MUSHING ON THE BOWRON CHAIN

Friday, April 06, 2012

Dog Mushing Around the Bowron Lake Chain
Two weekends ago, the second last weekend of March, our good friend Sylvia Feder travelled all the way from Seattle along with her two young [and quite wonderful] Candian Eskimo [Inuit] Dogs. We had planned to take a day trip out onto the Bowron Lake Chain with our dogs if the weather would allow it. The weather on the Bowron can be quite fickle and unforgiving, but we lucked out! Based on several Bowron trips over the past 20 years, I would have to say that the conditions could not have been better. We had a fantastic day! What about this area and its dog mushing history?

The Bowron is actually Bowron Lake Provincial Park and in addition to the main campground and park headquarters, it consists of 10 major lakes connected by a series of portage trails, rivers, and creeks, all in the shape of a quadrangle and set in the midst of the spectacular Cariboo mountains. It is a world class and very unique summer canoe/kayak route in that even though you travel over 116 kilometres, you start and end at the same place, without having to back-track. This interconnected network is known as a circuit or chain of lakes. There are amenities for paddlers consisting of approximately 50 developed campsites, all with pit toilets, fire rings, tent pads and bear caches. There are also 7 rustic, but very usable cabins [with wood heaters], and 4 open-sided cooking shelters, also with wood heaters. While the Chain gets heavy use in the summer, the number of winter visitors probably numbers fewer than 15 or 20 different individuals or groups.

The Bowron is part of the traditional land of Ndazkoh people who are part of the Dakelh or Carrier First Nation. There is little remaining evidence of these people having habited this area with the exception of a few midden sites comprised chiefly of freshwater clamshells and some stone artifacts. It is said that the remains of First Nations pit houses which lined Kibbee Creek all disappeared at the time of the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. There are a few references to these people in the fur trade literature and of the fact that they frequented the Bowron lake area. Why wouldn’t they, it is a beautiful setting that is teeming with freshwater fish, it is also the site of the longest salmon run in North America, these salmon migrate up the Fraser River, then up the Bowron River, through Bowron Lake and then up to the extreme end of the Upper Bowron River.

Two developments conspired to drive the Ndazkoh people from this part of their territory. In the 1860’s, thousands of gold seekers flooded into this area in seach of gold along Williams Creek…this was the Cariboo Gold Rush, and their presence had the effect of pushing the First Nations people out of this area. At about the same time, First Nations people throughout all of western North America were decimated by various epidemics [measles, smallpox, influenza], wiping out over 75% of the population. Today the Ndazko people reside on reserve land that is west of the Fraser River.

There is no tradition of the use of sled dogs among the Ndazkoh people. They had smaller “fox like” dogs that were used for hunting but these dogs were not used for pulling. The snowfall throughout this area is significant, making the use of dogs in the winter extremely difficult. The primary dietary staple of these people was salmon that were caught and dried in huge numbers to last throughout the winters. These people tended to “hunker down” for the winter in their pit houses, travelling on snowshoes if needed, but not wandering too far in the deep snow.

When the miners arrived in this country, they travelled on foot or with horses. There is sparse evidence that sled dogs were used during the Cariboo Gold Rush. It is true that some individual miners established dog teams to get about once they were settled on their claims. Some entrepreneurs used sled dogs to travel the 20 or so miles from Barkerville [the hub of the gold country] to Bowron Lake in order to catch the big lake trout which would fetch a handsome price when delivered to Barkerville for sale. There is also a history of individual trappers and outfitters using sled dogs on the Bowron Chain. Dean Cochran and his wife Lutie homesteaded on Indianpoint Creek [which flows out of Indianpoint Lake which is part of the Bowron Chain] in 1912, and while he used horses, he also used sled dogs in the winter [you can read about their life on the Indianpoint in Lutie’s book The Wilderness Told Me, printed by Spartan Printing of Quesnel in 1970). Another outfitter/trapper who used both horses and sled dogs on the Chain was Tim Cushman, who had his main cabin at Kruger Lake and whose father’s trapline actually ran inside the boundaries of the park. Ernie Holmes was a conservation officer inside the park, and he patrolled parts of the Chain by dog team. No-doubt there were others, but very few people have used sled dogs in this area.

The weather and ice conditions on the Chain are constantly changing, even several times in the same day, and dog mushers know that travelling on lakes can be both a blessing and a curse. The weight of the very heavy snowfall has the effect of pushing the ice downward, which causes the water to rise up on to the ice, causing horrible overflow conditions. There are springs running into some of the lakes and this can cause the lakes to be wide open in sections, even in the middle of winter. The overwintering Trumpeter Swans love it, but for skiers and dog mushers it can be very frightening. There are three rivers that comprise part of the Chain, the Cariboo, Bowron and Isaac, and it takes very cold weather to freeze these rivers up tight.

I know of no example of anyone who has succeeded in travelling around the Bowron Chain in the winter by dog team. There are those who have skied and snowshoed around the Chain and who have had a dog along with them, but to my knowledge, no dog team has ever made it all the way around the Chain. Last year some local mushers made a valiant effort to become the first mushers to complete the circuit, but they became quite bogged down on Isaac Lake after an incredibly tough slog to that point. This trip is documented in the Winter 2011 edition of Explore Magazine [#172] and it contains one ominous quote. As the exhausted expeditioners were regrouping at the Moxley Creek cabin at the end of a gut wrenching slog of a day, one of them muses, with a bleak and hollow tone to his voice…..”I went to some dark places today”.

To the contrary, Sylvia and I had a great day! There had been some ski and snowshoe traffic out on the Chain during the weeks prior to our trip and this had the effect of packing the snow on the portage sections of the route. I had spoken with the park contractor and he said that he had been out to Isaac Lake on snowshoes…judging by the sawdust on the trail, he also had his chainsaw with him, for the blowdown had been cut out of the portage trails. Out on the lakes, the conditions were ideal, there was essentially no open water and only a couple of inches of wind packed snow covered every lake….the dogs could go anywhere.

