Bowron Lake Park is a large wilderness area on the western slopes of the Cariboo Mountain Range. The world-renowned Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is a 116km chain of waterways and connecting land. The full circuit takes between six and 10 days to complete. For a shorter trip, the West Side of the circuit can be paddled in two-to-four days. It is recommended that only people with some wilderness canoeing experience attempt the circuit.
Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit reservations usually sell out the day they become available. For more information, see the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit reservations page.
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.
The park has a tremendous diversity of 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.
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.
Bowron 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 park facilities and the environment. 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 visit the park each year.
Regulations are enforced to ensure that everyone can continue enjoying Bowron Lake Park. Repeated violations or serious infractions may result in charges under the Park Act or eviction from the park.
Canoes and kayaks are allowed on the Canoe Circuit. Motorized boats are not permitted.
Canoe Carts are permitted on the Circuit. To reduce damage to trails, the following restrictions apply:
Visitors to Bowron Lake Park must abide by Section 16 of the BC Park, Conservancy, and Recreation Area Regulations, which states: “Except on Bowron Lake or as authorized by a park officer, not more than six persons may travel together on the circuit of lakes in Bowron Lake Park.” This applies not only to canoeing but also to hiking, portaging, and camping.
In order to protect the visitor experience and reduce impacts on the park, ‘group parties’ and ‘individual parties’ are managed separately and the number of daily departures onto the Canoe Circuit varies and is limited.
An individual Party includes no more than six people. This is the maximum number of people permitted to travel together, unless registered as a group party. Individual parties are required to camp at designated individual campsites, which can be chosen daily on a first come, first served basis. Individual parties are not allowed to camp on sites designated for groups.
A group party includes between seven and 14 people. Parties larger that 14 are not permitted. Groups are required to camp at designated group campsites. Daily arrivals and departures at groupsites are closely managed, with groups being provided their campsite schedule upon arrival at the registration centre.
Portable stereos with external speakers are prohibited on the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit.
Please do not use soap (even biodegradable) for washing in the lakes. If you must wash with soap, do it at least 50m (150ft) inland from the lakeshore, and then deposit soapy water in the outhouse.
Anybody acting as a guide or offering guiding services in Bowron Lake Park must hold a valid park-use permit. For information on park-use permits, see the commercial permit information page.
Permitted commercial operators in Bowron Lake Park are:
Gear that is left in the backcountry as a result of an emergency situation will be retrieved by the owner or user via a letter of authorization or by park rangers when operationally feasible. Gear that is returned to the frontcountry as a result of being found will be held by park operator staff at the registration centre.
It is the responsibility of the owner or 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.
Firearms, crossbows, and bear bangers are prohibited in Bowron Lake Park. Pepper spray is permitted only if it is clearly labelled by the manufacturer as ‘for bear use only’.
Reservations are required for the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. Reservations usually sell out the day they become available. For more information, see the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit reservations page. All reservations must be made through the BC Parks reservation service.
Overnight parking for registered Canoe Circuit users is provided free of charge, near the registration centre.
Reservations are accepted for vehicle-accessible camping and sites are also available on a first come, first served basis. For more information about vehicle-accessible camping at Bowron Lake Park, see ‘vehicle-accessible parking’, below. For information on making a reservation, see the frontcountry camping page. All reservations must be made through the BC Parks reservation service.
Wilderness camping is allowed at camping areas spaced out around the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. The size of the sites varies from two to eight tent pads. All sites provide food caches, outhouses, and fire rings. Some feature picnic shelters or rustic cabins. Refer to the map in the Bowron Lake Park brochure for exact locations.
A Canoe Circuit reservation is required to stay at these areas. For information on making a reservation, see the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit reservations page. All reservations must be made through the BC Parks reservation service.
|Full circuit camping fee||$60 per person|
|West Side camping fee||$30 per person|
There are seven cabins located throughout the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit, which hold from four to six people. They are available throughout the summer and winter. There is no additional charge to use them but they must be shared. Refer to the map in the park brochure for locations of the cabins.
The cabins are for emergency use and for drying out equipment only. They are not intended for camping.
There are no lodges in the park for public use. However, there are two near the park boundary on Bowron Lake.
