Salt, fresh, warm or wild—in the Northwest, you can experience the gravitational pull of water in all its forms. With miles of rivers and coastline, and plenty more tributaries, lakes, and hot springs, this is a true aquatic paradise.
Feel the spray from a thundering waterfall, or watch for a humpback’s signature blow above the grey waters of the Pacific. Recalibrate your senses with a soak at a natural hot spring, or bring them all into focus on an exhilarating whitewater rapid adventure. Let the sway of coastal tides keep you grounded, or take flight to see the beauty of secluded alpine lakes by air. However you choose to experience waterways in the North, you’re sure to find your flow.
Near Terrace, Lakelse is one of the largest and warmest freshwater lakes in the Northwest. Families flock to the sandy beach and adjacent playground while water skiers, wakeboarders and paddlers find their fun away from the shore. Stay at Waterlily Bay for easy lakeside access.
Further north, the bright blue waters of Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park (Boya Lake) lure paddlers and photographers to this part of the region. Also situated along Highway 37 is Meziadin Lake. Well-stocked fish populations and largely undisturbed shores make this a popular fishing destination. Salt water reigns supreme in Prince Rupert, but you’ll find a few freshwater lakes here too. Prudhomme with its tree stumps and snags and lush shoreline greenery makes for an atmospheric paddle. Need to rent gear? Skeena Kayaking can supply you with canoes and kayaks. When summer hits, locals and tourists head to Diana Lake to splash around.
Smithers locals are an active set and tend to do more than lakeside lounging. Rent kayaks or canoes from Aquabatics and paddleboards from Local Supply Co. and explore Seymour, Tyee, Dennis, Chapman and Kathlyn lakes. There are unique draws for each—Tyee is great for birdwatching, Lake Kathlyn is non-motorized, and Chapman is home to Aspen Bay Cabins where you can stay mere steps from the water’s edge. The aptly named Lakes District has endless freshwater lakes to explore. Maximize views on a floatplane tour of Tesla Lake with Lakes District Air, or rent canoes from the Lakeside Multiplex in Burns Lake to explore at your own pace. Stuart Lake in Fort St. James has over 275 kilometres of shoreline, but when combined with nearby Trembleur and Takla lakes, makes for a spectacular canoe circuit—no portaging needed. In Prince George, you don’t need to travel far to find watery places of solitude. If you’re new to the area, consider an introductory canoe or kayak lesson with experts at Backwater Paddling.
Soak Away Your Stress
Experience the restorative powers of water in a natural hot spring. In Kitimat, there are three located within 100 kilometres of town—but their oceanside setting means you can only access them by boat or floatplane or by boat. Tucked away in a sheltered bay, Weewanie Hot Springs features a rustic cedar and concrete bathhouse that keeps you sheltered from the elements. Shearwater Hot Springs, also sheltered, features stunning ocean views with an overnight Haisla-owned cabin available across the bay.
Boaters and other warm water seekers flock to Bishop Bay (Monkey Beach), which features a two-pool bathhouse set around an elevated boardwalk. Northern BC Jet Boat Tours offers kayak shuttling services, and tours of the hot springs out of Kitimat. Further along the coast, relax in Shearwater’s rocky hot pool and scan the shoreline for whales, porpoises and other wildlife. Want to soak at them all? Book a hot springs tour with Kitimat Lodge.
Feel the Rush
Wild rivers criss-cross the Northwest and offer everything from fly fishing to whitewater rafting. The Bulkley and Skeena rivers loom large in angling lore. These rivers offer serious bragging rights, but its smaller tributaries, like the Extew River offer incredible views, and can be accessed right off Highway 16. Lodges in the area come with prime riverfront access and comfortable amenities, or take advantage of the many outfitters in the area who can guide you for the day. The Bulkley’s easy wading and wide sweeping runs appeals to both fishers—and rafters. Stay at Frontier Experience and float your way down the river instead.
The Upper Stikine River flows from the pristine alpine lakes of the Spatsizi Wilderness Plateau, cutting through a vast tract of remote wilderness before meeting the Pacific near Alaska. A whitewater expedition with Elements Adventure Company guides you through the heart of this untamed wilderness. From your raft, take in the soaring Coast Mountains and sweeping valleys as you paddle class one to three rapids. Pre- or post-paddle, stock up on gear at the Stikine Riversong Cafe and General Store.
Portgaging offers river travel at a different pace. There’s nothing quite like spending a week in the backcountry where your only mode of transport is by canoe. Pack your paddles, a week’s worth of supplies, and leisurely explore areas few other people get to see. The Nanika-Kidprice is a wilderness canoe odyssey that links four lakes over a landscape of lush alpine meadows, pristine forest, and meandering creeks and falls. The Tweedsmuir Nechako Reservoir Canoe Circuit connects seven high-elevation lakes and short linking creeks and portages in one of BC’s most remote and spectacular provincial parks. Wilderness lodges in the region make great home bases for tackling these circuits. Stay at Nechako Lodge, Pondosy Bay or Tetachuck Lodge.
There’s more to explore in Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park than just the Upper Stikine River. As one of Canada’s largest and most remote parks, there are untouched lakes and streams teeming with fish here. A fishing trip with Spatsizi River Outfitters lets you spend each day in pursuit of trout and Arctic grayling and the evenings relaxing in their comfortable fly-in lodge. Near Terrace, make Northern Escape Mountain Lodge your homebase for the week and explore your choice of lakes by land—or air. The rugged glaciated peaks of the legendary Skeena Mountains not only hold the headwaters of the iconic Skeena River, but infinite more lakes, streams, and glaciers.
Find Your Current
The ocean has long been a source of inspiration and activity for locals in the Northwest. In Kitimat, you can kayak remote stretches of coastline in search of the area’s abundant marine life. From Khutzeymateen Wilderness Lodge, a paddle might lead you in view of grizzly bears munching on sedge grass. Hook monster halibut on a fishing charter out of Prince Rupert, or peddle your way across its harbour on a hydro bike. These aquatic bikes quite literally let you explore on the water.
Waterfalls show off the raw power of Mother Nature. Which ones to check out in the region? Cascade Falls in Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, located off Highway 37, takes its name from the wide, tumbling waters that cascade down gently sloped rocky outcroppings and into the Iskut River below. Lower Exstew Falls near Terrace is easy on the feet—and eyes. While the turnoff to this recreation site can be tricky to find, the trail to the falls themselves only takes 20 minutes before you’re greeted by the view. The waters of Kleanza Creek steadily flow through a small canyon before settling into icy pools at its base, making for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day. Hop in a jet boat with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours to explore the protected watershed of Foch-Gilttoyees Provincial Park and the boat-only access Jesse Falls.