Marine Visitor Guide
British Columbia’s extensive coastline and its numerous lakes and rivers provide many water-based recreation opportunities. Adopting the guidelines outlined here will help ensure that your next outing on the water will be an enjoyable experience that also helps to protect the environment. BC’s coastline and waterways were and still are pathways and gathering places for Indigenous Peoples. Treat these places as culturally sensitive and potential archaeological sites.
BC Parks encourages boaters to only anchor in waters greater than 10 metres in depth.
Marine plants, such as kelp or seagrasses, provide important habitats from the lowtide level to 10 metres depth (below chart datum). Anchoring in shallow water or motoring through kelp beds or seagrass meadows can seriously damage these habitats.
Responsible boaters can care for sensitive marine habitats by:
- Understanding nautical charts and tide predictions,
- Using nautical charts, navigation equipment and depth sounders to anchor in water deeper than 10m,
- Not motoring through shallow water where marine plants are abundant,
- Using fixed moorings instead of anchors when in or near kelp beds or seagrasses, and
- Landing on beaches away from kelp beds or seagrass meadows or avoid landing at extreme low tides.
Fish, seabirds, shellfish and other forms of aquatic life require a balance of nutrients, oxygen and clean water to survive. Below are some tips for keeping our aquatic environment pristine:
- Don’t dump garbage or discharge pollutants in our waters.
- Dispose of trash/recycling in port or take it home.
- Don’t pump sewage overboard (in anchorages, marinas, enclosed bays, narrow channels, sensitive habitats, or swimming areas).
- Use bilge cloths/pillows to collect engine oil, fuel, transmission fluid and other pollutants.
- Don’t burn driftwood from saltwater, as this produces toxic air emissions.
- Never fill portable fuel tanks on board.
- Consider not using anti-fouling paints.
- Use toilets/outhouses where available. In underdeveloped areas, plan to pack out your waste and practice no trace camping.
- Maintain regulated distances from marine wildlife (200 metres from killer whales and 100 metres from all other marine mammals and bird colonies).
- If approached by marine mammals, shut off any motors and wait until they pass safely before resuming movement.
- If passing an area with marine mammals, slow motors to minimize wake and engine noise. Avoid splitting up groups of marine mammals or trapping them near shore.
- Keep off bird rookeries.
- Observe wildlife at a distance (use binoculars or a telephoto lens).
- Dot not feed or harass wild animals.
Manage the Spread of Invasive Species
- Clean all parts of your vessel, trailer, and equipment (such as ropes, anchors, and fishing gear) when moving from one waterbody to another to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals.
- Drain all parts of your vessel and gear that can hold water on land before moving to a new location.
- Ensure all items (such as fishing gear, ropes, and anchors) are completely dry before using them in a new location.
Marine Visitor Guide
Smoking Restrictions in BC Parks
Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the backcountry or where you access it, e.g. on park roads, in parking lots, at trailheads. This restriction applies to the smoking and / or vaping of tobacco, cannabis, or other substances.
The purpose of this policy is to increase safety and enjoyment of the visiting public by minimizing their exposure to second-hand smoke, reducing the risk of wildfires, and protecting wildlife and the environment from the hazardous effects of discarded cigarette butts and other litter associated with smoking.
For more information on cannabis legalization and public consumption, Get Cannabis Clarity at cannabis.gov.bc.ca
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Trip Plan: Anyone planning a boating trip should inform a friend or family of their intended route and anticipated return time. AdventureSmart has some good resources on leaving a trip plan.
Conditions: Be prepared for extreme and adverse weather conditions all year long, take extra caution if visiting mountainous and alpine areas. Snow, rain and stormy conditions can occur at any time, even during the summer season. Don’t travel when visibility is poor; wait until you can see well enough to travel safely. Before you depart check the conditions, know the risks, and check the BC Parks website for the most up-to-date trail conditions at each the park.
Communication: Be prepared to be self-sufficient in case of an emergency and consider bringing a satellite communication device such as a personal locator beacon or satellite phone.
Personal Equipment: Select your route, clothing, food, fuel, and equipment based on your pre-trip planning and the skill and fitness level of your group members. Set realistic and achievable goals.
Camp Safe Not Sorry
Marine Campsites: Most marine campsites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and we encourage you to pay your backcountry registration fee online. It’s a convenient way to avoid carrying cash but remember it’s not a reservation system and is not a guarantee that a campsite will be available.
One notable exception is the Bowron Lake Park Canoe Circuit, which must be booked on Discover Camping. In theses situations, the reservation does guarantee you a site as the number of reservations is limited by the number of sites available.
Camping Fees: Fees vary depending on the park you’re visiting. Some are $5/person (e.g., Dionisio Point Provincial Park), some have a per vessel fee (e.g., Gladstone Provincial Park) and some are free. Check the specific webpage for the park you are planning to visit. Always remember to camp with a permit and where permitted.
Campfires: Pack a portable stove for cooking. Do not use natural resources from the park to make a fire even if a fire ring is present. Check the BC Parks website before you go into your favourite location and be prepared for campfire bans.
