In a remote corner of northwest British Columbia, the bright waters of Lakelse Lake sit surrounded by the lofty, often snow-tipped peaks of the Kitimat Mounains. Visitors who make the trek to this far-flung park are rewarded with spectacular views, old-growth forests, and a campground with a surprising number of amenities.
Lakelse (the word is derived from a Coastal Tsimshian term for "freshwater mussel") is popular with kayakers and canoers, who can paddle out across the big water to fish or explore shores lined by walls of towering trees. Windsurfing, powerboating and waterskiing are also popular on the lake, which is large enough to accommodate plenty of boaters.
Naturalists and photographers will want to take Lakelse's short but stunning hiking trails. One trail weaves through a spectacular old-growth forest, where magnificent spruce, cedar and fir have spent centuries soaking up prodigious rainfall and growing to enormous sizes. A beach trail provides a great place to take a relaxing stroll and look for spawning salmon. Speaking of fish, the park is also popular with anglers, who can pull salmon as well as Dolly Varden and trout from the water. The nearby Skeena and Kitimat Rivers are highly productive fishing grounds, too.
Lakelse's large campground sports 156 sites, most of which are suitable for RVs and trailers. All sites are reservable during the open season, which lasts from mid-May to mid-September.
Lakelse Lake is located about 13 miles (21 km) south of Terrace, BC, on the Terrace-Kitimat Highway (BC-37). Terrace, one of northwest British Columbia's largest towns, sits on BC-16 and is a popular stopover spot for those traveling to or from Prince Rupert.
The Terrace-Kitimat Highway is paved and well-maintained, and though it passes through mountainous country, it sticks mainly to the valley bottom and so does not have any steep grades or hairpin turns. Even those traveling in large rigs should find no trouble with the drive. Travelers should, of course, be weather-wise while driving. Coastal British Columbia experiences tremendous amounts of both snow and rain, and weather can move over the mountains quickly.
Sites at the Furlong Bay Campground are divided between a paved section and a gravel section. All spots are back-in, and some may require some patient maneuvering for those driving large rigs. Lots off excess parking is available at the day-use area, right along the shore of Lakelse.
Though set in a gargantuan wilderness, the park itself is relatively small, with all facilities and trailheads being within easy walking distance of the campground.
Lakelse Lake's well forested campground at Furlong Bay features 156 sites, all of which can accommodate RVs and trailers (length limits are not listed, but several sites can accommodate "32+ ft" trailers and RVs). The campground is divided into to adjoining sections; one is paved and the other is gravel. Spots are well-separated by thick stands of spruce and fir, offering good privacy. Whatever spot you end up in, the Gruncy's Beach and Twin Spruce Trailheads, as well as the beach day use area, will be within walking distance.
Though the park's setting is remote, several modern amenities are offered. 50 sites have 30-amp electric hookups, and, though the park does not have sewage hookups, there is a sani-dump available for use during peak-season. There are modern restrooms, showers, and potable water spigots throughout the campground, too. Firewood is available for sale at the campground - for other supplies, the nearby town of Terrace has general stores, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and more.
The Furlong Bay Campground is open from mid-May through mid-September. All RV/trailer spots are reservable, though the large campsite is rarely at capacity, and all non-reserved sites are available on a first-come first-served basis.
Watersports enthusiasts who make the long trek to this remote corner of British Columbia will be handsomely rewarded - there are over 3,600 acres (1,450 ha) of water on which to explore and play. Surrounded by the Kitimat Mountains and hemmed in by towering walls of conifers, the lake offers an idyllic setting for canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing and even windsurfing. A paved, double boat launch is located right at the Furlong Bay day use area, just a short walk from the campground.
Lakelse has just a few kilometers of maintained trails, but what these routes lack in length they more than make up for with their scenic beauty. Visitors can stroll underneath the towering trunks of ancient, old-growth Sitka spruce, western red cedar and hemlock trees on the Twin Spruce Trail. The Gruchy's Beach Trail skirts the edge of Lakelse Lake and offers great views of the Kitimats in the distance. If you come at the right time of year, you may also spot huge salmon in the streams which feed into the lake.
There are also several hiking areas with just a short drive of Lakelse. The Coho Flats Trail at Kitimat lead's through thick forests to the town's namesake river. Anglers should bring a pole along!
Mid-summer visitors to Lakelse can enjoy a refreshing dip in the lake's cool, crystalline waters. The park's day use area has a long, sandy beach and a well demarcated swimming area. If you're lucky enough to get a sunny day (even during summer, rain and clouds are frequent occupants of the coastal skies), enjoy a sunbath and take in the sweeping mountainous view from the beach.
As with most BC parks, the swim area is unsupervised, so make sure children are attended to at all times.
Both Lakelse Lake and nearby rivers draw anglers from across British Columbia and beyond. In Lakelse, you can trek along the coastline or head out by boat to cast for Dolly Varden and trout. The mighty Skeena river boasts some of BC's largest steelhead and salmon runs; huge salmon (including chum, coho and chinook) can also be pulled from the smaller Kitmat River. The entire region is a fly-fisherman's paradise.
Wherever you end up casting, make sure you have a proper BC fishing license first!
Coastal British Columbia is a land of large trees and large creatures. A diverse array of fascinating species inhabit the old growth forests in and around Lakelse; among them are moose, wolves, cougars, and the Kermode bear. The magnificent and rare Kermode, a subspecies of the familiar black bear, is a spectral shade of white - for this reason, it is often referred to as the "Spirit Bear".
Bald eagles, osprey, many species of waterfowl and, of course, massive salmon, can also all be found in the park.
Though the Furlong Bay Campground closes in the off-season, the provincial park remains open year-round. Lakelse, being close to the coast, gets heaps of snow during the winter, and for several months the park is transformed into a snow-clad wonderland. If you're traveling by, stop for the day and take a snowshoe trek on one of the park's trails; you'll pass by venerable old-growth cedars and firs draped in white as you take in the landscape's beautiful quietude. Or, head for Lakelse Lake itself - it becomes a popular skating rink when the ice is thick enough.