If ever there was a need for a good gee haw leader this was it….there were vestiges of the old ski/snowshoe trails on the lakes, and the dogs did follow these when they appeared… but generally the dogs were asked to follow the shoreline of the lakes. We were in no hurry and had no real destination, it wasn’t unlike a traditional Inuit journey. When the Inuit travelled with their dogs, virtually everything they owned was on their komatik [sled] wherever they were and however fast they were travelling was just fine…and today that is the way it was with both of us.

We knew that some folks had skied/snowshoed out the day before us to overnight in the cabin at Kibbee Lake…we arrived on their doorstep just before 10:00 a.m…..they were already out of bed. I naively thought that we might stop for coffee, but the dogs had very different ideas, they were wired and were screaming when we put the hook in at the cabin….it was a very short visit. From the cabin we went around Thompson Lake, then down Kibbee Lake, over the portage to Indianpoint Lake and down almost to the end of Indianpoint before having lunch and turning around…we knew that the trail had been broken over the next portage to Isaac Lake, but opted to return home at this point. Had we covered the 2 km. portage to Isaac Lake, it would have opened up 40 km. of clear sailing right down to the end of Isaac Lake, passing two cabins and two shelters on the way…..maybe next year.

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MAKING IT BACK SAFELY

It was on a 5 day, May, shoulder season Bowron Chain trip. Winter was taking its own sweet time to leave the area and some of the lakes were still frozen. For this reason our group chose to travel on the West Side of the Chain where we knew the lakes were open. This made for a relaxed trip and the opportunity to do some exploring.

On Day Three we decided not to break camp at Sandy Lake and we divided into three smaller groups. Four of the fellows wanted to circumnavigate all of Sandy Lake and hike into Hunter Lake in the process. Two of the fellows wanted to explore Sandy Lake’s north shore in search of the big cedar trees that are part of the legendary Interior Rain Forest that runs through the heart of central British Columbia. The remaining four wanted to paddle to Turner Creek on Lanezi Lake where we had been told the campground was still covered in deep snow. One of these fellows was visiting from Ontario and we all wanted him to see the majestic snow-covered mountains that rim Lanezi Lake.

There was no real pressure to get anywhere, it was just going to be a relaxing day. The weather was overcast, it started to drizzle rain about 10:30 in the morning.

The fellows paddling into Lanezi felt a fairly strong tailwind as soon as they left the narrows that lie between Mount Kaza and Mount Ishpa, right at the western entrance to Lanezi Lake. The persistant drizzle and the thought of paddling back into what would then be a headwind caused them to think about turning back, but they decided that they really did want to get to Turner Creek. Even if it was deep in snow, the new shelter would be a great place to warm up and have lunch before the return trip.

There are several very dramatic avalanche chutes on Lanezi. These fill up with snow during the winter and in the early spring the snow comes sliding and crashing down into the lake. During a big snow year like this one had been, these chutes take on the appearance of mini glaciers, the snow has compacted into ice, reflecting a full spectrum of glacial colours….a photographer’s dream.

At one particularly beautiful chute the two canoes stopped and the bow paddler in each canoe took out his camera. The canoes side by side, one a little ahead of the other, were parallel to the very steep rock face, about 15 metres out from shore. Just as one of the fellows “clicked” his I Phone there was a cracking sound and a huge portion of the ice face broke off. The crash sent out a large wave of water and the canoes nearly capsized. Immediately both canoes tried to turn away from the oncoming wave, the more nimble Prospector designed with some rocker was successful while the longer and flatter Tripper, designed for speedy lake travel but not for quick turning was hit broadside by a second wave and was flipped…..both men in that canoe were in the freezing water.

While they had survived the initial wave that was the result of the ice hitting the water, it would seem that as the huge “iceberg” hit the lake, sank and then started rising, it displaced a huge amount of water. As it rose it produced yet another wave like a mini tsunami, as the water rushed to fill the void left by the rising ice. This is the wave that sent the two paddlers into the water.

It took about seven minutes. There was an initial impulse to try and make it to shore…but there was no shore, just a steep rock face and besides at that temperature as one of the men stated, “your legs don’t work very well”. Our group had talked about rescues earlier during the trip and of the importance of staying with your boat. The fellows in the Prospector started the canoe-over-canoe rescue procedure, the stern paddler was the most experienced and he took control, guiding everyone in the process. The Tripper was emptied of water, soon both of the drenched paddlers were back in their canoe and the floating gear was gathered from the lake. The only real casualty was the propane stove, which made it to the bottom of the lake….even the I Phone that was in the paddlers hand when the ice face broke away was saved. They made a bee-line for a nearby campsite and within minutes had a fire going, using the emergency fire starter that they carried with them. All of their gear had been in dry bags and they had extra clothing with them. Soon everyone was in dry clothes and drinking a hot drink….the immediate crisis had been addressed and everyone was safe!

What are the chances of something like this happening? How often do ice faces calve off chunks of ice with canoes 15 metres away? The fact is it did happen, and this is just one example of the kind of accidents that all paddlers may face. Fortunately this is also an example of experienced paddlers who were prepared to deal with such a situation. There were two canoes paddling together, they understood and had practiced rescue procedures, they were wearing PFD’s, they were prepared to deal with the effects of hypothermia, even in glacial conditions. But, should they have been paddling further out from the shore? Should they have stopped their canoes in front of the avalanche chute to take that photo?

The Park Use Plan for Bowron Lake Provincial Park states that the Bowron Chain was established/developed to provide “a wilderness paddling experience for the intermediate level paddler”. It is wilderness, and it is necessary that those who undertake a trip on the Chain have the knowledge and the skills that come with experience and training. It is no place for inexperienced and ill-equipped paddlers and it is important that Park managers and planners keep this in mind as they make decisions that might entice inexperienced paddlers to travel the Circuit.