Use fire rings when available. Where campfires are permitted and fire rings are not available, please ensure you follow these guidelines:
- Prepare your campfire by removing all leaves, twigs and other flammable material from an area extending at least 30 centimetres around the fire
- Scrape or dig down to mineral soil
- Build your campfires at least three metres from any log, stump, snag, standing tree or wooden structure
All campfires require your careful attention and you must ensure:
- They are not larger than 0.5 metres in height and 0.5 metres in diameter
- You have a shovel or eight litres of water nearby;
- You attend your campfire at all times; and
- It is extinguished before leaving it. Sift the cooled ashes with your fingers to be sure.
It is a serious offense to leave your campfire unattended.
If you see a wildfire, report it as soon as possible. Call 1-800-663-5555, or *5555 on a cell phone.
Length of Stay: To create more opportunities for a greater number of park visitors, each person may only camp up to a maximum of 14 nights in each park/calendar year.
Nice People Make Nature Nicer
Respect: Know the park boundaries and respect adjacent Indian Reserves.
Noise: Help yourself and other campers to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the backcountry by avoiding excessive noise.
Hiking: Be courteous to others, and a friendly "hello" goes a long way.
Domestic Pets: Although some people feel that their pet is a part of the family, they can disturb other campers, foul trails, and create potential for problems for you and others by attracting bears. Refer to the park's webpage to determine whether pets are permitted where you intend to visit.
Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol is restricted to registered campsites and boats at anchor/buoy/tied to wharf only and responsible use is expected. Public intoxication or threats to public safety, park resources or park operators will not be tolerated.
Firearms: For your safety, firearms are prohibited unless you are engaged in lawful hunting in parks where hunting is permitted.
Criminal Activities: All criminal activities, such as assault, illegal drug use, theft and vandalism, will be reported to the local enforcement authorities
Keep Nature Serene
Trails: Trails are planned to take you safely through the most interesting and beautiful parts of our parks without damaging sensitive and unique plant and wildlife habitats. Please stay on the trails and remember you are treading on someone’s home.
Wildlife: For your safety and to protect wildlife, do not approach, feed or harass wild animals. No matter how big or small, wild animals are wild and should be left so. Harassing and feeding wildlife can cause them to feel threatened and change their behaviour - which poses a risk to you, other visitors and the animal. If you pack it in - pack it out; litter left in parks attracts wildlife and can result in these animals having to be destroyed.
Natural Resources: Visitors can help protect and maintain the parks by treading lightly. Do not remove or damage cultural and natural resources like kelp, driftwood, rocks, shells, etc. Living or dead, big or small, these all play a role in our parks and must be left undisturbed. It’s an offence to remove, damage or destroy park resources. Consider bringing “camp shoes” with softer soles to minimize disturbance around your campsite.
Outhouses: Supply your own toilet paper. In no instance should garbage ever be placed in the toilet facilities! If you wouldn’t flush it down your toilet at home, it doesn’t belong in an outhouse. Garbage in outhouses can attract wildlife and damage the facilities.
Human Waste: Avoid depositing waste and urinating outside of the outhouses because it can attract wildlife. If you can’t hold it, dig a ‘cathole’ 15 to 20 cm deep on bare ground at least 70 m from water, campsites, and trails. To promote decomposition, choose a site in organic soil. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. Due to wildfire risk, please do not burn toilet paper when using catholes.
Food: Treat your campsite and backcountry kitchen like your home: if you aren’t around, your food shouldn’t be either. Litter and food attract wildlife, so ensure you store food and organic waste, pots, fuel, and toiletry items in a bear cache or bear hang, where available. If your campsite does not have a food cache, remember to bring rope to hang your food and bear attractants from a tree or bring a bear resistant canister. Choose a cooking site away from your shelter, ideally on a durable ground surface. Keep your food and scented toiletries in a cache away from your overnight shelter. Never store food or scented products in your tent.
Garbage: Parks are not self cleaning. If you pack it in, pack it out. This includes organic waste like banana peels and apple cores. Plan ahead by repackaging food to minimize waste and pick up after less thoughtful people who have gone before you.
Grey Water: The parks' lakes and streams are sources of drinking water. Help protect the delicate balance of the water system by washing yourself, your clothes and dishes at least 70 m from lakes or streams. This means carrying water from its source, to the location where washing will occur. Strain out any food particles and pack them out with your garbage, use hot water and elbow grease, not soap or if you must, only a small amount of biodegradable soap, and scatter strained dishwater or dispose of strained waste water in pit toilets. Consider using nylon pantyhose for easy grey water filtration and to easily pack-out food debris.
Drinking Water: Water in the backcountry is typically only available from lakes and streams. All drinking water must be filtered, boiled and/or otherwise treated for your own safety before consumption.
Park rangers and park operators are responsible for ensuring visitors comply with the various Park Act regulations and BC Parks policies. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in enforcement actions, such as eviction from the park and/or a violation ticket being issued.
By observing and following the regulations, you help park rangers direct their effort and attention to other valuable work such as facility maintenance or conservation projects, so please do your part.