Paddling in BC’s Northeast Region
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One glimpse at Northeast BC’s lake-dotted landscape reveals a paddler’s paradise, one that promises few crowds and plenty of scenery. Here you’ll find pristine waterways framed by sweet-smelling pine and spruce forests and well-stocked lakes, home to rainbow trout, walleye, and northern pike.
Below are just some of many prime places to paddle in the Northeast!.
Morfee Lake, Mackenzie
Located an easy two-kilometres from the town of Mackenzie, Morfee Lake is a popular spot with swimmers, boaters, and of course, paddlers. Divided into two sections by a large sandbar, the lake’s unique geography allows for both motorized and non-motorized traffic, with plenty of space for each. First Beach, located along the southern half of the lake, is restricted to canoes, kayaks and electric motor boats while Second Beach plays host to boaters, water skiers and wakeboarders. Morfee’s sandy shoreline makes launching a canoe, kayak or SUP here a breeze, and at nearly four-kilometres long, the lake is perfect for a leisurely day of paddling.
In the Northern Rockies, fly-in fishing and multi-day guided excursions take you to some of the most remote and pristine parts of British Columbia, including the Muskwa-Kechika, a wilderness area the Cruise slowly along the shore, looking for birds and other wildlife, or cast a line in the lake for rainbow trout and longnose sucker. Make sure to pack sandwiches and pastries from Kelly’s Bakery in town for a mid-paddle treat. Post-canoe, stretch your legs on the moderate 17.5-kilometre path that hugs the lake.
While accessible from May to October, fall is an ideal time to visit when the deciduous trees surrounding Morfee Lake start to turn glorious shades of red and yellow and the air is crisp and fresh.
Azouzetta Lake, Pine Pass
BC’s Northeast is a trout fisherman’s dream. There are both wild and introduced stocks, and prime species of trout include lake, bull, and rainbow. Anglers will find healthy populations of Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and northern pike. Burbot, a freshwater cod, puts up a good fight on the line. There’s also a sustaining and native walleye population (a species native to Along the scenic Pine Pass Highway, linking Prince George and Mackenzie to the Peace River, is Azouzetta, a modest-sized lake set within the foothills of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Paddlers can launch from the lake’s northern end (near the Azouzetta Lake Lodge & Campground), which starts fairly wide and gradually narrows to a long finger at its most southern tip, with five islands and a few bays to navigate along the way.
But the lake’s most distinct feature is its surrounding landscape — the stunning Hart Ranges rise up from the lake’s eastern shore casting a watery reflection onto its surface on calm days. In fall, the last of the Autumn sun sets these snow-capped peaks aflame in a burst of gold, orange and red, and in winter, the quiet hush of snow blanketing the trees and hillside makes a peaceful backdrop for a paddle. Summer brings swimming and dockside-lounging along with post-paddle activities like campfires and stargazing, while year-round the fish are biting with rainbow trout and kokanee both available.
In need of gear? Azouzetta Lake Lodge & Campground rents canoes, kayaks and SUPs, along with retro chic A-frame cabins so you can spend a few days enjoying the beauty of the area.
Heart Lake, Chetwynd
Take a paddle break at Heart Lake as you venture towards Chetwynd. Nestled in the Pine Le Moray Provincial Park, Heart Lake offers a beautiful mountain vista and great camping opportunities. With no motorized water crafts permitted on the lake, Heart Lake makes for great, relaxing paddling. While you’re there, try dropping a line for some rainbow or brook trout.
Gwillim Lake and Moose Lake, Tumbler Ridge
Does whispering winds, gentle waves on a rocky shoreline, and picturesque Rocky Mountains sound like your cup of tea? Take a cruise down Highway 29 and stop in at Gwillim Lake Provincial Park. Gwillim lake is a prime location for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and some chilly swimming.
Take a relaxing jaunt around Moose Lake, a small lake located a 35-minute drive from downtown Tumbler Ridge. Moose Lake is perfect for a quick paddle, thanks to its accessible size and close proximity to town, leaving plenty of time to explore the rest of Tumbler Ridge. Despite Moose Lake’s use of motorized boats, you won’t find many others here. This rural waterway is most popular with fellow paddlers and anglers preferring the peace and quiet of the lake’s understated scenery.
A flat strip of pebble beach makes for an easy launching point, and soon you’ll be gliding along a densely treed shoreline, looking for glimpses of birds hopping between branches, and through tall, green lake reeds, where water birds such as mallards, Canada geese and herons can be found nesting. Once the oars are tucked away, head back into town to eat, hike, bike, or dive into the fascinating geological history of the area. Not ready to leave? Overnight at one of the 15 available campsites.
