Marble Canyon Provincial Park is nestled in the rugged Pavilion Mountain Range. The limestone canyon in which Marble Canyon Park is located is a rather rare geological formation in British Columbia. That’s what makes picnicking here such an unusual experience. You can sense there’s something different; the white, chalk-faced slopes are certainly not composed of granite as are the nearby Coast Mountains. And the weathered peaks, surmounted by the remarkable Chimney Rock, have the appearance of a crumbling castle wall.
This canyon was once part of a Pacific island chain, another section of which lies in the northwest corner of the province. Thanks to continental drift, they got around. Keep this thought in mind as a waterfall on the far side of suitably named Turquoise Lake reminds you of the power of the elements to eventually wear all things down.
According to that rare breed of mountain cat – the ice climber – Lilooet is the centre of ice climbing in British Columbia, and Marble Canyon Provincial Park has one of the best and most easily accessed icefalls in the region.
Dozens of routes have been opened by Lower Mainland rock climbers over the past decade in this area, which has come to be known as the “Cinderella of BC rock,” because of its still relatively undiscovered beauty.
A maze of canyons run off on both sides of the main canyon, through which the highway makes it way as it passes beside the brilliantly hued Turquoise Lake, Crown Lake, and Pavilion Lake. Chimney Rock, known as Coyote Rock by members of the Fountain Band First Nation, dominates the crenellated skyline. The best description of routes such as the Headwall and the Great Gully are found in Central B.C. Rock by Lyle Knight, a comprehensive climbing guide to routes in the Lillooet region north through the Central Interior and east through the Okanagan and West Kootenays.
Aside from rock climbing, Marble Canyon Provincial Park offers fishing, swimming, scuba diving, camping, canoeing and kayaking. The surrounding lakes; Crown Lake, Turquoise Lake and Pavilion Lake, all contain trout and provide good fishing opportunities. Be sure to take the enjoyable self-guided walking trail, one kilometre in each direction, that leads along this ice-carved, limestone-and-dolomite, marble-streaked canyon. The walk only takes about 30 minutes or so, depending on stops, yet as one of several interpretive plaques along the lake trail says, it takes you back over 500 million years in time. Marble Canyon Park also has some interesting history to it, as the area was inhabited by the Interior Salish people, and later explored by pioneers and prospectors in search of gold. So far, two archaeological sites containing Indian pictographs have been found.
In May 2012, a forest fire burned the slope across the lake from the campground, and along the slope to Pavilion Lake. The fire may have left some trees unstable, and these trees could pose a hazard to people hiking in the area. Park visitors are advised to stay out of fire-affected areas.
Limestone cliffs tower above the campground’s 30 vehicle/tent sites, while the placid waters of Turquoise Lake reflect the sky. A waterfall pours forth a steady stream; the sound helps mute all else. The campground is open year round, with fees collected April to October. Only basic facilities are provided – picnic tables, pit toilets, fire pits, firewood and water. There is no boat launch provided. Note to visitors, the nearest public telephone is at the Pavilion Store, 10km west of Highway 99.
Marble Canyon Provincial Park is located on Hwy 99, 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Lillooet and 25 miles (40 km) west of Cache Creek, in the Cariboo region of British Columbia.
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