Canadian Canoe Routes

Murtle Lake vs. Bowron Lakes
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Author:  marcjboudreau [ June 16th, 2008, 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Murtle Lake vs. Bowron Lakes


My wife and I have about 8 days to eat up this summer and we're looking at doing a canoe trip.
If you have to choose between Murtle Lake and the Bowron Lakes which would you prefer? Or better yet if you had 8-9 days to do a canoe trip in BC which would it be?
Any/all info is appreciated. Thanks!

Author:  dave lanthier [ June 17th, 2008, 10:02 am ]
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Murtle lake offers the most solitude ..

Author:  novice [ June 17th, 2008, 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  murtle vs bowron

I've done both and they each offer a different kind of trip.

Bowron Lakes can be done at a fairly leisurely pace if you have 8 - 9 days, but you will be moving camp most nights and portaging lots. Definitely a more active trip.

Murtle Lake has the one big portage at the beginning & end, with just beautiful paddling in between. Last year we paddled up to Leo Island on the west arm & then day tripped around that side for 4 days. Lots of good fishing, hiking & beaches. We did most of the north arm the year before.

Murtle is a big lake and the wind & waves can come up suddenly - a reasonable level of paddling skill is needed.

So it depends on how you want to spend your 8 - 9 days - lazy & relaxed or busy & active.

Both trips are well worth it.

My avatar is paddling south on Murtle - heading towards the lagoon & portage trail...

Author:  marcjboudreau [ June 17th, 2008, 4:15 pm ]
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Thanks for the input.
After doing some additional research, we've decided to do the Bowrons. My wife was pretty keen on wanting to do this trip as it's been on her "List". It's been on mine as well, so we might as well clear it off.
We're booked to launch on Aug. 1 and we're finishing up on Aug. 8. If anyone else is on the circuit then look for me.

Author:  SGrant [ June 18th, 2008, 12:28 am ]
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We've visited the Bowron Circuit and Murtle Lake three times each in the last 5 years.

Murtle Lake is excellent. The largest lake in North America with no powered boats allowed. Only a 2.5km portage to reach the lake, and wheeled carts can be used for that. It's between 90-100km to go around the lake's perimeter. There are some attractive hiking trails onto the mountains around the lake.

On the other hand, the fact it is one lake makes other parties more visible, (like campfires and smoke from other campsites in the evening) eroding a sense of unpeopled wilderness. Most of the campsites are prone to being buggy during the best part of the summer. The 23km approach road will stress sedans. 7hr driving from Vancouver. We've reached the Tropicana campsite or the north end the same day we've left Vancouver.

Bowron Lakes is world class. It provides a variety of canoeing and scenery. The layout and single direction of travel mean you are usually alone on the water, and you can usually have the smaller campsites to yourselves. There are about a dozen portages, but all can be done using canoe carts.

However, there is an ample fee to use this park. You are urged to spend even more money on the basically unnecessary reservation system. A party of one boat does not need a reservation. I've heard there are extensive burns marring the scenery now. The approach drive is all paved, but rather long. 8hr from Vancouver. Usually involves a night camped at Bowron Lake before you start the circuit.

Both of these destinations have been thoroughly discussed before in this forum. Both are somewhat prone to bad weather, especially in the more northern mountainous regions. Logging clearcuts are visible from both, especially Murtle. We've never had trouble with bears at either.

Those more oriented to moving water probably would suggest something involving river travel, but that's not my scene. And I don't think BC has any river trips that are globally reknown as is Bowron Lakes. There are some world class saltwater trips to do, but they bring a host of considerations that put them lower in the "one trip" preference list than Bowron. The first step in preparing would be to look up the BC Parks website for the circuit, and take it from there.


Rescue last month in Bowron Lakes
Reactions to the story: Isaac Lake does not drain into the Cariboo River, it drains into the Isaac River, the Cariboo River section is beyond McLeary Lake. The Isaac River has an immediate sharp turn, but the Cariboo does not, so I don't know exactly where this happened.
We have never been advised by park staff on how much food to carry.

Author:  marcjboudreau [ June 18th, 2008, 9:28 am ]
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Thanks for the info Steve, I appreciate it. We took a good long look at doing the Broken Islands and I think we still will just not this summer. Also gave your Intro to Ocean Canoeing thread on here a good read, my wife and I both think it's an excellent read, and I'm sure we'll check it out a few more times.

Author:  wotrock [ June 19th, 2008, 9:40 pm ]
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SGrant wrote:
The 23km approach road will stress sedans.

Could you elaborate a bit on this, please. Four of us hope to 'do' Murtle Lake in the latter part of Aug.

Author:  SGrant [ June 19th, 2008, 11:51 pm ]
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People make it to the lake with rented, low slung sedans. We have a low-slung car, which is cheaper and more comfortable to travel in than our suv. But we eat the cost of driving the suv to Murtle Lake just to avoid punishing the car. I know we've used 4wd on that road. Athough last time we didn't use 4wd, but friends with us with a Tundra pickup did use 4wd. The road takes 45 minutes to an hour with a truck/suv.

That's if the road is in typical condition. It may be even better than the last time we were there. The worse it is, the more likely a sedan would be stopped or damaged. At minimum, it will be much slower driving with a car than an suv, to avoid bottoming out and carefully negotiating the rougher spots. Vans would be somewhere in between. Subaru-type things should be fine.

On the other hand, to go to Bowron Lakes, we use the car.

Author:  novice [ June 20th, 2008, 12:20 pm ]
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We've been up to Murtle the last 2 summers and have done the road with the old aerostar "mom" van. No problem. In the parking lot each time have been 40 - 50 other vehicles of all makes & models. The lake is so big it didn't seem to be crowded either time. Met some very nice people, but also had lots of privacy.

We were held up briefly last year while they did some roadwork on one of the culverts about halfway in - no big deal - sat and waited about 20 - 30 minutes.

Author:  JAGM77 [ August 1st, 2008, 4:45 pm ]
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This is great...I have yet to hear of Murtle Lake.


Author:  dunkin' [ August 2nd, 2008, 8:56 am ]
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I just came out from Murtle Lake on Tuesday. Both the road and trail are in great shape. The fishing was fantastic as usual, we caught lots. A friend of mine caught a rainbow that was almost 5 lbs right near the lagoon on the way out. We only did the north arm this trip as we only had 5 days on the lake, gorgeous place to be. :)

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