigable river waters to the north. Sternwheelers were transported by road for assembly and launch at Soda Creek, which became the Gold Rush transfer point and terminus for sternwheelers transporting miners north to Quesnel and Barkerville until the railway pushed through in 1920. Soda Creek’s name originates from the carbonate of lime creek bed that bubble like soda water.
McLeese Lake offers gas stations, a cafe, post officer, general store, pub, and a private campground and motel located on the shoreline of McLeese Lake.
Fishing: The Cariboo-Chilcotin region boasts a plethora of lakes and rivers, inviting exploration, outdoor adventure and fishing. Fish for rainbow trout and kokanee on McLeese Lake, or for rainbow and char on Quesnel Lake, east of McLeese Lake. Quesnel Lake is the largest Lake in the Cariboo, with the North Arm extending 77 kilometres and the East Arm reaching out 100 kilometres. Fish for 10-16 pound rainbow trout, lake trout up to 30 or 40 pounds, as well as dolly varden or kokanee. If you insist on having an entire lake to yourself, take a floatplane to one of the remote lakes in the Chilcotins.
Horsefly Lake Provincial Park incorporates the large, deep Horsefly Lake and a number of smaller lakes that provide excellent fly-fishing. Hiking trails skirt the lake and facilities include campsites, a picnic/day-use area, and a boat launch. Horsefly Lake Provincial Park is located due east of McLeese Lake accessed on a well-maintained gravel road.
Winter: Winter activities at include outdoor skating and hockey. Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, tobogganing, and dogsledding are other popular winter activities. Wide open wilderness and frozen lakes invite snowmobilers to the Cariboo during winter to participate in snowmobile races, or to venture out for the pure adventure of it. Cross-country skiers can also head for the 30 kilometres of well-maintained trails at the Bull Mountain Trails, 20 km north of Williams Lake. Downhill skiers and snowboarders can travel to Mt. Timothy Ski Area east of the Cariboo Highway south of Williams Lake, or to Troll Mountain Ski Resort located east of Quesnel.
Hiking and Biking: Logging roads criss-cross the region providing access to scenic vistas, remote wildlife habitat and productive fishing holes.
Paddling: Novice kayakers can try the Lower Horsefly River to Quesnel Lake. The more experienced are in for a real adventure, on the Quesnel River from Likely to Quesnel Forks, and the Cariboo River, putting in at Quesnel Forks. There is no limit to the opportunities for canoeing in the area. You need look no further than Williams Lake itself, or the Chimney Lake Chain, Blue Lake, and McLeese Lake. Check with the Cariboo-Chilcotin Voyageurs Paddling Club for details on lake, river and canoe camping. Even in the hearts of our cities, you’re never far from the wilderness.
Wildlife abounds in the area; Mammals include bears, moose, mule deer, martins, beavers, wolves, foxes, and coyotes, and birdlife includes Sandhill cranes, osprey, Great Horned owls, woodpeckers and hummingbirds. Waterfowl species are numerous, including loons and Canada geese. Spawning Kokanee can be viewed at Sheridan Creek at the northeast end of McLeese Lake. The Kokanee spawn from September to early October, and can be observed where Cariboo Highway 97 crosses Sheridan Creek.
Located south of McLeese Lake is Williams Lake, set in the heart of the Frontier, amid lakes and rolling ranchland. Williams Lake has been the focal point and service centre for the ranches of the Cariboo and Chilcotin regions since the turn of the century. Williams Lake is renowned for the annual Williams Lake Stampede.
Due east of McLeese Lake is Tyee Lake, a locally renowned trophy lake surrounded by ranches, crown forest, lakes, rivers and ponds. Peace and tranquility prevail at Tyee Lake, a fabulous destination for outdoor adventure.
North of Tyee Lake on the Cariboo Highway is the picturesque community of Quesnel, the Gold Panning Capital of the World, located in a quiet valley surrounded by beautiful green mountains and lush forests.
Circle Tours: The Inside Passage Tour, the Native Heritage Tour, and the Circle Tour of Northern BC all incorporate the Cariboo Highway 97 for the journey between Prince George and Vancouver.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.