Bridge Lake Ice Caves in British Columbia’s Cariboo: A Cool Place to Visit on a Hot Day
On a recent trip to Bridge Lake Provincial Park (read our blog), we took a day trip to a nearby destination we had read about that seemed too good to be true on a sweltering Cariboo day – the Bridge Lake Ice Caves.
Now, if you are picturing ice caves in the traditional sense, a glistening and icy blue arch, you will be disappointed. But the Bridge Lake Ice Caves have an even more interesting heritage. A Recreation Sites and Trails BC location in partnership with numerous local organizations, the Bridge Lake Ice Caves highlight a unique geological feature of the Bridge Lake shoreline. The annual freeze/thaw process, coupled with ongoing erosion, has created a shoreline full of crevices into which the annual snowfall melts and refreezes into ice. In the bottom of these caves and crevices, the ice remains cold and persists well into the summer, if not year round.
When we visited in mid August, it was plenty hot walking the trails around the rec site, but when we descended towards the ice caves the air became cooler and cooler the further we descended. Several of the crevices we looked in contained nothing more than moist rock walls and cool temperatures, but in two areas in particular we were able to find actual ice.
According to the interpretive signage and the Recreations Sites and Trails BC website, local historians and storytellers have shared that the ice caves were used by both local First Nations and early European settlers to harvest ice to preserve food and to keep cool.
While the ice caves themselves are cool (both literally and figuratively!), the government of BC and local community organizations have done an excellent job of developing a family-friendly rec site in the heart of the Cariboo. The site has several trails named after local wildlife. On our trip we walked the Low Mobility Wolf Trail, the Beaver Trail, the Coyote Trail, and the Owl Trail. The trails are marked with totems, and represent the animal on whose trail you are travelling.
The low mobility Wolf Trail is a 0.5 kilometre, hard packed, low-grade, gravel nature trail leading from the parking lot to two viewing platforms (one of which is wheelchair accessible) overlooking the ice caves and Bridge Lake. Along the trail there are several outdoor workout facilities, including a balance beam to hop over, a push up/pull up station, and a zig-zag balance walk. At the end of the Wolf Trail there is a serious flight of stairs to run up and down for those looking for more cardio. The workout stations along the Wolf Trail are called Otter, Raven, Loon, and Eagle and each is marked with a totem.
From the end of the Wolf Trail we descended the stairs to the Beaver Trail. The Beaver Trail hugs the lakeshore and is a much rougher trail than the Wolf Trail. Next, we headed up the Coyote Trail, which was very steep and rough. This brought us to the ice caves area where we enjoyed the view and explored. To head back to the parking lot, we took the Owl Trail, which was again wide, flat, and hard packed. Along the trail there were excellent viewpoints of Bridge Lake and plenty of benches to take a break if needed.
When I first heard about the ice caves, the picture that popped into my head turned out to be completely inaccurate to what we experienced. In reality, the Bridge Lake Ice Caves recreation site provides an excellent series of walking and hiking trails. There are beautiful views over Bridge Lake and the ice caves themselves are fascinating both geologically and historically.
For campgrounds in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
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Travel the Stunning Stewart-Cassiar/Highway 37 in Northern BC
The Stewart-Cassiar Highway is 724 km of stunning scenery in British Columbia’s north. My husband and I took our time exploring this amazing area from the Yukon border in the north, to Kitwanga in the south and over to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska.
Our favourite provincial park on the entire trip was Boya Lake, 87 km from the Yukon border. It’s far away from traffic noise, WIFI, and when it’s full it’s still quiet. Boya Lake itself is clear aquamarine with a white glacial silt bottom and 24 of the 44 sites are snugged up to its shore. Even so we didn’t expect to find a lakefront site so I could hardly contain my excitement before jumping out with the dogs and yelling, “Honey, I’m home.” A loon added its mournful call. Aah, four days of being lost in nature.
A stay at Boya wouldn’t be complete without canoeing. No motors are allowed on the lake but canoes are available. With the first dip of the paddle, all my cares disappeared. For me, this is a spiritual place. My days began with tea in a china teacup, watching the squirrels and listening to the loons. They ended with the Master painter sweeping peach and mauve sunsets over the lake. If you want a true getaway, this is the place to go and the only thing wrong with Boya Lake …the stay is never long enough.
Jade City is a fascinating place to stop. They offer travellers free overnight camping, WIFI, and coffee. The family that runs it has been mining jade since the 70s and it’s part of the reality show, “Jade Fever.” Watch them cutting jade outside for sale. I bought a small slab for an RV cutting board. The store has a dizzying selection of jade, rocks and gems.
The main hub for travellers fueling up and getting supplies is Dease Lake. It’s also the jumping-off point for paddlers on the Dease River or adventurers going to Telegraph Creek.
We were welcomed by a stuffed moose in the dining room of the Tatogga Lake Resort, an interesting log building that resembles a museum inside. There’s a one-ton jade boulder by the fuel pumps although they aren’t always open. It’s mainly a seaplane base for tours into the mountains.
South of Tatogga is Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park with 50 sites in a well-looked-after park beside the lake.
We followed the glacial blue waters of the Nigunsaw River before crossing the Bell Irving River bridge to stop at Bell 2 Lodge. Though they principally cater to heliskiers in the winter, during the summer travellers can stay in chalets, the lodge or at the campground. It has 10 full-service sites plus 3 dry camps. There is a restaurant and fuel.
A gorgeous green lake welcomed us to Meziadin Lake Provincial Park where we camped overnight. They have 66 sites, some with power but no sani-dump and we were lucky to get a spot.
No trip would be complete without taking the road from the Meziadian junction to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska. It’s a photographer’s dream. Prepare to be wowed as glaciers drape the towering mountains, and waterfalls plunge from the tops. We pulled in where a waterfall broke up into a myriad of veils. Bear Glacier flows blue from the mountain to a lake beside the road.
Stewart is nestled at the foot of glacier-topped Stewart Mountain, on Portland Canal. We stayed in full-service Bear River RV Park. There is a beautiful boardwalk over the estuary. Heritage buildings and funky storefronts make up the main street. Stay a few days and take a trip to Hyder, Alaska.
Crossing an unguarded border we drove into Hyder that looks like the old west. Remember, just because you crossed into the USA without being questioned, you still deal with the border guards coming back into Canada. Get Hyderized at the old Glacier Inn. Visit Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site for safe bear watching from the boardwalk. We went along 25 km of rough gravel road, sometimes one-lane, up the mountains to see Salmon Glacier. What a breathtaking sight but it cost us a tire. A tire guy drives around Stewart in his truck fixing tires!
After we left Meziadin we stopped at Gitanyow – the Land of the Totems. At one time they had more original totems than anywhere else. Kitwanga village was our home for the night. We visited Gitwangak Battle Hill Historic Site where from the top of the hill tribes fought rivals.
Summing up the Stewart-Cassiar trip my advice would be to prepare for driving through the wilderness, allow plenty of time to explore and learn the history.
Fuel stops from Kitwanga are at the junction of Highways 16 and 37: Gitanyow 19 km; Meziadin Junction 149 km; Stewart 220 km; Bell 2 249 km, Tatogga Lake(not always open) 392 km; Iskut 406 km; Dease Lake 499 km, Junction 37 at Yukon border 724 km.
Other information to help you plan your camping trip include:
Wilderness Adventure Along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Exploring Northern British Columbia – A Circle Tour Adventure: Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Discover British Columbia’s Travel the Great Northern Circle Tour
For camping accommodations in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc
Published: February 2nd, 2023
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