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Ten of the Best Flat Water Paddle Trips in British Columbia

British Columbia offers plenty of options for flat water paddle trips that travel through a diverse range of scenery including lush coastal rainforests, semi-arid desert on the edges of Okanagan Lake, glacier-fed waterways in the Rocky Mountains, and more. This article explores 10 of the best paddle trips in BC, listed below in alphabetical order.

Bowron Lakes Canoe CircuitCariboo Chilcotin Coast

  • Where: Central Cariboo region, 110km east of Quesnel
  • Description: Bowron Lake Provincial Park, home to one of the most popular paddling circuits in the country. The 116-kilometre loop is accessed via the interior city of Quesnel and includes 12 lakes, 8 portages and a number of river sections. The portages are well-groomed, leaving visitors more time to take in the views of the surrounding highlands and snow-capped peaks as well as of the vast array of local wildlife from moose and bears to otters and eagles.
  • Camping: 54 designated camping areas, each with tent pads, outhouses, and bear caches.
  • Fees/Reservations: $60 per person for the full circuit or $30 per person for the West Side only, plus an $18 reservation fee per boat and gear rental fees (if applicable).
  • Launch: Kibbee Lake, after 2.4km portage (full circuit) OR Bowron Lake (west side)
  • Suggested length of trip: 6-10 days (3-5 for the west side)
  • For more info:

Columbia River Wetlands – Kootenay Rockies

  • Where: South of Golden flowing south to Canal Flats
  • Description: Spanning 180km along the Rocky Mountain Trench, The Columbia River Wetlands is North America’s largest freshwater wetlands. This unique paddling destination mostly consists of gently flowing water through a maze of channels and lakes. The waterway is surrounded by impressive mountain views, and an astonishing amount of biodiversity. The wetlands are home to about 250 species of birds, elk, beavers, eagles, great blue heron, bears and more. Beginner paddlers can set out for casual day paddles from the Columbia Wetlands Outpost, which is the home of the world’s largest paddle, while more adventurous paddlers can navigate the wetlands from Canal Flats all the way to the town of Golden. With countless put in and take out options and possibility for wild camping the Columbia River Wetlands can be a choose your own adventure destination.
  • Camping: There are a couple private camping options along the wetlands, and wild camping in National Wildlife Areas.
  • Fees/Reservations: Reservations at Columbia Wetlands Outpost, fees vary. Wild camping is first come first serve.
  • Launch: For single day trips launch from Columbia Wetlands Outpost for Multiday trips
  • Suggested length of trip: 1-6 days
  • For more info:

Emar Lakes Canoe Circuit – Kamloops

  • Where: North Thompson region, 115km north of Kamloops
  • Description: Emar Lakes Canoe Circuit includes 7 lakes and 6 portages and is located in a wilderness area of small lakes, potholes, and wet areas forested with lodgepole pine, spruce, and aspen groves. The lakes offer great fishing for trout, and the surrounding area is habitat for moose, black tern, common loon, ruffed grouse, and great horned owl.
  • Camping: Two Recreation sites and wild camping. When wild camping be sure to practice Leave No Trave principles.
  • Fees/Reservations: No fees, camping on a first come first serve basis.
  • Launch: Access is from Janice Lake Recreation Site or from Willowgrouse Recreation Site. 
  • Suggested length of trip: 2 days
  • For more info:

Howe Sound – Vancouver, Coast & Mountains

  • Where: Between Squamish and Vancouver
  • Description: Howe Sound is North Americas southernmost Fjord that is shaped in a triangle, situated between Squamish, Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast and extending 42km from north to south. The Coastal Mountains rise abruptly from the shores of Howe Sound and there are several islands within Howe Sound including Gambier and Bowen Island. The Sea to Sky Marine Trail is a paddling route connected by campsites that are dotted around the shores of Howe Sound as well as on Keats and Gambier Island. As this is ocean water, paddlers should keep their eyes open for marine life such as Orcas and seals and have an awareness of tides.
  • Camping: There are six recreation sites and three provincial park campsites.
  • Fees/Reservations: Recreation sites are free and first come first serve. Provincial parks vary on fees and reservations.
  • Launch: Suggested launch site at Xwu’nekw Park in Squamish
  • Suggested length of trip: 2-6 days
  • For more info:

Lake Koocanusa – Kootenay Rockies

  • Where: East Kootenays South of Fernie
  • Description: The calm jade-coloured waters of Lake Koocanusa are an ideal destination for a variety of paddling adventures. Paddlers can enjoy a single day of paddling from one of the many campgrounds scattered along the lake’s shores, or multi-day adventures that explore some of the 145km lake with its sandy beaches, sheltered bays, and hoodoos. The lake offers great fishing for rainbow trout, kokanee salmon and bull trout and the surrounding area is home to wildlife including eagles, osprey elk, turtles, and badgers more.
  • Camping: 9 different campsites along the Canadian portion of the lake.
  • Fees/Reservations: Fees start at $14 for the recreation sites and are higher at private campgrounds. First come first serve at recreation sites, and reservations are recommended at the private campgrounds.
  • Launch: Kikomun Creek Provincial Park on the east shore, or Englishman Creek Recreation Site on the west.
  • Suggested length of trip: 1-8 days
  • For more info:

Lightning Lakes Canoe Route – Vancouver, Coast & Mountains

  • Where: Between Hope and Princeton, just off Highway 3
  • Description: A series of three lakes, Lightning Lake, Flash Lake, and Strike Lake, that are surrounded by forest and views of the Cascade Mountains. The three lakes can be paddled together with portages in-between ranging from 500m to 1.5km with the addition option of a 3km hike on a more rugged trail to a fourth lake in the chain called Thunder Lake. This route is best paddled earlier in the summer when water levels are higher.
  • Camping: Backcountry campsite on Strike Lake, with outhouses and bear cache.
  • Fees/Reservations: $5/per camping night/per person, first come first serve.
  • Launch: Lightning Lake Day-use area.
  • Suggested length of trip: 2 days.
  • For more info:

Lower Arrow Lake – Kootenay Rockies

  • Where: West Kootenays, North of Castlegar
  • Description: The Selkirk Moutains and Monashee Mountains climb up to 2600 meters from the east and west shores of the Arrow Lakes. Originally separated by 23km of river, the Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes became one large lake after the creation of the Keenleyside dam in the 1960s. Experienced paddlers looking for a longer adventure can take up to 10 days to venture the entirety of the Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes from Revelstoke to Castlegar. There are many options for shorter trips along the lakes from a multi-day trip on the Lower Arrow Lake starting at the community of Fauquier traveling south to Castlegar, down to a single-day trip from Syringa Provincial Park where paddlers can paddle through a flooded railway tunnel when the water is low in the summer. The surrounding area is home to elk, deer, and Rocky Mountain bid horn sheep. Much of the shores can be quite steep and heavily forested so it is important to plan your put ins and take outs carefully.
  • Camping: There are a combination of recreation sites and provincial park campgrounds totalling 7 camping areas scattered between the town of Fauquier and Castlegar on the Lower Arrow Lake.
  • Fees/Reservations: Fees ranging between $0-$20. Camping is first come first serve.
  • Launch: Launch at any access point from Fauquier southward and paddle your way down the lake to Castlegar. Recommended starting points include Arrow Lakes Provincial Park Fauquier Site or Syringa Provincial Park.
  • Suggested length of trip: 1-10 days
  • For more info:

Nanaimo Lakes Chain – Vancouver Island

  • Description: Nanaimo Lakes are a chain of four lakes in the interior of Vancouver Island. The pristine lakes are surrounded by lush forest and medium-sized mountains including Mount DeCosmos at 1531 meters to the north and Mount Hooker at 1263 meters to the south. While paddlers can easily portage between First and Second Lake, Fourth Lake is 14km down a logging road from second lake, and Third Lake is a smaller pond-sized water body in the middle. Both First and Fourth Lake are stocked with Rainbow and Cutthroat trout each year and offer large catches for anglers.
  • Where: 29km Southwest of the city of Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.
  • Camping:  Camping areas available with Mosaic Campsites
  • Fees/Reservations: Reservation needed. Camping fees ranging from $24 to $144 per night for larger group sites.
  • Launch: Any of the three campgrounds on the first lake.
  • Suggested length of trip:1-3 days
  • For more info:

Powell Forest Canoe Route – Sunshine Coast

  • Where: Sunshine Coast, 25km east of Powell River
  • Description: The Powell Forest Canoe Route travels through fjord-like waters in the Coastal Mountains alongside cedar, fir, and spruce forests that are home to wildlife such as bald eagles and black bears. The Powell Forest Canoe Route travels over eight lakes totaling 57 kilometers and including five portages ranging from 0.7 to 2.8 kilometers.
  • Camping: 17 designated camping areas
  • Fees/Reservations: No fees, first come first serve.
  • Launch: Lois Lake is recommended but other options exist, including a put in at Windsor Lake and 3-day descent back down to Lois Lake.
  • Suggested length of trip: 4-6 days
  • For more info visit:

Okanagan Mountain Park – Thompson Okanagan

  • Where: South-East end of Kelowna
  • Description: Okanagan Valley is known for warm temperatures and beautiful sunny weather. While most of the shoreline has been developed, Okanagan Mountain Park, located on the eastern shore of the lake between Kelowna and Naramata offers 33km of undeveloped shoreline. Watch out for Big Horn Sheep on the rugged cliffsides while paddling between the marine park campsites that are tucked away in little bays. Drop into one of the local wineries on the way to the boat launch and buy a bottle enjoy from your campsite.
  • Camping: There are seven established marine campsites in Okanagan Mountain Park.
  • Fees/Reservations: $13/per night/per vessel, first come first serve.
  • Launch: Cedar Creek Boat Launch
  • Suggested length of trip: 2-4 days
  • For more info:

These ten paddling adventures are only some of the amazing adventures that await every canoeist who visits British Columbia. For more, visit

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