Bowon Lakes Itinerary

Wilderness Adventures in British Columbia & Yukon since 1988 

The area was originally peopled by the Takuli or Carrier who sustained themselves by trapping, hunting, fishing and gathering activities. Archaeological evidence points to earlier habitation but there is no information about who these people may have been.

The Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s, centred in nearby Barkerville, brought many of the first non-natives to the area. Looking for gold, they explored further into the Bowron Lakes and brought attention to these areas. After the gold rush, some remained and trapped and guided. Soldiers returning from World War I and their families were given land grants in the area. This gave rise to farming and the development of a few hunting lodges.

By the 1920s local outfitters proposed that the Bowron Lakes be established as a wildlife sanctuary to ease the decline on the animal populations. This resulted in the creation of a park reserve in 1925. Over the years the size of the area was increased until finally the Bowron Lakes were designated a provincial park in 1961.

The world-renowned Bowron Lake canoe circuit encompasses a 116 km chain of lakes, waterways and connecting portages. 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.

Travel Distance
Portage trails link all the lakes and waterways of the circuit, and provide safe routes around rapids and waterfalls. There are approx. 10.8 km of portages in total. All the portages are good enough for canoe carts. These carts make portaging easier, but still require physical preparedness to wheel them on sometimes rough paths, while ascending or descending to and from lakes. On most days we begin paddling at 9am, take breaks, lazy lunches (weather permitting), and look to get into camp around 4-5 in the afternoon. To protect the environment, we apply a No Trace Camping policy.

Level of Difficulty
The trip is open to people of all abilities; however, it requires physical endurance to paddle and to manage portages. Participants should prepare by executing an exercise program coupled with some walking or running or cycling . Our guides will give instruction to novices to make them feel comfortable with paddling requirements.

Conditions in the Cariboo Mountains environment can range widely between extremes. The only fact you can bet on is that it can change instantly. This means that although we may enjoy fine weather, we must also be prepared for changes. On any given day you may experience sunny, hot, dry weather that is interrupted by periods of rain. When packing, please be prepared for heat waves, rainy weather, and cold spells.

bowron lakes canoeingGroup Size
The maximum group size is 12, two of which are guides. Guides are licensed by the park and carry Wilderness First Aid credentials. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities. People come by themselves or with family/friends. The youngest can be 13 (between 13-18 they must be accompanied by an adult family relation)  and the oldest in their 70s.

This is a camping trip. At night you will sleep in a top of the line tent. Typically, tenting is double occupancy and partners are arranged by gender. You are welcome to bring your own tent but you should contact our office to ascertain the suitability of your tent to this environment. Bathroom facilities will range from outhouses to wilderness sanitation practices.

Canoeing affords us the opportunity to be far more creative with our menu. The food we bring is plentiful, nutritious, and primarily vegetarian (because this keeps better than meat). You can expect meals to be varied and delicious: burritos, rice, pasta, and vegetable stir-fry for dinner; bagels and sandwiches for lunch; pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, fruit, and granola for breakfast. Beverages include herbal and regular tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cider. If you have special dietary restrictions or preferences, be sure to list them on your registration.

We will supply you with a list of outdoor clothing and articles you will need. We supply large and small dry bags to store personal gear during the trip. We also take care of all the group equipment including kitchen and cover. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. We do rent sleeping bags/pads for a nominal charge (cleaning).


  • Food: All meals while on the river, including snacks and beverages.
  • Arrival in Departure City: You should be here at least one day before Day 1.
  • Travel Options: We can meet you in Quesnel, BC, the Bowron Lakes, or join us from Vancouver in our van. (no cost).

Day 1 – Travel day to the Bowron Lakes. Waterproof bags handed out and company orientation at Bowron Lakes.bowron

Day 2 – Park orientation at the registration center. The first portage to Kibbee Lake. Kibbee Lake is a short lake, only 2.4 km long. It is just the ideal length to begin to work on technique and acclimatizing muscles. Another portage will bring us to Indianpoint Lake. We will camp at Kruger Bay, a short paddle after completing the portage from Kibbee Lake.