As evening approached, the three groups came together to share their day’s experiences. Needless to say, there was lots to talk about. It was heartening to see these men reach out to comfort each other in the midst of what was truly a frightening and traumatic experience. The group of two did find the giant cedar trees of the Interior Rain Forest and one group of four made it around Sandy Lake and into Hunter Lake while the other group of four never did make it to Turner Creek….but they did make it back safely.

 

Interior Temperate Rainforest

Bowron Lake Provincial Park Interior Temperate Rainforest…A Special Place

British Columbia’s Inland Temperate Rainforest, stretches from the headwaters of the Fraser and Columbia Rivers to the northern extremes of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. This area includes most of Bowron Lake Provincial Park. This rainforest is the only place on earth where temperate rainforests are found so far inland from the sea. Weather systems from the Pacific Ocean collide with the Columbia Mountains to create lush interior forests, habitat for many unique plants and animals.

Anyone completing the whole Circuit will notice the presence of both western hemlock and western red cedar trees along the Isaac River portage route, as well as the luxuriant undergrowth and the dampness of the area….this is the Inland Temperate Rainforest. These conditions occur elsewhere throughout the Chain (there is one delightful grove of cedar trees right on the portage trail from Indianpoint to Isaac Lake, someone has placed a crude bench there, I have always thought that it would be a great place for a wedding)…it’s a matter of hiking in to find them.

From when I first journeyed out to Bowron Lake in the early 1980’s, I remember some of the old (original) log buildings still standing on the Bowron Lake Lodge property on the shore of Bowron Lake. These had no-doubt been built by the original owners of the lodge, Joe and Betty Wendle. It was the shake roofs that stand out in my memory, cedar shakes. I knew that cedar was readily available to the south, along the north arm of Quesnel Lake, I wasn’t aware that in fact the cedar stands were much closer at hand.

In 2013 I had been quite intrigued by photos posted on line by Dave Jorgenson and Cheryl McCarthy, of the cedar trees growing on the north shore to Sandy Lake. About the same time I read in George Gilbert’s memoir “Kicked By A Dead Moose” about the roughly built “shake shelters” that were erected in the 1940’s and 50’s by miners from the Wells Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine on both Unna and Rum Lakes as a place for their families to spend summer weekends. The Pavich cabin built in the 50’s on the bank of the upper Bowron River was also roofed with shakes cut from cedar bolts that came from Sandy Lake. I had to see the source of this cedar.

In May, 2014, a group of friends undertook our annual “May long weekend trip around the Bowron”. Actually in 2014, Isaac Lake was still frozen tighter than a drum so we contented ourselves with a relaxing 5 day trip on the Circuit’s West Side. This was going to offer the time needed to explore Sandy Lake’s north shore in pursuit of the Interior Rain Forest and the giant western red cedars.

On a drizzly May day, two of us paddled to the mouth of a noisy creek flowing into Sandy Lake on it’s north shore. We could tell from the sound of the rushing water that it was coming from somewhere much higher. While we were on the north shore, it might more correctly be called the north-east shore, we were at the east end of the lake. There were no cedars to be seen at the shore line but as we hiked inland (and upwards), soon a few small cedar trees were evident. The predominant growth at this elevation is actually bug-killed lodge pole pine and the ground was moist and spongy. The forest cover was interspersed with some fairly large open marshy areas.

We walked through one of the open spongy wet areas towards a wall of dense forest cover. As if by magic, as soon as we entered the forest, there were the cedars…lots of them and big ones too. There were also large beautiful spruce trees towering above us as well as dead trees laying in every direction. In places we used the downed trees as foot paths in order to negotiate the dense undergrowth. Fortunately it was early in the season so we didn’t have to contend with the Devil’s Club. The terrain became steeper and as we climbed, the trees became larger. This had to be the source of the cedar for those shake shelters and the shake roofs. We had to take a few of the classic tree hugging photos just to show their size but as the drizzle was being very persistent (and wet), we chose to make our way back to the canoe for the short paddle back to our camp and the chairs under the dry tarpaulin.

There is lots of readily available written material about B.C.’s Interior Rain Forest. It is unique in the world, it is very impressive. Anyone who has driven highway #16 from Prince George to McBride has seen the “Ancient Forest” signs. These signs mark the trailhead to an extensive network of hiking trails, some of which have even been made wheelchair accessible and all of them highlighting all that is wonderful about this very unique ecosystem. A quick Google of “B.C.’s Interior Rainforest” will bring up several (very local) websites complete with maps and photos. UNBC seems to have taken a very special interest in this precious ecosystem. Fortunately, it would appear that any destructive logging of these trees in this area has been halted, or at least is carefully monitored. There are trees in the Interior Rain Forest that are over 1000 years old.

Bowron Lake Provincial Park Vegetation Management and Forest Health (quoted from BC Parks brochure)

“The Parks (Bowron Lake and adjacent Cariboo Mountains and Cariboo River Parks) contain variants of the Alpine Tundra (AT), Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir (ESSF, 2 subzone variants), Interior Cedar Hemlock (ICH, 3 subzone variants), and Suboreal Spruce (SBS, 1 subzone variant) biogeoclimatic zones. Except for a few recently burned areas, the forest landscape within the parks is predominately mature and old-growth forest, with some non-forested wetlands and alpine communities.
In the Sub-boreal Spruce (SBS) zone, subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) and hybrid spruce (Picea engelmanni x P. glauca) are the predominant trees in mature ecosystems. Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesi) occurs commonly as large individuals in fire regenerated stands on morainal materials and often occurs with pockets of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera).

