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|GuideBook||Chris Harris: Bowron Lake Loop Circuit|
|Mailed to WacList||09/05/2007|
This August 23-30, we canoed the Bowron Lakes Canoe circuit. It is a 116km circuit to the west of Jasper National Park in British Columbia. The circuit is world-famous among canoers. The circuit is generally done in 5-8 days, and we took 8. It features mostly lake paddling with a few easy portages between lakes; however, it does have one river section on the Cariboo River. It has one class II rapid, but that can be portaged around. This is classified as a wilderness route, but I would put wilderness in quotes. Unless you go in late-fall or early-spring, you will see people every day. All the campsites are designated and are developed with fire rings, tent platforms and pit toilets. Some sites have cooking structures and on each big lake there is at least one public cabin for drying out and such.
Pictures of our trip with commentary are here: picasaweb.google.com/e2holmes/BowronLakeLoop
Getting there: It is a 10 hr drive from Seattle to Quesnel (south of Prince George). From Quesnel, it is another 2 hrs east to the Bowron Lakes Provencial Park.
There are a couple big lodges that do most of the rentals. They have good canoes and canoe carts (wheels). The two lodges are Becker Lodge and Bowron Lake Lodge. We rented with Bowron Lake Lodge. The canoes from this lodge were fine but their wheels were very heavy (like 25+ lbs) -- albeit indestructible. Next time, I'd try Becker Lodge which has lighter wheels and the same types of canoes. If you canoe much at all, I strongly suggest buying your own good paddle. Rental paddles are always heavy and not very nice. My light wooden bent-shaft paddle was highly coveted by all paddlers in my boat.
If your are a group of 6 or fewer, you can try the drop-in spots. Each day, there are 4 spots for drop-ins. Otherwise, you can get a reservation and if you are a group of 7+, you must have a reservation. Search for Bowron Lakes online and you'll quickly find the reservation info. You need to get reservations well in advance. I made reservations in March and there was only 1 group spot available in the 2-week window we had for doing the trip. Being a group had its pluses and minuses. The minus was that we were assigned a schedule (7 nights) and were required to stay at our designated group site each night. The pluses were that a) we had a big reserved site all to ourselves and didn't have to compete for sites, b) we were forced to slow down a bit and take 8 days instead of 6 that we might have otherwise, c) the groups sites were generally away from others and quite nicely situated.
What skill level is required:
Although most of the paddling is lakes, you need some decent paddling skills and a healthy dose of common sense. 1) Flipping in many of the lakes would be bad since they are cold (like the temp of the ocean here in WA). 2) You must paddle the Cariboo River. The river has a handful of class 1+ spots although it is mostly gentle. Although the river is not hard, it is wicked cold (MUCH colder than the ocean in WA) and there are snags all over and a few tight bends to negotiate. Flipping would be bad news -- however that said, the river is not wide and you would quickly make it to shore but sans gear and hypothermic. This route sees a lot of beginners and we saw 2 recent flips; 1 was from the night before and we helped collect their gear. There is a radio at the end of the river and a ranger boat that does rescues. We saw both boat and helicopter rescues during our week on the circuit.
Weather and bugs:
This route gets a lot of rain and wind. We really lucked out as we often had glassy water even in the afternoon. But normally the wind kicks up every day at around 2-3pm. If you can manage to get an early start, you will avoid most of the choppy water. It rained about every day on our trip, but we rarely paddled in the rain and had plenty of blue sky. This area is known for bugs, but by late-August when we did the route, they were all gone and we rarely saw mosquitoes. If you come earlier in the summer, be prepared.
How much paddling per day:
On our 8 day trip, we left camp at 10-11am and were in our next camp between 4-5pm usually -- except for one long day when we got in at 6pm. We took a long lunch break each day. We were heavily loaded with 4 people in each canoe (2 adult-sized people and 2 kids). But we are fairly strong paddlers and generally went a little faster on the water than most other groups.