Paddle Our Wilderness
Bounded by ancient lava beds, Murtle Lake, is at the eastern end of Wells Gray Provincial Park and is the largest lake in North America that does not allow motorized watercraft. Camping or paddling along its rugged shores is a blissfully quiet experience. Drink it all in. Whether you set your compass north or west, there’s plenty of wilderness, peace, and quiet for everyone here.
Paddle north or west, exploring Murtle Lake the only way you can – by kayak or canoe. Experience the serenity of backcountry wilderness camping. Fall asleep in the shadow of fjord-like mountains on soft, sandy beaches. Hike the Wavy Range wildflower meadows, a kaleidoscope of colour at their peak. Watch moose migrate through marshy meadows. Marvel that you can be on Murtle Lake for days and never see or hear another soul. Experience true quiet, where the only sounds you’ll hear are the ones Mother Nature creates…the call of a loon, splashing trout, and the wind blowing through the trees.
Getting There is Half the Adventure
Remote, yet fairly easy to access, just getting to Murtle Lake is half the adventure. Turn off the Yellowhead Highway (BC Highway 5) at Saddle Mountain Lodge; go past the Blue River Campground and head into the wilderness along a 27 km (16.7 mi) winding gravel road. Park your car. You’re not quite there yet. Hike the 2.5 km wheelchair accessible trail, initiated by Canadian legend, Rick Hansen, and you’ll arrive at Murtle Lagoon, the put-in point for your backcountry canoe, kayak and camping adventure.
Prepare to be Awed
Golden summer days are serene here, with more than enough wide-open spaces. Even on the busiest days it’s still quiet at Murtle Lake. Choose your route, then paddle through clouds reflected on Murtle Lake’s flat surface and prepare to be awed.
Point your boat in a westerly direction to explore Fairyslipper, Leo and Smoker Islands, wide sand beaches and, some say, warmer water. Paddle the north arm, into the Cariboo Mountains, and you’ll be skimming past forested mountain landscapes that slip right into the water. No matter which direction you choose you’ll find a whole skyline worth of mountains stretching before you – wilderness in its purest form – and an unforgettable, awe-inspiring journey ahead.
Over 100 Kilometres of Get Away From it All
The more of Murtle Lake you see, the more there is to discover. Take a deep breath of the fresh air, feel the warm sun on your face, and take a moment to decide where you’ll explore above Murtle Lake’s water line. An easy 20-minute hike to Henrietta Lake, one of the most beautiful hikes in BC? A full-day trek through the Wavy Range; where postcard-like views unfold from the alpine? Or is it something in between, like McDougall Falls, a 5 km (3 mi) hike from Murtle’s Diamond Lagoon? Perhaps hunting for your name carved on the walls of the old prospector’s cabin before you embark on your hike. Or is it just a day visit with a 5 km (3 mi) walk to picnic at campsite # 1? You decide – with no outside distractions, you’ll find yourself grounded in the present, with nothing on your agenda, except exploring hundreds of kilometres of pure mountain wilderness.
Drag a spinner as you paddle, or spend the day fishing the creeks at the mouth of the lake, something is usually biting on Murtle Lake. Rainbow trout and Kokanee (landlocked sockeye) make fishing Murtle a tasty treat. Spend your day fishing and your nights savouring the catch – nothing tastes as good as fresh caught trout, swimming in butter from the frying pan on to your plate. New to fishing or to Murtle Lake? Just ask the Park Ranger patrolling the campsites; he’ll be happy to tell you where the big ones are biting.
Where Wild is Wild
Untamed, unspoiled, rugged and raw. Murtle Lake is pure Canadian wilderness and home to countless wild animals and even wilder weather!
Watch moose migrating the meadows beneath Murtle Glacier. Witness the magic of black bears and the occasional Grizzly ambling along distant shores. Be spellbound as eagles and osprey fly aerial acrobatics, fishing in the lake.
Canoeing, kayaking and camping at Murtle Lake means close, and sometimes personal, encounters with wildlife you won’t have anywhere else. Its wilderness setting also means mosquitoes in summer. While the number of hatches varies from week to week and year to year, you should come prepared. Lightweight clothing or netting to protect arms, legs and your head will go a long way toward your comfort.
Experience “real” weather. Take an unscheduled nap during an afternoon rainstorm. Feel the rumble of thunder in gathering clouds. Sit back and watch one of Mother Nature’s great shows, when lightening illuminates the north arm sky. Let the Northern Lights dazzle you, out here, where the skies are wide open and free of any artificial light. Count stars from your tent flap, where they’re hanging so low, you want to reach out and pluck one straight out of the sky.
Find Tranquility in a Tent
Pack in your pop tent and make camp on the beach. Drift off to that deep kind of sleep you can only have after a day spent exploring the great outdoors. Wake up to sunrise peaking over the mountains. Find tranquility in your tent, on the shores of Murtle Lake.
There are 69 wilderness campsites spread over 100 km (62 mi) of forested shoreline, in 20 secluded locations. All but one is accessed only by water. Daily fees apply to all campsites, and must be paid in advance at Murtle Lagoon when you put-in to the Lake. While outfitted with shared fire rings, pit toilets and bear caches, camping at Murtle Lake is a backcountry experience, where respecting this fragile ecosystem means you pack out what you pack in, having minimal impact on this great wilderness space.
When to Go
- Murtle Lake is staffed by park rangers from mid-May to the end of September, although backcountry campers often access Murtle Lake through the end of October
- Expect high water in May and June during spring run-off, when shorelines (and campsites) are diminished in size
- Mid-summer means lower lake levels, plenty of beach space to camp on, but it can mean plenty of mosquitoes too
- September is one of the best times to experience Murtle Lake. Days are often still very warm, water levels are at their lowest, beaches are at their widest and mosquitoes are diminished
Need to Know
- Murtle Canoes rents canoes and kayaks to aid in transporting your gear from the parking lot to the lagoon
- Pull-carts are staged at the Murtle Lake parking lot to aid in portaging to the lagoon
- Blue River Campground offers canoe rentals and separate wheel rentals to aid in transporting your canoe to Murtle Lagoon.
- Prepare for mosquitoes in summer – bring repellent and light-weight, long-sleeved clothing and netting for protection
- There are 69 wilderness campsites in 20 locations along 100-km of shoreline at Murtle Lake
- Register and pay for campsites at Murtle Lagoon put-in. Cash is the preferred method of payment. Visit BC Parks for daily camping rates
- Camping is no longer permitted on Fairyslipper Island
- Shared, ground-level bear caches, fire rings and pit toilet outhouses are available at every campsite
- This is backcountry camping, family pets (including dogs) are not allowed on Murtle Lake
- Bring an axe. Firewood, while plentiful, will need to be split before burning, if no fire bans are in effect (typically July and August)
- Cell phones do not work at Murtle Lake. GPS coordinates for the Ranger cabin are at 52.09956N 119.70514W
- Pack out what you pack in, respect this fragile ecosystem
- Come prepared – tips on backcountry camping gear
- Murtle Lake is large, and subject to strong gusts of wind, becoming choppy in the afternoon. It’s recommended that when moving camp to do so before noon
- Never try to out-run a storm; beach at the first available opportunity and wait out the weather