Extensive areas of fire-regenerated forests dominated by young lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) occur on dry outwash materials adjacent to the Swan-Spectacle lakes area.
The transition to Interior Cedar Hemlock zones (ICH) is marked by the presence of western red-cedar (Thuja plicata) and increasing amounts of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). In many stands, hybrid spruce and subalpine fir are still the dominant trees within the ICH portions of the parks. The Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir (ESSF) zones occur above the Sub-boreal Spruce and Interior Cedar Hemlock. This zone is dominated by subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce is replaced by hybrid spruce. At higher elevations this zone is distinguished by having a discontinuous forest canopy in the form of islands of low, stunted trees interspersed between wet meadows and shrub communities.

Above the ESSF is the Alpine Tundra (AT) zone where trees can no longer grow due to colder temperatures, prolonged snowfall, short growing seasons and severe winter winds. The Alpine Tundra zone occurs above tree line at the highest elevation of the parks and is dominated by a mosaic of herb, sedge and shrub dominated communities. Other non-forested ecosystems occur on avalanche chutes, and in wetland complexes in areas of poor drainage.”

 

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Destruction of Cabins….Information Sheet #2

Bowron Lake Provincial Park…….Information Sheet #2
Destruction of Cabins…..Update, May 6, 2014

On February 13, 2014 I produced a Bowron Lake Information Sheet entitled simply Destruction of Cabins. This three page document (I call it Information Sheet #1) outlined my experience at Pat’s Point on the Bowron Chain during Thanksgiving weekend, 2013. If you would like to read this full document you can find it at http://www.celebratethebowron.com

I became concerned when it became evident that the Ranger cabin at Pat’s Point had been destroyed and cut into firewood and had been replaced with a spanking new, gorgeous, fir, post and beam, fixed roof, duplex building with provisions for running water and a greywater sewage system. This experience raised a RED FLAG for me regarding management decisions that could have a significant impact on the future direction of Bowron Lake Provincial Park. As I stated in Information Sheet #1, “….there is a current program of destruction of cabins and shelters in the Park that appears misguided, implies a misuse of taxpayer funds and which is definitely occurring without consultation.”.

Since producing the first Information Sheet, I have learned some more interesting facts. This information has come from the minutes of a March 19, 2014 meeting that occurred between the BC Parks (Bowron Lake Park) managers and the executive of BLES (Bowron Lake Enhancement Society), the first meeting between the Park managers and members of the general public since the Park Use Plan was developed in 2002. In addition I have been speaking with others who have first hand knowledge of Park history. I want to share this information which will provide some corrections to some of the statements I made in Information Sheet #1 as well as some clarification and updates regarding future plans for the Park. It appears that this will be an ongoing discussion.

In Information Sheet #1 I posed a number of questions for Park managers. I will repeat and comment on these same (boldfaced) questions below.

What are the intentions of Park managers with regards to greater consumer involvement in the planning for and development of Bowron Lake Provincial Park?

The fact that the meeting between Park managers and the BLES executive took place on March 17, 2014 provides an answer to this questions. This meeting was a welcome and positive development and hopefully will be the first in an ongoing series of such meetings.

It was learned at this meeting that there has been a shifting of responsibilities among the BC Parks staff members working out of the Williams Lake office. In addition there are staff vacancies to be filled.

The responsibilities of the Ministry of Environment fall into five Divisions:
Environmental Protection Division
Environmental Sustainability and Strategic Policy Division
Parks and Protected Areas (BC Parks)
Climate Action Secretariat
Conservation Officer Service

These services are offered throughout the province through Regional offices. In reality some smaller Regional offices (i.e. Cariboo Region/Williams Lake) are accountable to a larger Regional office (Thompson Region/Kamloops) and in fact are referred to as Sections. The individual with overall responsibility for BC Parks (and therefore Bowron Lake Provincial Park) in the Cariboo Region is referred to as the Section Head. Dave Zevick, the Section Head at the time of the March 19th meeting has accepted a transfer to a position in another office and was to be leaving Williams Lake very soon, his replacement has not yet been assigned. Helen Rimmer, who has been the Supervisor with primary responsibility for Bowron Lake Provincial Park for the past 10 years has assumed different responsibilities within the Williams Lake office and her role at Bowron Lake has been assumed by Heather Gorrell, the former Cariboo South Supervisor. Heather is now the “go to” person regarding Bowron Lake issues, she has indicated that she would like to have regular/ongoing meetings with Bowron Lake stakeholders.

If necessary, will….documenting the provenance of the Park’s significant structures and places become an ongoing priority?

There is no indication that BC Parks has made any attempt to document in writing, the provenance of any of the cabins and other structures that currently exist or that existed in the past around the Bowron Chain. All may not be lost however, apparently “photo documentation” of the destroyed Pat’s Point cabin has been completed and I have also heard a suggestion that old BC Parks files may not have been destroyed and if this is the case, it may be possible to glean some information from these, however this will require the efforts of a committed researcher as well as the co-operation of BC Parks. I will pursue this matter.

It does not appear that a Statement of Significance has been completed for the Pat’s Point Ranger cabin. I have tried to gather some information regarding this structure that may prove useful when developing a Statement of Significance for this (now destroyed) building. I did confirm that the Pat’s Point Ranger cabin was in fact one of the newest log buildings on the Chain (at the March 19th meeting it was stated that this cabin was constructed in 1980). It was built by the late Frank Cushman and his son Tim. They felled the trees on site and used horse power to skid and raise the logs for the building. This was one of two Ranger cabins that Frank Cushman built in the Park. The Frank Cushman family have deep roots in the Park. At one time Frank and his wife Ruth owned and operated what is now known as Becker’s Resort. Frank established Wolverine Mountain Outfitters based at Kruger Lake which is right on the Park Boundary. Frank’s guiding area was huge and at one time it actually included much of what was to become the Park. At least one of the existing shelter cabins (located on Indianpoint Lake) was built by Frank and was used as part of his guiding and trapping area. What remains of this guiding area still essentially surrounds the Park.

