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Bowron Lake Provincial Park
About This Park
Bowron Lake Provincial Park is a large wilderness area situated on the western slopes of the Cariboo Mountain Range. The world-renowned Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit encompasses a 116 km chain of lakes, waterways and connecting portages. This wilderness canoe trip takes from 6 to 10 days to complete, depending on your time frame and skill level. For those looking for a shorter trip, the west side of the circuit can be paddled in 2 to 4 days. It is recommended that those who attempt the circuit have some wilderness canoeing experience.
The park has tremendous diversity in topography and vegetation. The rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highlands on the west side of the circuit have a unique character quite different from the imposing Cariboo Mountains on the eastern and southern sections of the circuit. The park is a place of many moods, from bright sunshine and placid blue lakes to angry gray waters and torrential rains.
Bowron Lake Park also has a very pleasant 25 unit drive-in campground. The campground is located near the Registration Centre a short distance from Bowron Lake itself. There are also a few short walking trails nearby.
Increased park visitation during recent years has placed a great deal of pressure on the park’s resources. If we are to preserve the wilderness experience, it is up to each visitor to treat this special area with the respect it deserves.
- Get information on the nearby community of Wells and local services.
Know Before You Go
Please read the Pre-trip Information Booklet [PDF 1.43MB] before reserving or visiting the park. Please view the short orientation video to help plan your trip to the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit.
Visitors to Bowron Lake Parks must abide by Section 16 of the BC Park, Conservancy and Recreation Area Regulations which states the following: 'Except on Bowron Lake or as authorized by a park officer, not more than 6 persons may travel together on the circuit of lakes in Bowron Lake Park.' The intent of this regulation is to preserve the quiet, pristine environment of the Park while travelling on the circuit of lakes, and to limit impacts to natural resources and visitor experience.
Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit Orientation Video
Special RegulationsBowron Lake Park’s rules and regulations have been put in place to ensure the comfort and safety of park visitors and to reduce impacts on the park facilities and natural values from visitor use. The regulations are not optional and will be enforced.
- Canoes and kayaks are allowed on the circuit. Motorized boats are not permitted.
Canoe Carts are permitted on the circuit, but to reduce damage to trails, the following restrictions apply:
- Maximum axle width of canoe carts is 75 cm (30 inches). Wide track tires are recommended.
- If using a cart, the weight of cargo in canoe must not exceed 28 kg (60 lbs.) You must backpack all gear in excess of the 28 kg limit.
In order to protect the quality of wilderness experience and reduce impacts on the park, group parties and individuals parties are managed separately and the number of daily departures onto the canoe circuit vary and are limited; in particular:
Travelling together - encompasses all of the following activities: hiking, portaging, canoeing and camping.
Individual Party - a party no exceeding 6 persons. The maximum number of people permitted to travel together (hiking, portaging, canoeing and camping), unless registered a 'Group Party,' is 6. Individual Parties are required to camp at designated 'Individual Campsites,' which can be chosen on a daily basis, based on the availability of tent pads (first come, first served). Individual Parties are not permitted to camp in campsites designated for groups.
Group Party - a party numbering not less that 7 and not more than 14 persons. Parties larger that 14 are not permitted. Groups are required to camp at designated ‘Group Campsites.' Daily arrivals and departures at group sites are closely managed with groups being provided their campsite schedule upon arrival at the Bowron Lake Registration CentreThese regulations are enforced to ensure that all park visitors may experience the use and enjoyment of Bowron Lake Park.
- Both black and grizzly bears are found in Bowron Lake Provincial Park. Bear-proof caches are provided at designated campsites and must be used at all times. Read the Bear Safety Information.
- Firearms, crossbows and bear bangers are prohibited in Bowron Lake Provincial Park. Pepper spray is permitted only if it is clearly labelled by the manufacturer “for bear use only.”
- Portable stereos with external speakers are prohibited on the Bowron Lake canoe circuit.
- Any person acting as a guide or offering guiding services in Bowron Lake Park must hold a valid Park Use Permit (Park, Conservancy and Recreation Area Regulation, Section 4).
Repeated violations or serious infractions may result in charges under the Park Act and/or eviction from the park. With up to 4,500 people travelling the canoe circuit each season, impacts on the park are considerable. Although you may not immediately see the effects of your actions, please keep in mind the cumulative effect of all the people who will visit the park this year.
- The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is a wilderness area. Anyone planning to paddle the circuit should come to the park well prepared and with some canoeing experience. Read more about being prepared.
- Bowron Lake is a multi-use recreational lake used by both motorized and non-motorized watercraft read and understand the Boating Code of Ethics for Bowron Lake [PDF].
