Canoeing the Bowron Lake Circuit, British Columbia

The Bowron Lake Provincial Park in the Cariboo region of British Columbia is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The park started as a game reserve under the protection of the British Columbia provincial government, was re-categorized as a provincial park in 1961 and has grown over this time to encompass over 300,000 acres of land. The park is named after a local gold rush explorer and gold commissioner, John Bowron. Participants of the canoe circuit are required to register. Only 25 canoes are allowed on the circuit each day.

The Circuit

Travel the 72-mile circuit in a clockwise direction so you are traveling with the flow of the water. The first Lake is Kibbee Lake than you will go on to Indianpoint Lake and Isaac Lake. Take a hike on either side of Issac River to view a 36-foot waterfall. At Issac River, there is an opportunity to experience some white water. It is a stretch of less than half a mile but if you prefer you can portage past this area. Continue through Lanezi, Sandy, and Spectacle Lakes to the home stretch on Bowron Lake. There are several smaller lakes and rivers that you will experience. One of these lakes is Rum Lake and its warm water great for swimming.

Skill Testing

The Bowron Lake is a great place to test your endurance, stamina, and willpower. Everyone has to be self-sufficient and pack in all the gear they will need for the duration of their trip. Although the circuit is suitable for all experience levels it would be wise to practice building a fire, know basic water safety, and be moderately physically fit. The Caribou region is known for its variable weather and its quick changes. Be prepared to wait out a storm in your campsite for a couple hours or a couple days. During rainfall, many of the portages can become slick and challenge your endurance and your patience.


Bears and moose are plentiful in this region. It is imperative to be respectful of these animals and realize that, although they are accustomed to people in their territories, they can still be very protective of their young and their territories. Black bears are more predominant in the area but there are regular grizzly sightings too. You will see and hear many of the birds in the area including the haunting sound of the loons. Occasionally, you may even hear wolves. Keep a lookout for deer, mountain goats, and caribou. Fishing is permitted throughout the circuit for trout, whitefish, and salmon as long as you have the proper permits.

RV Camping

There are beautiful sites along the shore on the Bowron Lake to park your motorhome, set up your tent or rent a cabin. You can rent a canoe or even a small motorized boat to sight see in the immediate area. Although dogs are permitted in the campsite on the Bowron Lake they are prohibited from the canoeing circuit. Dogs and bears are not a good mix.

Short Circuit

From the Bowron Lake to Una Lake is a short circuit called the West Side Trip. It is a less strenuous and a shorter trip than the entire Bowron Lake Circuit. However, it provides many of the same opportunities and pitfalls that the longer journey does. Registration is still required.