To set this cabin into a context, it is helpful to know just what was happening in the Park at the time it was constructed. The Bowron became a Park in 1961. While it took Park officials a while to develop a plan, over the next ten years the basic plan for the Park as we know it today unfolded. This plan included establishing wilderness campsites with basic amenities, four cooking shelters, portage trails, a main registration/staging area and the construction of four Ranger cabins. Until the 1990’s there were no contracted staff providing management/maintenance services in the Park, all of the “workers” were BC Parks employees, either full time or summer/part time. There was also a vibrant program for employing youth in the Park. There was a need for accommodation around the Chain for the Park Wardens, hence the construction of the four Warden cabins throughout the 70’s. Prior to their construction, some of the existing shelter (emergency) cabins were used as Warden cabins.

It is important to note that this early planning was true to the philosophy that underlaid the creation of Bowron Lake Provincial Park, that it would offer a wilderness paddling experience for the intermediate level paddler. In fact, BC Parks actually destroyed (or let mother nature destroy) many of the “modern” amenities that existed around the Chain in 1961 such as the wooden tramway that ran between Spectacle and Skoi Lakes and between Skoi and Babcock Lake, to safeguard the notion of a wilderness paddling experience. Similarly the canal that had been dynamited between Spectacle and Skoi Lakes was allowed to sluff in so that it would not be usable. Many cabins that existed around the Chain were destroyed including George Gilbert’s cabin at Silvertip Point on lower Isaac Lake. The enclave of “shake shelters” that existed on Unna and Rum Lakes disappeared.

Today there are seven shelter (emergency) cabins in existence around the Chain. These all had “prior lives” dating back to pre-1961, when Bowron Lake Provincial Park was created. When Thomas McCabe made his map of the Chain in 1925, he documented the existence of at least 17 habitable/emergency shelter cabins around the Chain (excluding those located on Bowron Lake) and McCabe’s numbers do not include those cabins that were constructed by Wells residents and the Wells Rod and Reel Club during the 1930’s – 50’s.

Are there plans to demolish the Indianpoint Lake Ranger cabin in 2014? Are other cabins or structures scheduled for destruction in the next few years?

The Indianpoint Lake Ranger cabin will not be destroyed in 2014 but the Ranger cabin located at Babcock Creek will be destroyed as soon as weather conditions permit, most likely in May of 2014. As soon as this cabin is demolished, another post and beam duplex, fixed-roof structure identical to the one that was erected at Pat’s Point will be erected on the same footprint as the existing Babcock Creek Ranger cabin. The goal is that it will be ready for occupancy by July of 2014.

The Babcock Creek site is somewhat unique in that there isn’t really another suitable site available to construct a new Ranger cabin due to the fact that the existing site allows for fairly easy access to Babcock Lake via a wooden boardwalk (that is not available or easily accessible to the paddling public). This means that Wardens are able to dock their motor boats on Babcock Lake with easy walking access to their cabin where a second boat is available that allows them to travel all the way to McLeary Lake.

There is another reason however why the policy has been to build the four replacement cook shelters as well as the Pat’s Point Ranger cabin (and now the Babcock Creek cabin) on the identical footprint of the original (now demolished) structures. If a new building site was utilized, Parks would be required to undertake an archaeological assessment of the proposed site for the new structure, to ensure that this site was not of special significance for First Nations governments. Parks states that they are committed to honouring the policy of an archaeological assessment for new construction, but not if they are building a new structure on an old site, even though it is highly unlikely that any archaeological assessment was ever done on the site in question when the original structure was constructed.

There is a significant dearth of any archaeological/primary evidence regarding First Nations habitation in the area of Bowron Lake and around the Chain. Much (most?) of the evidence that does exist is at best anecdotal. It would seem that BC Parks is essentially using a “loophole” to avoid the archaeological assessment process even though they are officially supportive of the practice. Why this glaring inconsistency? Could this have anything to do with pending land claims negotiations/settlements between First Nations and various levels of government?

Park management shared the details of what is essentially their Seven Year Plan for Bowron Lake Provincial Park. I’m not sure just when “year #1” began but developments to date have included upgrades to the registration building site to ensure proper drainage etc., improvements in the front country campground, provision of metal bear caches at the campsites, the construction of 4 replacement cook shelters and construction of the new Pat’s Point Ranger cabin. Developments to come over the next three or four years include the new Ranger cabin at Babcock Creek, widening (and reopening) of the hiking trail to Cariboo Falls to a minimum width of 30+ feet for safety reasons, replacement of the Ranger cabins at Wolverine Bay and Indianpoint Lake with structures identical to the new Pat’s Point Ranger cabin structure (with some prior remediation/water drainage work required at the Indianpoint Lake site), installation of greywater systems in each of the new Ranger cabins and some upgrades to the portage trails.

What is the rationale for the replacement of the four Ranger cabins? Officially they are being replaced for health reasons, because they have apparently become overrun by mice and bats. Some of the structures are also on unstable foundations and there are “water issues” at Indianpoint Lake. The fact is, these cabins have always seen minimal use, but certainly since the introduction of the PFO/contracted maintenance system they have seen even less use. It is also quite possible that with the high turnover of transient contract employees, there has been virtually no incentive to care for and maintain these buildings to any reasonable standard. In short they have become very run down, dirty and have not seen any kind of preventive maintenance. It is no wonder that the mice and bats have moved in.

All log structures require preventive maintenance (and this is also true of the new post and beam timber frame structures that are being built on the Chain, I hope that the contract to build these new structures also comes with a provision for ongoing preventive maintenance). It is tragic that the existing Ranger cabins have been allowed to deteriorate. However, if ever there was an area of B.C. that possessed the knowledge of how to stabilize and rehabilitate log buildings it is the Quesnel/Cottonwood House/Barkerville/Quesnel Forks/Bowron Lake region which is home to innumerable heritage log structures. There is no question that with the knowledge that is available in this area, the existing log Ranger cabins could be rehabilitated and the presenting health risks could neutralized .