- There are no cellular phone capabilities on the circuit. Six public two-way radios have been placed around the circuit for use in the event of an emergency only (see map area). These radios are not for personal calls or requests for forgotten or broken equipment. Abuse of this equipment will result in prosecution. Visitors may bring their own registered communication system, but are not permitted to access the radio frequencies used by BC Parks.
Visitor Gear/Equipment Return Policy
Gear that is left in the backcountry, as a result of an emergency situation, will be retrieved by the owner/user via a Letter of Authorization (LOA) or by Park Rangers when operationally feasible. It is the responsibility of the owner/user to retrieve their gear or make arrangements for pick up. If gear is not retrieved by end of season, it will be disposed of in accordance with BC Parks disposal policy.
Gear that is returned to frontcountry, as a result of being found, will be held by Park Operating staff at the Registration Center. It is the responsibility of the owner/user to retrieve their gear or make arrangements for pick up. If gear is not retrieved by end of season, it will be disposed of in accordance with BC Parks disposal policy.
Backcounty Canoe Circuit Reservations
Parking for Circuit Users
Overnight parking for registered circuit travellers is provided near the Registration Centre free of charge.
Frontcountry Campsite Reservations
Campsite reservations are accepted at this park and first-come, first-served sites are also available.
Bowron Lake Park is located about 120 kilometres east of Quesnel. Drive north on Highway 97 through Quesnel, then follow signs onto Highway 26, which leads through Wells. Approximately 1km before the historic townsite of Barkerville, turn left onto the Bowron Lake Road. From there it’s another 27 km to the park entrance on a wide, well-graded dirt road where a 25 unit frontcountry campground and the 116 km wilderness canoe circuit are located.
National Topographic Series 1:50,000 maps of the park are available at most BC map retailers. While they may be of interest, they are not necessary for people attempting the Canoe Circuit, as the park map and brochure are sufficient for navigation. Relevant maps are 93H2, 93H3, and 93H6.
Maps and Brochures
- Park Campground Map [PDF]
- Park Brochure [PDF]
- Park Brochure and Map (for printing on “11x17” paper) [PDF 4.10MB]
- Pre-trip Information Booklet [PDF 1.43MB]
- Cariboo River Map [PDF]
- Google Earth KML file of the campsites [KML] Must have Google Earth and/or and Google Maps installed.
- Google Earth KML file of the location of all the emergency radios [KML] Must have Google Earth and/or and Google Maps installed.
- Management Planning Information
The approved management plan for Bowron Lake/Cariboo Mountains/Cariboo River Provincial Parks is now available in PDF format. Because of the large size of the file, the plan is divided into separate section, map and plate files for ease of access:
- Table of Contents, Acknowledgements, Plan Highlights & 1.0 Introduction [PDF]
- 2.0 The Role of the Protected Areas [PDF]
- 3.0 Protected Area Zoning [PDF]
- 4.0 Natural, Cultural Heritage and Recreational Values Management [PDF]
- 5.0 Communications, 6.0 Monitoring Strategy, and 7.0 Plan Implementation [PDF]
- List of Plates & Appendices [PDF]
- Regional Context and Ecosections Map [PDF 1.9MB]
- Zoning Map [PDF]
- Tenures Map [PDF 1.2MB]
- Forest Health and Fire Management Zones [PDF]
- Commercial Recreation Opportunities and Public Use Targets [PDF]
- Plate 1 [PDF] – The dramatic landscape around Mitchell Lake in Cariboo Mountains Park.
- Plate 2 [PDF] – Avalanche tracks at the headwaters of the Mitchell River in Cariboo Mountains Park.
- Plate 3 [PDF] – Looking south down Niagara Creek in Cariboo Mountains Park.
- Plate 4 [PDF] – Looking east into the Betty Wendle addition to Bowron Lake Park.
- Plate 5 [PDF] – Looking northeast in the Cariboo River addition to Bowron Lake Park.
- Plate 6 [PDF] – Looking northeast in the Wolverine addition to Bowron Lake Park.
- Plate 7 [PDF] – Looking northeast across the Matthew River Valley into Ghost Lake. Photo courtesy of Don Olesiuk
- Plate 8 [PDF] – Looking south down Cariboo River Park.
- Plate 9 [PDF] – Typical backcountry in Cariboo Mountains Park.
- Plate 10 [PDF] – Canoeist preparing to enter Kibbee Lake. Photo courtesy of Peter Tasker.
- Plate 11 [PDF] – Looking east up the headwaters of Bowron Lake Park.
- Plate 12 [PDF] – Looking east into Upper Niagara Creek in Cariboo Mountains Park.
- Plate 13 [PDF] – The Mitchell River wetlands.
