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Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia

On a recent trip through the Kootenays we spent a few nights at one of my favourite campsites in the area: Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is a large and popular campground 20 minutes east of Nelson. The park has four separate campgrounds, accepts reservations for 132 of its 189 vehicle-accessible sites, and has many things to see and do during your stay.

On our last stay, we camped at the Sandspit Campground, which is by far the largest campsite area. Other campground areas include the Redfish Campground, the Osprey Point Campground, and the Friends Campground, which offers 13 sites with electrical hook ups. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has all the facilities you would expect in such a large and popular provincial park: water taps, a large adventure playground, a sani-station, both pit and flush toilets, and shower buildings at both the Sandspit and Friends campgrounds.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Campsite | Kim Walker

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has quite an interesting history. Archaeological evidence indicates that areas within the park were used as seasonal campsites by Indigenous peoples. In the late 1800s, a wealthy Englishman named Charles W. Busk moved to the Nelson area and established the “Busk Estate” – which included a large mansion where he entertained guests. By 1913 Busk was disenchanted with his new lifestyle and he died only a few years later. Today, all that remains of the original Busk Estate are some stone walls and an oval concrete swimming pool – but these are generally well hidden! One hiking trail in the park is called the Historic Busk Estate Trail and that is where you might start if you wanted to try to find the ruins.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Nature Centre | Kim Walker

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has an excellent nature centre open daily from 8am to 8pm.  There are many programs for all ages run out of the nature centre and it is highly advisable to see what programs are being offered while you are there.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Boat Launch & Wharf | Kim Walker

One of the reasons Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is so popular is that it provides access to more than a kilometre of sandy beaches. There is a boat launch and wharf and watersports including swimming, paddling, waterskiing, and windsurfing are popular.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Canyon Trail | Kim Walker

When we visited, we spent most of our time at the park exploring some of the 9.5 kilometres of hiking and walking trails. We started our hike at the nature centre and set out to explore the spawning channel. Lots of interesting interpretive signage teaches about Kokanee – landlocked Sockeye Salmon. It is interesting to read about how human impacts such as mining in nearby Kimberley and the construction of the Duncan Dam have impacted Kokanee over the years and lead to hatcheries and spawning channels being built. After leaving the spawning channel area we headed uphill along the Canyon Trail to the Canyon Lookout. This is a beautiful trail following the creek with a viewing platform at the end. From there, we took the previously mentioned Historic Busk Estate Trail (no luck finding the swimming pool for us!) all the way back down to Kootenay Lake near the edge of the park. We found the dog beach, then followed a trail along the lakeshore past the Friends Campground, past the Sandspit Campground, and then connected with the Grassland Trail where we found a beautiful and much less busy sandy beach, before completing our loop and re-emerging back at the nature centre for an ice cold drink at their coffee shop. This loop was about 5.5 kilometres long and took us approximately an hour and a half to hike.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is a West Kootenay favourite – and for good reason. With lovely campsites, great services, and lots to explore, this certainly won’t be our last trip to Kokanee Creek.

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Green Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia’s Cariboo is a Great Destination for a Camping Holiday

Green Lake Provincial Park is a series of sites surrounding 14-kilometre long Green Lake in British Columbia’s South Cariboo. Of the park’s eleven locations, six have facilities for visitors.

Camping at Emerald Bay in Green Lake Provincial Park | Kim Walker

The park contains three vehicle accessible campgrounds: Arrowhead, Sunset View, and Emerald Bay. On our most recent trip to Green Lake Provincial Park, we stayed at the Emerald Bay campground, which offers a mix of single and double campsites. We were very fortunate to get one of the waterfront sites, which was lovely as we almost always travel with our kayaks and we were able to keep our kayaks on our own little beach! The 51 sites at Emerald Bay are spacious and generally private, but there are a limited number of waterfront sites, and those that do have direct access to the water often have a steep trail as the access. The Arrowhead campsite, in contrast, contains 16 high-density sites. While you are undeniably close to your neighbours, your site will also be directly on the water with extremely easy access.

The Emerald Bay and Sunset View campgrounds, in addition to two other sites, Blue Spring and Little Arrowhead, all have day use facilities.  Emerald Bay and Sunset View have lovely picnic shelters and all sites have picnic tables. These sites are all great options for a day at the beach!