Day 3 – Iindianpoint Lake narrows & wanders through a small marsh. Beaver dams and lodges dot the area. Another portage will bring us to Isaac Lake, the longest (38 km) lake on the circuit. Some of the most breathtaking alpine scenery is located along Isaac Lake. Our campsite is opposite Wolvervine Mountain, on the elbow of the lake.

Day 4Isaac Lake is notorious for its winds and sudden squalls. We will get an early start to take advantage of the morning calm. This will be a day to enjoy the surrounding grandeur and absence of any portages. Our campsite is about half way down the lake.

Day 5 – Once again we will get an early start to take advantage of the calm. Our paddle continues amidst the surrounding peaks and ridges to our destination at the end of Isaac Lake. This will be a short day. The campsite has a warming, covered shelter.

Day 6 – A series of short portages (to bypass the rough waters of Isaac River) and paddles connects us to McLeary Lake.  McLeary Lake (1.2 km) is but a backwater formed by the confluence of the Isaac and Cariboo Rivers. We will connect with the Cariboo River. The river is a winding (5.2 km) ride into Lanezi Lake. Our campsite is at Turner Creek.

Day 7 – Our paddle on Lanezi Lake takes us past imposing Ishpa Mountain (2530 m). We enter a short section of the Cariboo River at the end of Lanezi. This 1.2 km stretch of river brings us to Sandy Lake. Shallow water and sandy beaches make it an ideal spot to take a dip. At the end of Sandy Lake (4.8 km) we once again enter the Cariboo River for 4 km. Our campsite is Rhum Lake.

bowron lakes canoeingThe vegetation is unique here, as it lies in a rain-shadow area, and as a result, is much drier than surrounding areas. After setting up camp, we will paddle to the south end of the lake and then hike 1.5 km to spectacular Cariboo Falls.

Day 8 – We leave the Cariboo Mountains behind and enter a zone where the topography is undulating.  A series of short portages and paddles (Babcock, Skoi  Lakes) brings us to Spectacle Lake. Pat Point on Spectacle Lake is our campsite.

Day 9 – Rounding Pat Point we enter Swan Lake which is an extension of Spectacle Lakes. At the end of Swan Lake, we will enter the Bowron River.  This is our last day on the circuit. We will leave early in the morning in the hopes of completing our paddle by mid-afternoon. The Bowron River estuary is a prime bird area. There is an immense variety of bird life found here. The Bowron River empties into Bowron Lake and the last lake in the circuit.

We will visit Barkerville, restored historical center of the Cariboo Gold Rush in the afternoon. Overnight stay in Quesnel or Williams Lake.

Day 10 –  Return to Vancouver.

What is included in cost

  • Van Transportation Vancouver to Bowron Lakes & return (Optional)
  • All Bowron Lakes permits and fees
  • Camping fees and equipment
  • Canoes, paddles, PFDs, canoe carts, dry bags
  • Tent
  • Our guides do meal preparation
  • All food while paddling including snacks/beverages
  • Major first aid supplies/Satellite Phone
  • Certified guides
  • Hotel/motel accommodation Day 9

What is excluded in the cost

  • Transportation to Vancouver or other pick up point
  • Meals other than those while canoeing on the lakes.
  • Admission to Barkerville
  • Accommodation other than Day 9
  • Any gratuities

bowron lakes canoeing“We had a wonderful, most amazing time, and we are still boring our friends and family with the photos of the Bowron Lakes. Thank you both VERY much for all your hard work, patience, and humour. You are both excellent leaders and we would love to come on one of your trips again.”
John & Sally Bourton, UK

“I just wanted to send you an email to thank you and Mark and Krista. Bowron Lakes was, bar none, the best canoe trip I have ever been on. You and your team have been exceptional at every step, from helping me choose from among your many tempting trips, to answering my many questions, to being able to explore the awe and beauty of Bowron Lakes with the best guides possible. Mark and Krista are true professionals, whose experience, expertise, great humor and patience made the trip so memorable. I look forward to future trips with Sea to Sky Adventures.”
Chantal Yang, Somerville, MA

“I really want to let you know just how much I enjoyed my trip through the Bowron circuit , I still can not stop thinking or telling everyone how great it was. It

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