- Plate 14 [PDF] – Looking west down Ghost Lake in the Natural Environment Zone.
- Plate 15 [PDF] – The Bowron Lake campground in 1973. Photo courtesy of Peter Tasker.
- Plate 16 [PDF] – Looking east down Mitchell Lake. Mitchell River in foreground.
- Plate 17 [PDF] – Looking west over Summit and Stranger Lakes at Quesnel Lake in background.
- Plate 18 [PDF] – Cow moose feeding in the Bowron wetlands.
- Plate 19 [PDF] – The Bowron Lake wetlands.
- Plate 20 [PDF] – Looking northeast across Isaac Lake up the Wolverine Creek. Anonymous.
- Plate 21 [PDF] – Twin Lakes in the alpine of Cariboo Mountains Park and Wells Gray Park.
- Plate 22 [PDF] – One of the old trapper cabins located around the Bowron canoe circuit at McLeary Lake. Photo courtesy of Leif Grandell.
- Plate 23 [PDF] – Trails on the Bowron Circuit have been vastly improved from the knee high mud that existed in 1973. Photo courtesy of Peter Tasker.
- Plate 24 [PDF] – The west side of the Bowron Lake canoe circuit. Photo courtesy of Don Olesiuk.
- Plate 25 [PDF] – A side valley draining into the Matthew River Valley from Cariboo Mountains Park.
Activities Available at this Park
Canoeing and kayaking are by far the most popular activities in Bowron Lake Park. The Canoe Circuit is renowned world-wide, attracting many visitors from Europe, the United States and across Canada.
Canoes and kayaks are allowed on the circuit. Motorized boats are not permitted. Canoes, kayaks, wall tents and canoe carts are available for rent during the summer months through local outfitters as well as at the park through the Park Operator.
Reserving a departure time for the Canoe Circuit is highly recommended since the number of canoes per day is restricted.
Please read the reservations information on this page.
To help plan your trip around the Circuit, here are more useful web pages:
Portage trails link all the lakes and waterways of the Circuit, and provide safe routes around rapids and waterfalls. There are 10.8 km of portages in total. All the portages are built to a high standard and are smooth enough for canoe carts, provided weight and width limits are complied with (see additional information section below). During the rainy season, portage trails may become rugged and muddy, making passage challenging in places.
Other than portages, there are only two developed trails in the park, which are all accessed from the Canoe Circuit. These are short trails to viewpoints of Cariboo River Falls and Hunter Lake.
Refer to the map in the brochure for exact distance and location of trails.
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
Pets on Leash
Dogs and other domestic animals are not permitted on the Canoe Circuit.
Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
Only in the vehicle-accessible campground are pets permitted, but they must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed in park buildings. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement.
There are beautiful sandy beaches on many of the lakes on the circuit. Swimming is a great way to ease tired paddling muscles. Although all the lakes are warm enough for bathing in the summer, you will find the lakes on the West Side warmer. These lakes are stream-fed, whereas the glaciers and snowfields of the Cariboo Mountains feed the east side lakes.
Please do not use soap (even biodegradable) for washing in the lakes. If you must wash with soap, do it at least 50 m (150 ft) inland from the lakeshore, and then deposit soapy water in the outhouse.
There are no lifeguards on duty at provincial parks.
Facilities Available at this Park
A gravel single-wide boat launch is located at the north end of Bowron Lake near the private lodges. Power boats are only permitted on Bowron Lake and are not allowed on the Bowron slough or other lakes in the park. However, Park Rangers do use power boats to travel throughout the canoe circuit.
There is a canoe landing dock at the main campground.
Cabins / Huts
There are 6 cabins located throughout the circuit, that hold from 4 to 6 people. They are available throughout the summer and winter, there is no charge to stay in them and they must be shared. The cabins are for emergency use only and for drying out of equipment. They are not intended for camping. Refer to the map in the brochure for locations of the cabins. There are no lodges in the park for public use; however, there are two located near the park boundary on Bowron Lake.
Campfires are permitted. Paddlers of the Circuit must bring a portable stove for cooking. Some firewood is available at woodlots located around the Circuit; the Park Operator will inform paddlers of woodlot locations upon registration.
Pit or Flush Toilets
Vehicle Accessible Camping
This park offers vehicle-accessible campsites at the Bowron Lake Campground on a first-come, first-served basis – campsite reservations are also accepted. There are 25 sites at the campground consisting of 3 doubles sites and the rest being single sites of medium size. The sites are shaded and parking is available for extra vehicles. The closest store is Bear River Mercantile, located about 1 km away towards Bowron Lake. There is no payphone in the park.
If staff are not available when you arrive at the campground, choose your site and pay later. Staff will be at the campground at least once a day during the camping season.