5 Northern BC Lakes for Paddling

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What better way to sample lake life across Northern BC than a road trip along Highway 16? Whether you’re looking for an easy access launch with overnight camping or a place to dip into en route, this list is great for anyone touring east to west from Smithers to Prince Rupert.

Seymour Lake | Marty Clemens

1. Seymour Lake, Smithers

Seymour Lake is a small municipal lake on the outskirts of Smithers. Its tucked-away deciduous-forest setting feels like “the cottage at the lake” with modest homes, colourful deck chairs, and cottonwood trees peppering the edge.

What the lake lacks in size it makes up for in its quaint rural setting, its beginner friendliness, and a peaceful, humble atmosphere. Access to the lake is mostly private but there is a small area off the main road to park and launch. Practice your standup paddleboarding skills while dodging the colonies of frogs and lily pads on the water’s surface. Visiting in fall is ideal for pops of colour between the evergreens.

Seeley Lake in New Hazelton | Mike Seehagel

2. Seeley Lake, New Hazelton

Seeley Lake rests at the foot of the Hazelton Mountains and is part of Seeley Lake Provincial Park. It’s a choice place to dock and camp at a well-maintained park, or for a quick paddle between Smithers and Terrace off the highway. Its mountain backdrop is prettiest at golden hour as the sun lights up the range around the lake. The lake boasts provincial-grade campsites for tents and trailers, and has a day-use area for picnics. There is a small sandy beach area, and otherwise the shoreline is mostly marsh. Set up your tent, get your boat in the water, count the cattails, and let the loons sing the sun down. The water itself is classified for light recreational use and is without a formal boat launch, which means it’s less likely to attract motorized boats—the perfect place for peace.

Meziadin Junction | Mike Seehagel

3. Meziadin Lake, Stewart

If you’re taking the offshoot to Stewart on Highway 37 and you’re looking for a place to chill on the water (literally, it’s surrounded by glaciers!), Meziadin Lake is your best bet. Two hours north from the village of Kitwanga—or 50 km ( 31 mi) east of the mining town of Stewart near the Meziadin Junction—is Meziadin Lake Provincial Park with its lake and recreation area. Meziadin is a popular and scenic lake perfect to play on or to stay for the night, especially if you want to explore areas north of Highway 16. This lake is especially popular with the RV crowd given its near-junction location, but if you go during the shoulder seasons, it’s possible to have more space to yourself. The roadways to and from are also known as prime viewing grounds for wildlife in transit. It’s not uncommon to see grizzlies and black bears snacking on the side roads while travelling. There are also lots of opportunities in the vicinity to check out tributaries that feed the lake with its freezing cold water and act as freeways for much of the coastal salmon population.

Prudhomme Lake | Mike Seehagel

4. Prudhomme Lake, Port Edward

Prudhomme Lake Provincial Park is a nice option to set up camp and paddle for a couple of days. The lake itself is long and skinny with alternating wide and narrow sections, making it interesting to navigate. Guarded by coastal temperate rainforest, Prudhomme Lake has lots of designated sites for camping and day use. It’s great for groups as there’s plenty of room on the water for convoys of all experience levels, and also many onshore areas to explore afterward. As the lake is in salmon territory, you might see some spawning in surrounding streams and creeks during late summer—a workout and ecology lesson in one. Forest and peekaboo mountain views are visible throughout. Old-growth cedars and firs crowd around the water, offering a coastal landscape while paddling on freshwater. Do laps around the mini islands or play a round of aquatic hide and seek.

Wainwright Basin near Prince Rupert | Mike Seehagel

5. Wainwright Basin, Prince Rupert

While technically a bay, Wainwright Basin offers a change from freshwater paddling. Slip into the salt and experience the deep range of tides around Prince Rupert. Bring your own water craft, rent from the locals, or book a tour to learn about sea life in the area. An inlet sheltered by land, the basin is a good choice for those wanting to experience ocean paddling without significant swell expertise. Connected to river ways and the Pacific, the water in the basin is brackish and carries characteristics of both river and ocean paddling. You’ll get to practice working with mini-currents and tide forecasting while being greeted by fresh and saltwater residents. Look overboard for bright orange feathers or “sea pens” sprouting in shallow areas—a treat for anyone interested in unique marine life. Sunny days in Prince Rupert are hard to come by, but if cutting through glassy ocean water under moody grey skies is what you’re after, this is paradise.

Get tips and learn the three Ts of coastal adventure at CoastSmart.

Header image: Prudhomme Lake | Mike Seehagel

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