To get to the lake, drive out of town along Highway 29 until you see the turn off for Moose Lake Forest Service Road where it’s another five-kilometres along a well-graded and two-wheel accessible logging road.
Cameron Lake, Hudson’s Hope
Road tripping through the Peace River? Set your sights on Cameron Lake, a convenient rest stop located off Highway 29 between Hudson’s Hope and Chetwynd. The lake is popular with families in summer who come here to swim in its mild waters and use the family-friendly camp facilities and playground. Paddlers don’t need to worry about finding silence and solitude though — there are no motorized vessels allowed on Cameron Lake and plenty of shoreline to explore.
Anglers will want to take note of its well-stocked population of walleye, a cool water fish known for being an evasive and feisty opponent. This freshwater species is mostly nocturnal and during the day hard to find and harder to catch.
Prefer to SUP? Visit in the early morning to watch the cool light of dawn break over the lake’s glassy surface. Cameron Lake is only a 20 minute drive from Hudson’s Hope, making it easy to get to if you’re staying in town.
Fort St. John and Area
Further up the Alaska Highway you’ll find Charlie Lake Provincial Park and the Ross. H MacLean Rotary Campground, two popular spot among locals for boating and fishing. With an abundance of Northern Pike and Walleye, Charlie Lake offers a serene paddling experience with plenty of opportunity to test out your angling skills
Interested in dinosaurs and fossils? Take a short drive from Charlie Lake down Highway 29 and visit Dinosaur Lake. Created upon the completion of the Peace Canyon Dam in 1980, Dinosaur Lake offers incredible views of wildlife and plenty of fossil hunting opportunities to paddlers and boaters alike. Be sure to paddle upstream towards the WAC Bennett Dam and keep your eyes open for eagles.
Note* water levels on Dinosaur Lake can change with little to no notice, use caution when exploring and paddling the lake.
Looking to rent a stand up paddle board? Connect with Jocelyn at Northern Rockies Fitness.
Paddlers who take a keen interest in geography and natural history will appreciate Parker Lake’s unique flora and fauna. Located west of Fort Nelson, this 259-hectare ecological reserve encompasses some of the rarest wetland plants in British Columbia: water hemlock, pitcher plant and Pedicularis macrodonta, a type of lousewort. Birdwatchers will have ample opportunities to look for shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds — up to 83 species have been spotted in the reserve, so make sure to bring a camera and a pair of binoculars with you.
Surrounding the lake is flat, boggy lowland with stands of boreal white and black spruce and gentle sloping hills that cut away one to two kilometres north of the shoreline. You’ll find picnic tables where you can refuel over lunch and snacks and a fire pit to help you warm up after a day spent exploring the water. Parker Lake is a day-use only area, but in town, you’ll find plenty of places to camp, RV and sleep.
The paddle fun doesn’t stop at Parker Lake! Continue up the Alaska Highway and you’ll find yourself in Stone Mountain Provincial Park where you can paddle Summit Lake surrounded by incredible vista of the northern Rocky Mountains. Looking to venture even further? A short drive past Summit Lake you’ll find the Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Surrounded by folded mountains, bountiful wildlife, and abundant wildflowers the striking blue waters of Muncho Lake are a paddlers dream. Stay a few nights at the Northern Rockies Lodge where you can rent canoes to explore Muncho Lake with. Want even more adventure? Northern Rockies Adventures organizes canoe expeditions deep into the Muskwa-Kechika, one of the most wild and remote areas of British Columbia.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous and really want to get away from it all, the Northern Rockies Lodge can fly you in for a private excursion with your canoe into pristine and virtually untouched wilderness, like Mayfield Lake at Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park.
How to Get to Northeast BC
Direct flights are available into Fort St. John and Dawson Creek from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. Vehicle rentals are available from local airports; make sure to reserve in advance.
By road, there are multiple points of entry to Northeast BC. From Vancouver and the Okanagan, expect a two-day drive via Highway 1 and 97. Coming from Edmonton and Grande Prairie? Highway 43 is an easy one-day straight shot; from Calgary, Highways 2 and 22 will connect you to the main artery heading west in a longer but scenic route.
Highway 16 in Northern BC will connect you to Prince George, then onto Highway 97 north. Make sure you have all-season tires and check road conditions before you embark.