Backcountry group camping is available along the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. Only one group departure consisting of seven to 14 people is permitted each day. Groups must follow a fixed itinerary as outlined in the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit group camping policies. Reservations are mandatory for groups. For information on making a reservation, see the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit reservations page.
Vehicle-accessible campsites are available at the Bowron Lake Campground. Campsite reservations are accepted and sites are also available on a first come, first served basis. For information on booking a reservation, see the frontcountry camping page.
There are 25 campsites at the campground. Three are doubles sites and the rest are medium-sized single sites. The campsites are shaded and parking is available for extra vehicles.
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.
|Vehicle-accessible camping fee||$18 per party per night|
|BC Senior Camping Discount rate (day after Labour Day to June 14 only)||$9 per senior party per night|
This park has only pit toilets. There are no flush toilets.
Cold-water taps are located throughout Bowron Lake Park’s drive-in campground. Taps are shut off during the off-season.
On the Canoe Circuit, you must use a reliable method of water purification, as no potable water is provided. Either boil drinking water for at least two minutes or use a commercial water filter effective against Giardia (beaver fever).
A gravel, single-wide boat launch is located at the north end of Bowron Lake, near the private lodges. There is a canoe landing dock at the main campground.
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.
Campfires are permitted at Bowron Lake Park. Some firewood is available at woodlots located around the Canoe Circuit. The park operator will inform paddlers of woodlot locations upon registration.
Anyone using the Canoe Circuit must bring a portable stove for cooking.
Aside from Canoe Circuit portages (see below), there are only two developed trails in Bowron Lake Park, which are both accessed from the the Canoe Circuit. These are short trails to viewpoints of Cariboo River Falls and Hunter Lake. Refer to the map in the park 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. Taking shortcuts destroys plant life and soil structure.
Portage trails link all the lakes and waterways of the Canoe Circuit, and provide safe routes around rapids and waterfalls. There are 10.8km 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 special notes, above). During the rainy season, portage trails may become rugged and muddy, making passage challenging in places.
There are beautiful sandy beaches at many of the lakes on the Canoe 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.
There are no lifeguards on duty at BC Parks.
Canoeing and kayaking are by far the most popular activities in Bowron Lake Park. The Canoe Circuit is renowned worldwide, 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.
Making a reservation for the Canoe Circuit is essential as departures are limited and reservations usually sell out on the day they become available. For more information, see the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit reservations page.
To help you plan your trip around the Canoe Circuit, here are more useful resources:
Kayaks are permitted on the Canoe Circuit.
The sport fish in the lakes and rivers on the Canoe Circuit are bull trout, kokanee, rainbow trout, and lake trout. Bring a variety of flies and lures. June and September have proven to be the best months for fishing. People can ice fish on Bowron Lake during the winter.
Anyone fishing or angling in British Columbia must have an appropriate licence. Local lodges and stores at Bowron sell licences.
Dogs and other domestic animals are not permitted on the Canoe Circuit.
Pets are allowed in the vehicle-accessible campground. They must be leashed at all times and are not allowed in park buildings. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement.
Backcountry areas are not suitable for pets due to the potential for problems with bears and other wildlife.
Bicycles must keep to roadways and are not allowed on trails in Bowron Lake Park. In particular, it should be noted that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are not allowed on the trails. E-bikes are restricted to park roads and areas where motorized use is permitted. The only exception to this policy is for authorized and identified trail maintenance bikes conducting work on behalf of BC Parks.
Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
The canoe portage trails can be used as cross-country ski trails. However, there are no set tracks.
Bowron Lake Park is located about 120km east of Quesnel. Drive north on Highway 97 through Quesnel, then follow signs onto Highway 26, which leads through Wells. Approximately one kilometre before the historic townsite of Barkerville, turn left onto the Bowron Lake Road. From there, it’s another 27km to the park entrance on a wide, well-graded dirt road, to where a 25-unit frontcountry campground and the 116km wilderness Canoe Circuit are located.
You must have Google Earth of Google Maps installed to view these KML files:
National Topographic Series 1:50,000 maps of the park are available at most B.C. 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.
Any maps provided on this page are for information only. They may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
All campsite and Canoe Circuit reservations must be made through the BC Parks reservation service.
This park is operated by Shuswap Adams Parks Ltd.
See the Bowron Lake Park: Nature and culture page for information on:
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.