bowron lakes map
Indianpoint Lake
Isaac Lake
Isaac Lake from Mt. Faulkner
Looking up Moxley Creek
Isaac River
Isaac Lake looking at Mt. Faulkner (the left one with the snow). My route went up ridge from the lake.
Ishpa Mountain
Lanezi Lake
Cariboo Falls
Myself, my dad and brother in 1995 during 2nd trip of the circuit

Bowron Lakes - British Columbia

Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit

Required tags at the bow of each canoe
REI.com Camping Gear
A brief overview:
The Bowron Lakes is a 72 mile canoe circuit in British Columbia, Canada. The chain of lakes is located in the Cariboo Mountain Range, a spectacular area of mountain peaks, lush fir forests and abundant wildlife. Each lake is connected to the other by rivers, creeks or a trail requiring a portage. People come from around the world, especially Europe to paddle the circuit. It usually takes 6-10 days depending on your skill and how much you want to enjoy the area. Since itís in British Columbia, the weather could make the trip beautifully blue water paddling or a raining, rough water nightmare. To keep it a wilderness experience, park rangers limit visitors with a reservation system.

My thoughts on the Bowron Lakes:
I havenít done a lot of research on the best canoeing locations in the world but I have to believe the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit is in the top 5. There may be longer and more challenging trips, but my bias toward any trip through rugged mountains will be evident. Iíve done this trip twice, once as a Boy Scout, a second time as a quasi leader in a Boy Scout troop. Both times I had my dad and one of my brothers along. The second time, I was 21 years old and looking for a bit more adventure. During several evenings while others rested in camp, I attempted to climb the rugged mountains above.

Itís advised by the park service to have both canoeing and backcountry camping skills before attempting the circuit. Our scout troop owned 6 expedition Old Town canoes that week took on a week long ď50+ milerĒ every spring break. During other months of the year, we often combined an overnight campout with a river trip the following day. We definitely knew what we were doing and were up for the challenge. My second trip there was my 9th week long canoe trip with the scouts. Other boys from the troop had similar experience so finding a stern man to steer correctly usually wasnít a problem.

We were lacking portage experience. During our first visit, we didnít rent canoe carts (a small cradle with wheels that the canoe sits on so you can push the canoe down trails). We carried the stupid things over our heads tripping on roots and bumping into trees. I was just a scrony kid and could barely get the canoe over my head less walk long distances with it. I can still remember my scoutmaster saying something like ďboy, I got to get one of thoseĒ. I guess he didnít have the internet back then but it would have been nice if someone researched that one beforehand! Ironically, one of the leaders did bring some wheels for his two person kayak but I think they broke on the first portage.
The second trip with the carts was a breeze to portage. One would carry his backpack while the other positioned the remaining gear correctly inside as to allow one person transport of the canoe down the trail.

Bears were probably the biggest danger in the eyes of a young man in the wilderness. During my second visit, I brought a binder full of bear stories. Each night, I would read a different story around the campfire trying to intimidate the youth to keep all their food in the bear shelters. At that time, you had to climb 15 feet up an aluminum ladder to a platform stretched between two trees. Now I believe they have the bear boxes on the ground making life much nicer for accessing gear. One night on Isaac Lake, I read a bear story I got from Readers Digest that took place in the camp directly across the lake from where we were staying. It was a horrific bear mauling where one died and the other was pinned in a cabin while the Grizzly Bear kept trying different ways to break inside. We all slept uncomfortably that night. Other large animals are in the area as well like Moose. We watched a large moose cross Lake Isaac on one of the trips. We thought it was a boat as we canoed toward it. As we got closer (45 minutes later), we realized that it was antlers and a moose head in the lake. We arrived to watch the mammoth animal reach shoreline and reveal its size.

The Cariboo River snags would probably be the most challenging as you must navigate down a milky silt filled river through a maze of snags (parts of trees sticking up out of the river). Because you couldnít see into the water, you didnít know where to avoid whatever was attached to that ďminor branchĒ poking up. Although the river had few rapids, the current was moving quite fast so reaction times had to be fast. During the first trip, we lost one canoe here totally capsizing and loosing some of the gear the negligent scouts didnít tie down. The river is also glacial melt water so the temperature is extremely cold.

Since Iíve only canoed the Bowron Circuit as a group, Iím use to camping there in the ďsolitudeĒ of our scout troop. Smaller groups must share designated campsites with each other. This can be fun meeting others but often itís more dealing with others. We arrived at one camp (unless Iím confusing this with another trip) where a group was in our designated group site. This other group was one of those schools where parents of rebellious teens send them away to the wilderness to be motivated by councilors. Although I like these programs, I disagree with them being allowed into National Parks and locations where the general public typically resides. As a punishment, a few of them got up in the middle of the night, walked down the beach back to our site and pushed our 2 man kayak out into the water. The next morning, by some minor miracle, we were able to see a tiny yellow dot on a shoreline a few miles away.

The first trip I almost died. Nothing grand like a bear mauling or riding over Carriboo Falls, no I was choking on a round piece of hard candy while sitting around the morning campfire. After I realized I couldnít dislodge the item myself I quickly ran over to my dad cooking some breakfast. It took several jerks of the Heimlich maneuver but finally it popped out. The candy had been lodged in my throat for so long I thought it was still there. Only when my dad pointed to the piece of candy in a pile of upchuck, did I take the biggest breath of my life. Crazy enough, that was the third time my dad saved my life with the Heimlich maneuver!

Final Thoughts:
The second time is never as exciting and adventurous as doing it the first time around. Although with near perfect weather the second go around and the added bonus of summiting 2 of the highest peaks in the area, it was a glorious trip. I would highly recommend it as an alternative for backpackers looking for a wilderness experience who want to give something else a try.
Peaks
Indianpoint Mountain:
Mt. Faulkner:
From the group camp on the north shore mid-way along the lake, canoed across the lake and took the NW trending ridgeline directly across from the camp.
From the group camp on the west side of Isaac Lake (across from Betty Wendle Creek), climbed up the slope SW until ridge, followed to highest point.
Wolverine Mountain
Attempted from the northern bend of Isaac Lake. Got into the big avalanche slopes visible from the lake where the brush was too difficult. Probably better route up in trees. Unsuccessful climb.
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Kibbee Lake Indianpoint Lake Isaac Lake Looking up Moxley Creek Isaac River Cariboo Falls Lanezi Lake Ishpa Mountain Bowron Trip Bowron Lakes permit Bowron Lakes permit Issac Lake Isaac Lake from Mt. Faulkner Isaac Lake from Mt. Faulkner
Isaac Lake from Mt. Faulkner
Bowron Lakes camp campsite bowron lakes bowron lakes canoe Isaac River Bowron Lake
Kibbee Lake
Entrance Sign
Camp 20
Camp 53
Isaac River
wolverine mountain
Reaching Isaac Lake from Indianpoint Lake, view East to Wolverine Mountain
From camp 33 on Lanazi Lake
Unna Lake bowron lakes
NE from Unna Lake
Mountains across from camp 33
Bryan Peak & Kaza Mountain