After the Bowron Lake Chain, there is the Nation Lakes. While the better-known Bowron Chain must be booked in advance and can see packed cabins along it’s entire length during the warmest months, the Nation Lakes is still a relatively pristine and lesser-known route just north of Fort St. James.
There are not a lot of chain lake canoe routes in B.C., unlike the endlessly interconnected webs of lakes further east in this country.
But the tradition of paddling as a mode of transport has been used across the country by both First Nations and colonial explorers.
The Nation Lakes is perhaps less spectacular than the Bowron Chain, which wanders through the Cariboo Mountains up to snow-covered peaks, but it still includes some fantastic views of the Mitchell Range on the horizon in some parts, and warm pools along the lakeshore as well as sandy beaches to camp on and a fabulous lack of crowds.
In an effort to promote canoeing in general and a love for wild places, canoeist and author Michel Gauthier has written a guide book for paddling the Nation Lakes Chain.
The book is very complete, and includes great information for newer or less educated backcountry travellers, setting them on the right track in terms of “pack-it-in, pack-it-out” camping practices and “light hand on the land” techniques necessary in areas where there will be a continuous route used year after year, with compounding impacts.
He goes into great detail discussing some of the ecology of the forests in the area and the animals which live in them, and of course some “bear aware” tips to help prevent problems for the reader and those who come after them.
Clearly a passionate advocate for the wilderness, Gauthier’s book couldn’t be better timed, as the capacity of the Bowron Lakes is probably near full each year, and as more people are looking to try similar type of expeditions, but lack the background information necessary to do so.
There are also more and more people living in the area looking for adventurous recreation opportunities.
The book goes into extreme detail on some mapping particulars, but does a good job of explaining the UTM system, a mapping system great for land travel, but probably more commonly used in provinces further east in my experience.
Those using latitude and longitude can also find those indicated in the book for campsite and points of interest along the way.
The maps in the book are small, and a person would likely want to supplement with their own more detailed maps or a GPS loaded with quality area maps, but there are great details about different obstacles along the route. The caveat being, of course, many of these are subject to change, as any river system is a constantly fluctuating thing.
Aimed at beginners and intermediate paddlers, the book is a phenomenal resource for visitors and residents, with advice for everyone and a great ethic in promoting sustainable ecotourism in the area.
About the author Michel Gauthier (bio provided):
Michel was born in October 1954 on the south shore of the St-Lawrence River, across from the then smoke-spewing chimney stacks of East Montreal. He grew up to the conflicting rhythms of a sprawling metropolis and a quiet three hundred year old village. After an early retirement from the Canadian Air Force, he worked at various jobs in the security industry. He now lives in Comox, British Columbia.
Michel Gauthier has paddled thousands of kilometres on Canadian waterways. He is the author of A Guide to the Sayward Forest Canoe Circuit and The Nation Lakes Canoe Route. His canoeing articles have been published in Kanawa, Canada’s Canoeing and Kayaking Magazine. He is a member of Paddle Canada and past president of the Comox Paddlers, a club based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Aside from his canoeing books and articles, Michel writes fiction pieces. His short stories have been published in Storyteller Magazine, Island Writer, Stellar Showcase Journal, Horizon Magazine, and Arabesques Review.