The Outrigger Canoe Races (left) at Gibsons is an annual event bringing teams from all over North America.


Besides the great canoe competitions, the serenity of canoeing in desolate lakes and rivers is one reason many people come to BC. We have so much water here that many natives have webbed feet. We start canoeing before we learn to walk. The visitor has lots of areas to choose from: Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland, the Interior and the North all have spectacular places to paddle.



There are many week-long voyages to consider, and lakes and rivers throughout BC to take your canoe to. The lake and rivers systems below have portages linking them together, and take anywhere from a couple of days to weeks to complete. Most have wilderness camping sites, with emphasis on low impact usage.



Sayward Forest: Vancouver Island west from Campbell River on the central east coast of Vancouver Island. Turn off the highway just before the entrance to Strathcona Park. Here lie several lakes with portage routes between them, accessed by logging roads. Unorganized camping on most lakes.


Port Alberni Area: Two large lakes near Port Alberni, on the route to the West Coast are Great Central Lake and Sproat Lakes. Great Central Lake is total wilderness and after canoeing the 30 km lake you can do an overnight hike to Della Falls.


Strathcona Park: There are several lakes in the park that are great for day canoe trips. Camping is available in provincial camp grounds, and the fishing is also good. Watch out for wind tunnels in the larger lakes, such as Buttle and Upper Campbell Lakes.


Nitinat Lake: a fjord lake, on Vancouver Island's west coast. Access from Bamfield. This windy lake meets the West Coast Trail about mid-way. Portages to camping on the beach at Tsuquadra Creek, or to Hobiston and Tsuiat Lakes. Permits required.


Powell River: north-east of the town of Powell River on the Sunshine Coast are a network of lakes joined by short portages. There are different routes so one can spend a day, or up to a week canoeing and camping.


Harrison Lake: a two hour drive east of Vancouver, Harrison lake is famous for its hot springs. It is also a large lake with many of the old forest service camp grounds. The river is almost primeval, and giant sturgeon are often caught in its waters.


Pitt Lake: this long lake - the largest tidal lake in North America - has a number of lake-side camping spots. Abundant wildlife. Stay close to shore in inclement weather. At the top of the lake is a water-fall that drops right into the lake - a natural shower. Look out for the Pitt Lake monster. North the river continues, but not naviagble by paddling, with superb hot springs about 20 km north.


Pender Harbour: this is an overnight, 4 lake paddle, suitable for families. It begins at Mixal Lake, through Catherine Lake, Garden Bay Lake, and on to the ocean. Follow the shore to Sakinaw Lake. Also good protected ocean canoeing in the area.





Bowron Lakes Circuit: 120 km east of Quesnel in Bowron Lake Provincial Park. There are over 100 kms of lake water, 16 km of river travel, some rapids, and approximately 8 km of portages on this 7 to 10 day trek. Reservations and fees for groups.


Turner Lakes: Tweedsmuir park. 3-5 days of superior wilderness canoeing with the spectacular surroundings of the Rainbow Mountains. This is real wild country with eagles, wolverines, black and grizzly bears. The fishing is also great.


Nation Lakes: North of Fort St. James (West from Prince George). There is unorganized camping and a hot springs. Canoe and portages take about 7 to 10 days.


Wells Gray Provincial Park: (Clearwater, Azure Lakes): 121,600 hectares with a 10 lake chain takes 7 to 10 days. 110 km of water and portages. June to Oct is the best time to go. Undeveloped wilderness, and wildlife sanctuary. East of Quesnell. Make reservations.


Nazko Provincial Park: with six lakes to canoe and portage, this trip near Williams Lake takes 2-4 days, with great potential for seeing a variety of wildlife.

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