Emerald Bay Picnic Shelter, Green Lake | Kim Walker

Green Lake is known for its warm, greenish coloured water. Despite only being 14 kilometres long, Green Lake has about 57 kilometres of shoreline. The lake contains numerous small islands and peninsulas, which makes it a perfect destination to explore by kayak.  Paddling from the Emerald Bay campground to the Arrowhead Campground is a nice day trip of about 17 kilometres round trip. Along the way, paddlers will pass by the Black Bear and Little Arrowhead sites. Another lovely paddle is from the Emerald Bay campsite across the lake to the Nolan Creek site, then down to the Green Lake Islands site. When paddling on Green Lake, it is important to be prepared for rough conditions, as the lake tends to get very windy in the afternoon.  A life jacket is a must and all paddlers should be prepared in case of an unexpected swim.

Horseback Riding near Green Lake, Cariboo | Kim Walker

The area surrounding Green Lake is excellent terrain for cycling and horseback riding. On our trip, we did a guided horseback trail ride at a nearby lodge and guest ranch, which was a great experience for this nervous rider. My dad, on the other hand, prefers to cover his distance in the South Cariboo by bicycle, and enjoys nice long road rides while camped at Green Lake.

Sunset on Green Lake, Cariboo | Kim Walker

Green Lake Provincial Park makes a great basecamp for exploring the region, and a few highlights include nearby Chasm Provincial Park, the Bridge Lake Ice Caves, driving to Lone Butte to see the historic water tower, and checking out the many other lakes in the area, including Bridge Lake .

Visiting Green Lake Provincial Park each summer is a tradition for many families. The park offers perfect beachfront relaxation with excellent recreation opportunities both on and off the water.

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For campgrounds in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

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Experience Clearwater Lake, Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia

Wells Gray Provincial Park offers a multitude of front country and backcountry opportunities. From waterfall viewing to hiking, to water sports, this park has it all. 

Probably the most well-known feature of Wells Gray is Helmcken Falls, a dramatic 140 metre plunge 43 kilometres from the community of Clearwater. Helmcken Falls marks the end of the paved road into Wells Gray, and serves as a turn around point for many visitors. However, for those who continue along the gravel road beyond Helmcken, a camping and paddling dream awaits at Clearwater Lake. 

Launching the Kayak at Clearwater Lake | Kim Walker

The Clearwater Lake/Falls Creek front country campgrounds offer 80 sites near Clearwater Lake and along the Clearwater River. The lake is not accessible from the campground for swimming et cetera as the campground is located at the precipice of Osprey Falls, where Clearwater Lake flows into the Clearwater River. If you are looking for a campsite to take your small children swimming at a sandy beach, this is probably not the place for you. If you are looking for a place to enjoy strolling the trails along the fenced edge of the gorge, to relax in a tree-shaded campsite, or to launch a kayak or canoe excursion into the backcountry of the Clearwater and Azure Lakes Marine area, you are in the right place. 

Kayaking on Clearwater Lake | Kim Walker

The Clearwater Lake and Azure Lake marine system includes two 22 kilometre long lakes separated by a short portaged river section. Paddlers will launch at the boat launch at the south end of Clearwater Lake, just a kilometre or so north of the Clearwater Lake/Falls creek campground. This boat launch is the end of the road for vehicles, and beyond this, the only way further into this part of Wells Gray is by foot, boat, or plane. 

Divers Bluff Campsite, Wells Gray Provincial Park | Kim Walker

After launching, paddlers will head north along north-south running Clearwater Lake. As a day trip, we paddled north along the east side of the lake to the Bar View Campground, then, thanks to calm weather, crossed the lake and headed back south towards the Divers Bluff Campground. We then continued south along the west side of the lake to the Caribou Beach Campground, before crossing back across the narrow neck of the lake to the boat launch where we completed our 15 or so kilometre paddle. 

At Rainbow Falls Campground | Kim Walker

Clearwater Lake offers 8 backcountry marine campsites with a total of 33 tent sites. The sites are nicely spaced along both the east and west shores of the lake. When paddlers reach the north end of Clearwater Lake, they can choose to turn around, or use the 500-metre portage to access the east-west running Azure Lake for another 22 kilometres of lake. The campsites on Azure Lake are a bit more few and far between, with 4 campsites and a total of 21 tent sites on the lake. Three of the camping areas are located shortly after the portage, and the final campsite is located at the far end of Azure Lake, so planning for weather, wind, and distance are all required. Azure Lake has steep slopes on both sides of the lake, which means there are several significant waterfalls to enjoy including Garnet Falls, Roostertail Falls, and the crown jewel, Rainbow Falls, located right at the end of Azure Lake. 

