The Heart of the Lakes District is Burns Lake, a vibrant and modern community on the Yellowhead Highway that has retained its pioneer spirit and small town charm.
Burns Lake was originally named Burnt Lake by the Boreland Expedition around 1866, during construction of the Collins Telegraph Line, after a tremendous forest fire swept the area, blackening the trees and charring the countryside.
Settlement of Burns Lake began around 1911, with the arrival of construction crews to begin work on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, now part of the Canadian National Railways. The original ‘tent town’ began to grow as more settlers arrived, with incorporation as the Village of Burns Lake in 1923.
After a decline in the prosperous timber industry during the depression years, the demand for forest products rose during and following the Second World War, and by 1948, there were nearly 90 small sawmills operating in the Burns Lake area.
Today, Burns Lake is the main service centre for the entire Lakes District. Forestry is the town’s main industry, followed by ranching and tourism, with the community actively ensuring the sustainable and balanced use of its forests for future generations.
In town, don’t miss the infamous Bucket of Blood, an old log tavern with a colourful history as a fur trading post and gambling den during the 1920s and 1930s.
The Lakes District Museum is one of the premier small-town museums in BC, which tells the story of the pioneer days and houses turn-of-the-century treasures of the area’s history, including a 1920s operating room.
Burns Lake is the northern gateway to the untamed wilderness of Tweedsmuir North Provincial Park, accessible by floatplane from Burns lake, jet-boat from Ootsa Landing, or by foot or horseback via the Alexander MacKenzie Trail. Most of the huge, unpopulated northern half of Tweedsmuir is encircled by the lakes that comprise the Nechako Reservoir. Wilderness guides are available for horseback, canoe and backpack trips through the region.
Babine Lake Marine Park (Pendleton Bay) is a quiet park in a natural setting on the southwest shore of Babine Lake, about 45 kilometres north of Burns Lake. There is a boat launch, fishing for rainbow trout and char, and rustic camping.
Visit BC’s smallest provincial park, the one-hectare Deadman’s Island Provincial Park, an island in Burns Lake which got its name from the death of two construction workers on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
Stellako River Wildlife Management Area protects 503 hectares of river and riparian habitat along the Stellako River near Fraser Lake. The Stellako River is one of the top rainbow trout river fisheries in BC, and is also used by chinook and sockeye salmon. The area is a destination for sport fishing and other recreational opportunities.
The vast water world of the Lakes District extends from the Stikine Mountains in the west to the Omineca Mountain Range in the east. It embraces over 300 wilderness fishing lakes and 3,000 miles of shoreline.
Fishing: With almost twenty lakes in the immediate vicinity, this diminutive freshwater fishing paradise is the place for sport fishing for cutthroat and rainbow trout, char, kokanee, lingcod and salmon. Locals will give you the latest fishing tips and directions to take into the wilderness.
Witness one of the largest salmon runs in the world at the Fulton River Spawning Channel. Visitors are also welcome at the Pinkut Creek and Fulton River Hatcheries, the largest of their type in the world, holding up to 180,000 adult sockeye salmon. The best viewing is in late August and early September.
Lakes District Circle Tour: If you appreciate stunning scenery, including breathtaking views of Tweedsmuir Park and Mount Wells, you can follow the Lakes District Circle Tour from Burns Lake south on Hwy 35 to Francois Lake. Head to the Francois Lake Ferry terminal for the free 20-minute ferry crossing of Francois Lake to Southbank, continuing south to Ootsa Lake before turning west on the Ootsa-Nadina Road, through Wistaria to the western tip of Francois Lake and the Nadina River. From here return east along the Colleymount Road, through Colleymount to Northbank, and back to Burns Lake.
Francois Lake Circle Tour is a loop tour starting in Burns Lake. Travel to Houston and turn off Highway 16 on to the Morice River FSR (to the sawmills). Follow the road along the Morice River, passing Owen Lake and enjoying beautiful views at Nadina Mountain. Turn left at kilometre 53 onto the Owen East FSR. At the junction, follow Colleymount Road along the north shore of Francois Lake through Colleymount to Northbank. Turn left onto Highway 35 to return to Burns Lake. The Francois Lake Circle Tour time is approximately 3-1/2 hours. Stay overnight in a cabin, or camp or park your RV at one of many recreation sites along the route. Francois Lake is gorgeous, with a wonderful view of the mountains of Tweedsmuir Park.
Winter Activities: The arrival of snow turns the Lakes District into a winter playground, with recreation including ice fishing, skating, snowmobiling, and world-famous cross-country skiing on the groomed trails maintained by the Omineca Ski Club, established in 1927. Some of these trails are lit for night skiing.
The 177 kilometre long Babine Lake, just north of Burns Lake, is the longest natural lake in BC.
Paddling: Kayakers and canoeists will enjoy the challenge of the four-day Nanika-Kidprice Canoe Route, a scenic wilderness route which links 5 lakes to the west of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Northern British Columbia enthralls visitors with its beauty, hospitality and vast open wilderness spaces accommodating every outdoor recreation known to man.
Golf: Carnoustie Golf Course is a wonderfully rough and ready par 35, 2,894-yard course located 16 km west of Burns Lake on Highway 16. Carnoustie offers a variety of terrain that makes your game both challenging and fun. Facilities include a putting green, driving range and an attractive licensed Clubhouse offering wonderful views from the clubhouse deck.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
A short drive west of Burns Lake, rockhounds can search for opals, agates and fossils at the Eagle Creek Agate-Opal Site, one of the few known sources of opals in British Columbia. Fossils and agates can also be found along the shores of Ootsa Lake, south of Burns Lake, and Babine Lake to the northwest.
The Burns Lake Bluegrass and Western Swing Music Festival, held in July, attracts hundreds of visitors to the Darter Ranch, 25 km south of Burns Lake at Francois Lake.
Petroglyphs: Look for fascinating First Nations’ petroglyphs on the cliffs at Babine Lake, almost directly opposite the Pinkut Creek spawning Channel.
West of Burns Lake is Houston, located at the confluence of the Bulkley River and Morice River. The community of Houston was established in the early 1900s as the tie-cutting centre for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
East of Burns Lake is Fraser Lake, an attractive lakeside community alongside the Yellowhead Highway 16. The pioneer roots of the area’s history date back to the fur trade, with the establishment in 1806 of a fur-trading post by Simon Fraser near the east end of Fraser Lake.
See the best of Northern BC on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Circle Tour of Northern British Columbia incorporates the Alaska Highway through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Watson Lake in the Yukon, linking with the Stewart/Cassiar Highway and Yellowhead Highway 16 in the south. The Inside Passage Tour and The Native Heritage Tour follow the same route, from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island north by ferry to Prince Rupert. Catch another ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, or venture east on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, and south through the peaceful Cariboo to Vancouver along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Circle Tour of Northern British Columbia incorporates the Alaska Highway through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Watson Lake in the Yukon, linking with the Stewart/Cassiar Highway and Yellowhead Highway 16 in the south. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour follow the same route, from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island north by ferry to Prince Rupert. Catch another ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, or venture east on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, and south through the peaceful Cariboo to Vancouver along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.