Throughout these Information Sheets, I have referred to the new post and beam buildings as “fixed roof” structures. The term “fixed roof” is a BC Parks term and it is used in BC Parks literature in connection with a BC Parks plan to see rental accommodation developed , either by private developers or by BC Parks themselves within certain BC parks. I’m not quite sure just what “fixed roof” means, perhaps it is used to distinguish these buildings from tents. It was shared by Park managers that the notion of developing rental accommodation in Bowron Lake Park was part of the reason that this type of duplex building was chosen for construction. While the implementation of such a “service” would require some time to develop, this line of reasoning confirms my worst fears regarding the future degradation of the wilderness paddling experience for the intermediate level paddler in Bowron Lake Provincial Park.

Apparently the promotion of “fixed roof” rental accommodation in BC parks is seen as a way of generating revenue to offset the cost of the contracted Park Facilities Operator. The more money that the PFO can generate from revenues like user fees, canoe rentals, souvenir and firewood sales and from the rental of “fixed roof” accommodation, the less the amount of money that will have to come from public coffers.

What steps are Park managers taking to ensure that no more cabins will be destroyed and that if replaced, the existing Ranger cabins will become much needed shelter cabins?

The destruction of the existing Babcock Creek cabin is essentially a done deal. Apparently the replacement post and beam structure has already been constructed and is waiting to be helicoptered into the Park for assembly. But Park managers and the contractor building the replacement Ranger cabin are reportedly not against the idea of the existing cabin being dismantled (as opposed to being cut up for firewood) and being reassembled on another site for use as a shelter(emergency) cabin as long as the disassembly of the existing structure is done expeditiously. This is welcome news but it also raises some hurdles.

Because the Babcock Creek site is so small, if the existing cabin is to see a new life, it must be dismantled and moved, there is simply not enough room to store the materials from the old cabin on site. The option is most likely to cut up and burn the old Ranger cabin. There is a real time crunch and quite frankly for the contractor who is erecting the new structure, time is money. Because the new structure is ready to go, the old structure must be removed (in one way or another) as soon as weather permits.

In order to “save” the old cabin, a group of hardy workers would have to descend on Babcock Creek to dismantle the existing building, labelling the logs for reassembly, the logs would have to be moved from the site and stored under cover. It would seem that these workers would have to be volunteers as at this point there is no money to pay such a crew. This would require a significant amount of organization and co-ordination and as stated, there is a time crunch. Once the logs were moved, it would be necessary to wait while an archaeological assessment was completed on the proposed new site for reassembly of the cabin, again more money. If all was a go, resources (manpower, equipment and money) for reassembly of the cabin would then have to be found and mobilized.

It looks like there is a very slim chance that the existing Babcock Creek cabin can be saved. But there is still the opportunity to develop a plan for the Wolverine Bay and the Indianpoint Lake cabins. Most importantly, it would appear that Park managers do appreciate the fact that there is indeed a need for more shelter (emergency) cabins around the Chain. Perhaps it will be possible to build the new (replacement) Wolverine Bay and Indianpoint Lake Ranger cabins on new footprints, leaving the existing cabins intact so that they can be converted into much needed shelter (emergency) cabins without having to be dismantled and moved.

How much did it cost at Bowron Lake Park to build a fir post and beam fixed roof duplex off site and then to assemble it in the middle of a wilderness park with all materials, tools, supplies and workers being helicoptered in and out?

To my knowledge, the construction costs associated with the four new cook shelters and the Pat’s Point Ranger cabin have not been publicly revealed. They are significant, high quality structures. The fact that they were built off site and reassembled in a wilderness area using expensive helicopter transport for all materials, equipment, personnel both in and out of the Park suggests a significant amount of money for transportation alone. The existing structures had to be demolished and all of the expensive building materials that could not be burned and that had themselves probably been transported by helicopter into the Park in the first place had to be destroyed and/or transported (by helicopter) to a landfill site. Not only does this have dollar signs stamped all over it but it is also such a tragic waste and loss of valuable and scarce buildings within the Park and even if they had to be dismantled, it is a loss of valuable building materials.

It would be appropriate to simply ask the Park managers how much these structures cost. Did the negotiated contracts include ongoing preventative maintenance of the structures? Log and timber structures settle, they “shrink” and the wood becomes checked and sometimes the structures shift. It is important to keep log and timber frame structures clean and to wash the woodwork annually, to treat them with a mould inhibitor and to protect them from damaging ultraviolet rays and water damage.

If information regarding the cost of construction is not forthcoming, it may be appropriate to request these figures by submitting a request under the terms of the British Columbia Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy Act.

Jeffrey Dinsdale
May 6, 2014

BC Parks and BLES….First Meeting in 12 Years….A Good Start

THE BOWRON LAKE CHAIN
MEETING BETWEEN BC PARKS AND BOWRON LAKE ENHANCEMENT SOCIETY

In the Cariboo we have treasure everywhere. For some people, GOLD is the first thing that will come to mind For those of us who love the outdoors, we have the crown jewel of all outdoor adventure treasures….The Bowron Lake Chain, a truly unique paddling destination.

I have been told that his past week, for the first time since the Bowron Lake Park Use Plan was developed 12 years ago, BC Parks administrators sat down with the executive of the Bowron Lake Enhancement Society (representing Park lovers, users, advocates and volunteers), to discuss issues of mutual concern. Management of public parks must involve consumer/volunteer input, the fact that this meeting took place represents an enlightened and very positive step and I commend everyone involved.  I hope that this partnership will grow from a relationship based on trust. As with all relationships, trust will grow out of mutual appreciation for the contribution and input of each of the partners and a belief that both are indeed working together towards a common goal.

