Big Bar Lake, at the southern edge of Cariboo country, is a sparkling azure gem set within a rolling landscape of deep green forests and marshes. To Big Bar's north, rolling, forested hills and grand meadows are dotted with lakes and ponds of all sizes. To the south, the imposing mountains of the Marble Range loom, their rugged cliffs and canyons beckoning the hardiest of adventurers (much of the range is encompassed by Marble Range Provincial Park).
Big Bar Lake Provincial Park, hugging the lake's western and southern shores, is far-flung yet reasonably accessible and draws many enthusiastic visitors every year. Anglers can fish for hefty rainbow trout, which are stocked annually, while birders can look for some of the diverse songbirds and waterfowl species which flock to the marshy margins of the lake every summer. A well-maintained interpretive trail weaves its way through forests, meadows and marshlands and offers fascinating information on the area's natural history. Big Bar's day use area also sports a lovely, sandy swimming beach.
The provincial park's campground sits among mixed woodlands, and many spots have great views of Big Bar Lake. 46 sites are available, and 20 of these are reservable. The campground's open season usually stretches from mid-May through the end of September.
Big Bar Lake is located about 20 miles (32 km) off of BC-97, a major provincial highway. Travelers coming form BC-97 will take Big Bar Road westward towards the park; the exit for this road is located just a few miles north of Clinton, which is also the nearest town with amenities. Big Bar, while not being the major route that BC-97 is, is nonetheless paved and a fairly easy drive. There are no sharp turns or steep sections for RVers or trailer towers to worry about. The park's access road forks right off of Big Bar and leads immediately to the campground.
Just past the park gate, drivers will find the turn off for the small Upper Campground (just used for overflow camping). Passing that, they'll round a large bend and come to the southern shore of the lake, where the Lakeside Campground's sites are arranged along a spur and small loop. There's extra day use parking at Lakeside as well. From both Lakeside and Upper, the boat launch, fishing areas, swim beach and nature trail are all withing walking distance.
Though given separate names, the Lakeshore and Upper campgrounds at Big Bar are really just two loops separated by a few hundred feet. Lakeshore, as the name hints, sits on the southern shore of Big Bar, with many spots having a great view of the open water. Enjoy the shade of aspen, pine and spruce while being just a quick walk away from fishing, paddling and the nature trail.
The Upper campground (connected to Lakeshore via a pleasant, sylvan trail) sits in a wooded area about a quarter mile from the shore; its spots are only used for overflow camping.
Lakeside boasts 27 sites, while Upper has 19. All are suitable for RVs or trailers, though only ten can accommodate larger rigs. All sites are also primitive, with no water, sewer or electric hookups. There is no sani-dump station, either. Individual spots have fire rings, and several cold water spigots and pit toilets can be found throughout the campground. There's a small playground, too.
Reservations are accepted at 20 out of the total 46 sites, while the rest are first-come first-served. Reservations are taken up to four months in advance over the BC Provincial Parks website.
The park features an excellent, 2.1 mile (3.5 km) interpretive trail through Otter Marsh, on the western end of the lake. This short, mellow trail showcases meadow, wetland, forest and riparian habitats. Signage on the area's geologic history explains how the hilly region came to be dotted with lakes, ponds and marshlands. There's great information on local flora and fauna as well. Plus, you'll pass by a grove of towering, centuries-old Douglas firs.
If you're looking for a more challenging trek, nearby Marble Range Provincial park has many miles of rugged, un-maintained trails, which criss-cross its thick forests and craggy limestone peaks.
The diversity of habitats present at Big Bar means wildlife viewing opportunities are many and varied. Paddling along the lake shore, or taking a walk on the Otter Marsh trail, you may come across otters (of course), beavers, muskrats, marmots, sandpipers, teals, eagles, black bears, moose or any one of the many colorful warblers and songbirds which makes a summer home in the area. The western end of the lake is a particularly good spot for waterfowl watching - it's quite popular among birders.
With rich meadows rolling off to the north, and the imposing, often snow-capped Marble Range looming to the southwest, Big Bar Lake is a magnificent setting for landscape photography. Capture the riot of color which mingles across air and water during sunrise or sunset, or head to the quiet groves of towering conifers. If you arrive at the end of the season, in mid-September, you can catch the aspen as they begin to change to shades of gold and ruby. Wildlife photographers can point their lenses towards diving eagles or moose lapping up lake water at the shore.
Big Bar's day use area features a lovely sand beach and designated swim area. After a long day of paddling or hiking, a dip in the lake's clear, cool (but not cold) waters may be a mighty attractive proposition. Afterwards, you can relax on the beach and soak up some northern sun - at this high latitude, the days of early summer are lengthy.
Visitors should note that, though there is a demarcated swim area, there are no lifeguards on staff. Practice good safety and judgement!
Big Bar offers a scenic, quiet place to go paddling or boating. There are several miles of tree-lined shores to explore, and the water sparkles with a brilliant blue hue on clear summer days. Boating speeds are limited to 10 km/hr, and no towing is allowed - so, even when the lake is busy, visitors can expect a serene atmosphere, filled with the sound of singing birds and lapping water, rather than the whir of motors.
Stocked with Rainbow Trout since the 1970s, Big Bar Lake has been and continues to be a popular destination with anglers traveling through BC's rugged interior. The park offers a small boat launch for lake access, but you can also take a trek along the undulating shoreline and find a spot for yourself under the pines. The lake is known to grow some monster fish - trout here have been known to exceed six pounds! A smattering of other small ponds and lakes around Big Bar provide even more angling options.
As always, make sure you have a valid British Columbia fishing license before making your first cast.