Canoeing Clearwater Lake

Multi-day canoe routes on freshwater lakes in BC are hard to come by, and we’ve found another great little corner for you to explore.  Clearwater and Azure lakes in Wells Gray Provincial Park are each 22kms long, connected by a 500m portage.  That gives you 88kms of beautiful lakes to explore!

Clearwater Lake, looking out from Ivor Creek campsite.

There are 16 boat access sites along the lakes, and each has room for more than one group.  They all have good beach access, picnic tables, an outhouse, fire rings and free firewood (just be prepared to split it into smaller sizes for the fire). They are laid out thoughtfully and spaced nicely so you can choose your own adventure along the lakes.

Sunset at Ivor Creek campsite.

The portage is due to the fact that a river comes down out of Hobson lake, and a navigation channel runs between Clearwater and Azure lakes.  Powerboats can make the run, but canoes cannot paddle against the current.  You will be able to paddle up a portion of the river, and then you will have to pull off and portage from Clearwater into Azure lake.  On the way out you will be able to ride the river, so you only have to do the trail one way.  It is a cool little river with more intimate paddling after the big lakes before and after.

Entrance to river/navigation channel at the north end of Clearwater Lake. Mt. Huntley in the background.

The lakes are lined with creeks, some of them with small rapids, other with impressive waterfalls. Azure Lake is crowned with Garnet Falls, coming off the Garnet Glacier above.  Clearwater had a cool little falls, pouring through a forest.

There is so much exploring to do.  You could go up one side of each lake, and then down the other and take in different sights, creeks, view points and beaches.  There can be wind in the afternoons, especially on Clearwater lake you will find yourself battling a headwind out of the south on most warm days.  The swimming is great.  You cannot go wrong, no matter what you do.  You could pick one of the closer sites and just hang out and swim and enjoy the views, or push yourself down through to the end of Azure and back.

You can rent canoes right at the trailhead, or you can bring your own and drop it in at the dock.  The road into the lake is about 68kms from the town of Clearwater (Hwy 5).  The road turns to gravel about halfway, but it is well maintained and is fine for a low clearance 2WD vehicle.

As you have to drive the road anyway, you should make a stop at the incredible Helmcken Falls.  To say that it is the 4th largest waterfall in Canada, or that it cascades 141m in single vertical drop does not do it justice.  It is a breathtaking sight.  One of the most incredible falls we have laid eyes on. Helmcken Falls is at about 42kms long.  You can walk a few meters to the viewing platform or can hike the Rim Trail.

Helmcken Falls

Happy trails!


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