I wasn’t part of this meeting, but if I had been able to have input, these are the agenda topics I would have put forward for discussion, with my probable comments in italics:

1. Sound heritage buildings are presently being destroyed on the Bowron and are being replaced (using the same footprint) with expensive replacement structures. The documentation of the provenance of the existing Park buildings is unclear, is our link with the past being severed? A little bit of research should quickly clarify this and if necessary, it is time to write a Statement of Significance for every structure and “special place” on the Chain. Before new construction can take place, it is necessary to undertake an archaeological study of any area to be impacted. Is this why the old footprint is being used for new construction? If this is the case, it then leaves no option but to destroy (or maybe move?) the existing structure.  Developing a Statement of Significance is really just an extension of the archaeological assessment.

2. The cost and the waste associated with replacing the existing structures is a source of major fiscal concern, especially in the face of other pressing priorities in the Park. How can these expenditures be justified?  Newer is not necessarily better.  What options (like restoration and regular building maintenance are available)?  It is important that these decisions are not made in a vacuum, that is why the perspective of user groups is so important. This is an emotional topic that needs to be considered candidly.

3. The Park Use Plan clearly states that Bowron Lake Provincial Park exists to offer a “wilderness paddling experience for the intermediate level paddler.” Those who have paddled the Chain and who have grown to appreciate it would suggest that this goal has been largely attained. It is important not to undermine this fact by building structures that don’t belong in that setting, destroying historic buildings and other features, posting intrusive warning signs at every turn and giving inconsistent and confusing messages to the paddling public. Most importantly, we need to be stewards and to value and take care of what is already in place around the Chain.

If you care about the Bowron and/or want to learn more, I would  refer you to http://www.facebook.com/Bowronlake this is Sandy Phillips’ Bear River Mercantile/Museum site…it’s a good one!   You can also go to the Bear River Mercantile website  at http://www.bowronlake.com  The website for the Bowron Lake Enhancement Society (BLES) is http://www.bles.ca   To see some outsdanding  photos of  paddling and Bowron Lake go to Thomas Drasdauskis’ website at http://www.photodras.zenfolio.com

Prepared by Jeffrey Dinsdale, March 25, 2014

 

 

 

DESTRUCTION OF CABINS….OCTOBER, 2013

Bowron Lake Provincial Park
Destruction of Cabins

Last October I canoed with family and friends to enjoy Thanksgiving at Pat’s Point on the Bowron Lake Chain’s Spectacle Lake. Before leaving on this trip I had heard from other travellers that the Ranger Cabin at Pat’s Point had been destroyed. When our group arrived, a construction crew was working feverishly to finish a replacement structure, it was to be inspected by Parks officials the following day and the crew was wanting to use the helicopter that would be transporting these officials, to fly out both their construction equipment and themselves.

The new building is indeed a fir post and beam “fixed roof” duplex, we noted fibreglass shower stalls waiting to installed…it is a beautiful building. We understood the former Ranger Cabin had been cut into firewood, we were allowed to help ourselves and took a canoe load of the dry, 12”- 14”diameter rounds to the campground. These had been house logs, not cabin logs and they were in pristine condition. This experience has raised a RED FLAG for anyone concerned about the future of Bowron Lake Provincial Park and this is being written because I have very real concerns about the Park Use Development Plan. Specifically, there is a current program of destruction of cabins and shelters in the Park that appears misguided, implies a misuse of taxpayer funds and which is definitely occurring without consultation.

We live in a time when those BC Parks officials entrusted with the management of our “provincial protected area systems” must be sensitive to the needs, wishes and recommendations of the concerned general public. Recognition of this fact seems to be well appreciated under the heading of Shared Stewardship in the 2012 -13 BC Parks Annual Report and it is certainly an integral part of the 2002 Bowron Lake Management Plan. As a well informed member of the concerned general public and as a frequent Park visitor, I was unaware of the decision to destroy the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin.
What are the intentions of Park managers with regards to greater consumer involvement in the planning for and development of Bowron Lake Provincial Park?

It simply isn’t acceptable to destroy existing buildings and places of known historical significance without at least documenting their provenance. Archaeological assessments are now a preliminary and integral part of any major building or highway construction project or logging operation. The rationale is to determine just what was/is present before the building or place is changed forever. If warranted, plans may be changed based on the information that becomes available.

The cabin in question was possibly the newest log structure on the Chain but this fact does nothing to diminish its significance from a historical perspective. Despite the clearly stated good intentions and clear directives in Section 4.6 — Cultural Heritage of the 2002 Bowron Lake Park Management Plan, it is not really known if B.C.Parks has documented the provenance of any of the dwellings and significant structures and places that have been part of the Park, both past and present.
If necessary, will an attempt be made to change this oversight and will documenting the provenance of the Park’s significant structures and places become an ongoing priority?

If a Statement of Significance has been completed, the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin will most likely have been described as a prominent log building in excellent condition, constructed of locally available materials. Its appearance, method of construction and place of construction would have been documented. Further the person(s) who did the construction would have been identified, all of these facts could prove to be very valuable from a historical and heritage perspective. The time of construction would then be set into a context. What was going on in the Park and it’s evolution when this building was constructed, why was it constructed at that time, how does it relate to other existing structures? With all of this information the story of the Bowron unfolds. Often as this information emerges, it influences the decision making process.

I was told by the construction workers at the Pat’s Point site that the destruction and replacement of the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin was the first of four such projects scheduled to take place in the Park over the next few years. I have heard that in the spring of 2014, plans are to repeat this scenario at the site of the Indianpoint Lake Ranger Cabin. If this information is factual, there is time to change those plans. At the very least it is necessary to prepare a Statement of Significance of the Indianpoint cabin before levelling it, but ideally to step back and to look at the decisions that may be in place in light of the comments coming forward from concerned individuals as well as from the information that the Statement of Significance will provide.
Are there plans to demolish the Indianpoint Lake Ranger Cabin in 2014? Are other cabins or structures scheduled for destruction in the next few years?