Boat Access Waterfall | Kim Walker

If it all sounds a bit much for you, Clearwater Lake Tours offers a full day trip along Clearwater and Azure lakes, with a lovely lunch stop at Rainbow Falls where you can hike to the falls, swim, canoe, or fish.  

From a front country campsite with a backcountry vibe, to a genuine backcountry experience, to a backcountry tour with front country amenities, there is something for everyone at Wells Gray’s Clearwater Lake. 

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For camping in this area and throughout BC go to the Camping Map

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Big Bar Lake Provincial Park in the Cariboo, British Columbia

If you don’t mind a little jaunt off the beaten (and paved) path, Big Bar Lake Provincial Park, 42 kilometres northwest of Clinton, makes an excellent weekend escape in the South Cariboo.

Dusk was setting as we arrived at our campsite and a quick reconnaissance showed that we had a path directly from our site down to the water’s edge. In addition to these site-to-lake trails, the park also has numerous locations to access the water including a boat launch and day use area with picnic tables and an adventure playground.

Campsite at Big Bar Lake Provincial Park | Kimberly Walker

Big Bar Lake is a gorgeous canoe destination. The water sparkles and there are numerous places where the shallow, sandy bottom gives an almost tropical appearance. The lake is well known as a fishing destination, but despite our best efforts we came up empty handed on this trip. Other fishermen we talked to said the fishing had been hot a few days before, but things had slowed considerably, which made us feel slightly better about the situation!

Plenty of Places to Paddle Your Canoe | Kimberly Walker

After tucking our rods away, we decided to paddle to the end of the lake and look at all the cabins on the opposite side of the lake from the campground. The cabins range from gorgeous and modern to derelict and abandoned looking. Some rustic structures right near the end of the lake left me wondering the history of the property and wishing I knew more about the history of the region as a whole.

Otter Marsh at Big Bar Lake Provincial Park | Kimberly Walker

Before long, unsettled weather struck and we could see black clouds building at the campground end of the lake. Bad weather can come up quickly on the water, and we had barely made the decision to turn around and head home when we were stuck with gale force winds, driving rain and hail, and extremely rough water. Boating safety is paramount, and it is essential that anyone headed out on the water, no matter how calm it appears, be prepared. At an absolute minimum, this means always wearing a life jacket. Because we were canoeing with a dog, we decided to take extra precautions and pull up on shore and wait for the squall to pass. As we were hunkered down, we saw several paddle boarders wearing only bathing suits and carrying no safety equipment whatsoever struggling to make it to shore. Thankfully, the storm passed quickly and everyone was safe, but this was a sobering reminder of how quickly things can turn bad on the water.

Walk Along Otter Marsh | Kimberly Walker

Next, we decided to trade water for land and hike the 3.5 kilometre Otter Marsh Interpretive Trail that leaves from the day use area of the park. Make sure you wear mosquito protection as the mosquitos were ferocious and most of our hike actually took place at a light jog. But the views were spectacular and the interpretive signage along the trail did a great job of educating us about the area and pointing out specific features to look for including tree species, glacial activity, volcanic activity, and the diversity of grassland and forest habitats.

View of Big Bar Lake | Kimberly Walker

Since we travelled early in the camping season, we were happy to have a waterfront site in the Lakeside Campground from which we could view the lake while sipping tea and reading books. If we travelled to Big Bar Lake during the height of summer, the Upper Campground, which was completely empty while we were there, might be more appealing as it provides more shade and larger campsites, including double sites, than the higher density, waterfront area where we stayed.

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Whether you are seeking land or water adventures, it’s always a great day to #campinbc and Big Bar Lake Provincial Park is an excellent destination to explore.

For other camping options in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia go to our Camping Map.

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Plan a Memorable Vacation in BC’s Stunning Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago

Wildlife lovers rejoice! Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago are an ideal destination if your perfect holiday includes a chance of spotting whales, bears, eagles, and more.

Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker
Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker

Broughton Archipelago Provincial Park, sandwiched between Northern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, is certainly in contention for one of the most beautiful parts of the province. With towering cliffs, midden beaches, rocky islets, and protected passageways through lushly forested islands, the Broughton Archipelago makes up the largest marine park in British Columbia. The park, established in 1992, is a mecca for boaters, and it is known worldwide as a premier kayaking destination. When we were in the Broughton’s, we spoke with an experienced kayaker who had flown from South Africa, purchased a kayak off Craigslist in Vancouver, rented fishing equipment, and planned to spend five nights (longer if he could stretch his food by catching dinner!) in what he considered one of the world’s best kayaking areas.

