Travel Story - The Bowron Lakes 

Scenery the world comes to B.C. to see

Page 3 of 4

All portages in Bowron – and all channels, woodlots, obvious and latent dangers – are well-marked. Necessary map and compass skills consist mostly of not losing either. This is comforting to paddlers whose knuckles turn white when the water starts to flow. But go with it. During early summer, the water moves more swiftly but rarely faster than a riffle. In late summer and early fall, you’ll probably ground yourself in shallow, braided passages.

The southern lakes, Lanezi, Sandy and Unna, are all short paddles. A 20-minute hike from the south end of Unna takes you to the 24 metre high Cariboo Falls, just downstream of the big, yellow warning signs you see on the Cariboo River if you paddle the wrong way. The cool mist and slick rocks are worth the side trip through easy forest.

You used to have to line your canoe up Babcock Creek to start the last leg of the trip but Parks have recently constructed a portage to keep people out of spawning stretches of the creek. The fish are happier but there was something very African Queen about dragging your canoe up a shallow creek the portage just can’t match.

The Spectacle and Swan, connected lakes with a sandbar transition, bring you to the final river to paddle, Bowron. Signs warn paddlers not to proceed upstream. Upstream there be griz. In autumn, they’re gorging themselves on spawners and errant canoeists who ignore signs.

The meandering oxbows of Bowron River are crowded with moose so plentiful they almost pose navigation hazards. Beaver, otter and muskrat swim by on missions of engineering. Waterfowl nest and preen and swim lazily.

While there are really no bad times to paddle Bowron, the best time of all is late September. The crowds of summer are gone, you can go without a reservation – a must during mid-June to early September – and the fishing’s much better. Of course, you can wake up to snow falling but hey, bonus.

The three most important things to bring to Bowron – other than basics like canoe and food – are a full-size axe to split the rounds of firewood available at convenient woodlots, a tarp for the inevitable rains and an unhurried schedule. There’s no technical water to speak of, you can’t get lost if you try, and the scenery is, well, it’s the kind of thing that makes you remember why you live in B.C. and why many of the people you meet on the circuit have come from the other side of the world to be here.

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