Province wide campfire bans in place, Campers know before you go camping.

Bowron Lakes, BC: Not Just a Place to Portage!

With its pristine views and rugged adventures, you would think that the Bowron Lakes only attracts highly skilled hikers and paddlers.  We found this was not the case! Yes we love hiking, camping and paddling but we had no intention of strapping on a backpack or carrying our canoe. We heard what a beautiful area it was, so we set out to explore it.

The Bowron Lakes are located in central B.C. east of Quesnel in the Cariboo Mountain area. The series of eleven lakes and three rivers are about a half-hour drive north-east of the famous historic town of Barkerville.

The Bowron area has activities for a range of outdoor enthusiasts. The famous Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit offers 116 kms of wilderness canoeing, portaging and camping and takes anywhere from six to ten days to complete. There is also a shorter trip on the west side which takes up to four days. Go to Bowron Lake Reservations for information and reservations for the circuit.

Some Quiet Time on Bowron Lake | Photo: C. Stathers

Since we came to camp, kayak, hike and fish with our family, we decided to split our nights between the Bowron Lake Provincial Park and Bowron Lake Lodge and Resort. Both campsites are located at the north and north-west end of Bowron Lake near the start of the circuit.

Outside Bowron Lake Lodge & Resort

The provincial park has 25 sites nestled between the trees where we spent our first nights. We then moved over to the Bowron Lake Lodge and Resort where we had a lake-front site with incredible views and easy access to the lake for our kayaks. The resort also has canoes, kayaks and paddle boards to rent if you don’t bring your own.

Typical Portage Trail | Photo: Kevin Campbell

Close by is the Bear River Mercantile which is well stocked with everything you need from food, souvenirs and camping supplies. It also has some great museum-like historical displays and plenty of local information.

For day trips, we explored the quaint town of Wells which is located about 30 km from Bowron Lakes. Built in the 1930s to accommodate gold miners it once had a population of over 4,000, but now just about 250. In the summer it is a bustling little art-focused town with some well-preserved historic buildings.

Checking Out the Judge’s Seat! | Photo: C. Stathers

Not far down the road is the historic 1860s gold rush town of Barkerville. It has more preserved buildings than you can imagine and live plays with resident actors who entertain along the streets. We had dinner at the Lung Duck Tong Restaurant which was a real hit with our family.

Bowron Actors | Photo: C. Stathers

As much as I loved walking along the boardwalks, two of our favourites were the one-room Williams Creek Schoolhouse and the Richfield Courthouse. At the schoolhouse, listen for the teacher ringing the bell and you can join in on a re-enactment of a class lesson. At the courthouse we learned about the notorious Judge Begbie, the “Hanging Judge” whose job was to travel throughout the area maintaining the law.

Bowron Lake Sunset | Photo: Kevin Campbell

Back at the campsite we had a chance to explore some of the hiking trails on both sides of the lake, kayaking and fishing on north-west end of Bowron Lake, and enjoying some stunning sunsets. The area offers amazing camping, with friendly people and beautiful scenery. Definitely make this area a destination this summer and I bet you will be planning another trip like we are!

For other camping opportunities in the Bowron Lakes area or elsewhere in BC check out the Camping Map.

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Published: June 20, 2019
Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Carol Stathers by Carol Stathers

Carol loves being in the outdoors whether it is hiking, camping, kayaking or enjoying time at the lake. With a health background in nursing, she has written for many health-related journals and is also writing a historical non-fiction book about the Peach Valley area of Summerland where she lives. Along with writing, she and her family love camping. She grew up camping on Vancouver Island and has explored many parts of BC with her husband, three kids and their golden retriever. She and her newly-retired husband just upgraded to a newer trailer and are looking forward to more camping adventures throughout British Columbia.