The marine park makes up only part of the area considered the Broughton Archipelago. To start our trip, we took an hour-long water taxi from Telegraph Cove to the Burdwood Group – a collection of small islands at the meeting point of Fife Sound, Tribune Channel, and Penphrase Passage. When we landed on the main group site in the Burdwoods, it was like we had been transported to a tropical island. The area was established as a BC Conservancy in 2009 in order to protect both aquatic and forest habitats as well as sites of cultural significance in the traditional territories of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em First Nations, including the shell midden beach on which we landed. (Note: Since this trip the Burdwood Group has been closed for camping and there are now specific sites approved for camping in Mamalilikulla Territory. BC Marine Trails has good information available. Check here for details.)

Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker
Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker

An afternoon paddle had us marvelling at Deep Sea Bluff – a towering cliff on mainland British Columbia near where Captain George Vancouver reportedly anchored during his exploration of the BC coast in 1793. When we arrived at the bluffs, the tide was low and the barnacle-covered intertidal zone (in this case, entirely vertical) was taller than me. After the mandatory photo “touching the mainland” we headed back to camp. Our two days in the Burdwood Group consisted of circumnavigating small islands, exploring the rather desolate feeling Echo Bay Marine Park – complete with a collapsing community recreation centre and a picturesque but condemned wharf – and visiting the fascinating personal museum collection of Billy Proctor, a lifelong resident of the Broughton Archipelago and passionate beachcomber, fisherman, and logger. Bring your wallet and pick up a copy of one of Billy’s books for a fascinating read about the Broughtons.

Billy Proctor's Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker
Billy Proctor’s Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker

After two days in what can only be described as beachfront paradise, we packed up and headed for the ominously named Insect Island – hoping all the while that the name had nothing to do with mosquitos! After a mostly mosquito-free night in a lovely campground (despite the decidedly uphill hike to the tenting area), we continued our travels by paddling down Misty Passage, past Monday Anchorage, through the Coach Islets, to Sedge Island. At this point, so inspired by the wide-open vistas we had seen for most of the day and not wanting to camp on the rather boxed in Sedge Island campsite, we carried on to the spectacular White Cliff Islets – one of my favourite locations from the entire trip. These tiny rock islets on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait are nothing short of spectacular. When we visited, the few trees on the islets were filled with keen-eyed eagles and fish darted through the kelp beds below us as we paddled along.

Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker
Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker

After exploring the islets, we headed for the campsite on nearby Owl Island. Perfectly placed on the island, the campground offers a protected bay with morning sun for launching and a short trail through the trees to a gorgeous sunset viewing beach. A sunset paddle around the aptly named Fire Island was spectacular as the sun sank below the horizon. One of the best parts of kayaking is the connection immediately forged with nature and your campground compatriots.  At the recommendation of some fellow kayakers, the next day we headed for Flower Island where, we were told, we “wouldn’t be able to sleep because of the whales.”

Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker
Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker

The paddle from Owl to Flower was another gorgeous day on the water. Once we passed Bold Head on Swanson Island it became apparent that Blackfish Sound was indeed where the whales congregate. The four-or-so kilometre paddle along Swanson Island was a non-stop show of whale blows, with our heads constantly swivelling to try and catch sight of the whales. Just after arriving at Flower Island we were treated to one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen – a nearly five-minute performance of a humpback whale blowing and slapping its tail (known as tail lobbing) just offshore. The marine activity carried on throughout the evening with appearances from dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, humpback whales, and orcas. It was truly one of the best wildlife experiences of my life.

In the morning we paddled back to Telegraph Cove, completing our journey from the mainland back to Vancouver Island. Telegraph Cove is the perfect launching point for a kayak trip to the Broughtons, and there are numerous tour operators on the North Island who provide guided trips. If kayaking is not your speed, consider a trip with Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Wildlife Adventures or spend a full day observing grizzly bears in Knight Inlet with Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures.

Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker
Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is also a great destination in its own right. The community balloons in population during the summer months and as such, it is one of the most tourist-focused destinations on the North Island. Several coffee shops provide drinks and snacks, a pub on the pier offers plenty of choices including BBQ salmon dinners, and the excellent Whale Interpretive Centre is a must-visit for those wanting to know more about the creatures that call the Johnstone Strait home. Telegraph Cove Resort Forest Campground offers camping and moorage.

Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker
Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is a first-class destination for those wishing to get in touch with nature. From self-guided trips for experienced kayakers to afternoon whale watching excursions, the Broughton Archipelago is sure to delight your whole family.

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For places to camp in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC, #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Published: September 13th, 2018

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