How much did it cost at Bowron Lake Park to build a fir post and beam “fixed roof” duplex off site and then to assemble it in the middle of a wilderness park with all materials, tools, supplies and workers being helicoptered in and out?
This information is certainly available on someone’s hard drive, failing this it should be available through a request under the B.C. Freedom of Information Act. The cost of helicopter time alone is said to be over $1,000.00 per hour and on Thanksgiving Sunday, 2013, I watched the helicopter come and go to the construction site at Pat’s Point for about seven hours. This money is being spent at a time when there is a clear and long standing need for major capital improvements elsewhere in the Park. The Park’s portage trails are in rough shape and if the policy of the use of canoe carts is to be continued, they must be upgraded. The trail to the Cariboo Falls has been closed for a couple of years due to hazardous beetle kill. The 1926 Joe Wendle cabin, the oldest extant structure on the Chain is dangerously close to sliding into the Upper Bowron River.

Why build this replacement building in the first place? There was nothing wrong with the existing Ranger Cabin. The logs were in excellent condition, it was a sound, serviceable structure, it blended with the environment, it looked like it belonged, in fact it had been built of materials that came from the very place in which it was standing. All log buildings require regular careful maintenance. Unlike other log structures on the Chain, this building had been reasonably well taken care of and because of its good condition, upgrades to the building would have been a fairly straightforward process.

Based on any information that is presently available to the general public, the new “fixed roof” post and beam duplexes are simply not required. However, if a case could be made for their construction, there are pressing alternate uses for the existing Ranger Cabins. If the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin was redundant, why couldn’t it have been moved, disassembling and moving a log building is not a particularly difficult task? Shelter cabins are one of the truly special features of the Bowron Chain, when wet and cold and at the end of a long day of physical exertion, nothing is as inviting (and sometimes as necessary) as a shelter cabin with a warm heater…no matter what the season. Why couldn’t the Pat’s Point Ranger Cabin have been used to augment the number of aging shelter cabins that are available to the paddling public, particularly as there is indeed a demand for such shelters.
What steps are Park managers taking to ensure that no more cabins will be destroyed and that if replaced, the existing Ranger Cabins will become much needed shelter cabins?

I would ask that you please reflect and comment on the following points:

1. management of public parks must involve consumer/volunteer input and this simply has not been happening with Bowron Lake Provincial Park despite the “official” declaration that this should be the case.
2. documentation of the provenance of the existing structures is unclear, is our link with the past being severed?
3. the exorbitant cost and the waste associated with replacing the existing structures is a source of major fiscal concern.
4. with the absence of public consultation and explanation, the incongruence of the proposed replacement structures gives rise to justifiable speculation.
5. there are reasons to suspect that these clandestine developments will have a long lasting destructive impact on the true Bowron Lake paddling experience.

The 2002 Parks Management Plan clearly states that Bowron Lake Provincial Park exists to offer a “wilderness paddling experience for the intermediate level paddler.” Those who have paddled the Chain and who have grown to appreciate it would suggest that this goal has been attained. Where do fixed roof duplexes fit into this goal?

I hope that I have been able to illustrate the importance of these current developments in Bowron Lake Provincial Park regarding their severe negative impact on the historical, natural and experiential objectives relative to this park.

If you have questions, comments or concerns regarding this issue, please contact:

Mr. Dave Zevick Hon.                                               Mary Polak, Minister,
Section Head                                                            Government of British Columbia,
BC Parks, Cariboo Section                                       Ministry of Environment,
Ministry of Environment,                                           P.O. Box 9047,
Thompson Cariboo Region                                      STN. PROV GOVT,
400-640 Borland Street,                                           Victoria, B.C.
Williams Lake, B.C,                                                   V8W 9E2,
V2G 4T1                                                                   Tel. 250 387-1187
Tel. 250 398-4888                                                    Email: ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Cel. 250 267-4205
Email: Dave.Zevick@gov.bc.ca

This document was prepared by Jeffrey Dinsdale jdinsdale@xplornet.ca
February 13, 2014

Around the Bowron May 2013

AROUND THE BOWRON….MAY 2013

I must admit, I personally have not kept track of the number of times that a group of friends, largely from Quesnel, have made the journey around the Bowron Chain of Lakes on the May long weekend. Members of this group informed me however that 2013 marked year 17 of this annual odyssey. That’s hard to believe, some of the fellows on this year’s trip weren’t even born 17 years ago. It truly has been 17 great years, with 17 years worth of memories and stories to tell.

In some ways, the 2013 trip was a totally new journey for me. Many of the same friends were along for the trip, and of course the lakes and the trails hadn’t moved. Lately however I have been searching out information about the cultural history of the Bowron, and on this trip I found myself looking at familiar sights from a totally different perspective. As the Chain unfolded around me, I tried to insert myself into each location, but back in time. If anything, this made a normally great experience even better.

For about the 25th time I sat in the Park registration office and watched the mandatory orientation video. My mind wandered a bit, especially during the part where the paddler is instructed to place his/her garbage bag on the end of their paddle and wave it in the air if they are in distress. But I was also thinking about the fact that in many ways the information about portage trails, campsites, cook shelters, outhouses and the volunteer creel census was all so new and recent. The building we were sitting in was relatively new, certainly the person giving us the orientation was very new. Up until 50 years earlier the portage trail running past the registration office and all of the other infrastructure in the video didn’t even exist.

The present day registration centre is located on the north shore of Bowron Lake, possibly on the very land that was the site of a year round First Nations settlement. It is clearly documented by HBC traders that First Nations fishers and hunters made seasonal trips between the Fraser River in the Quesnel area and the Bowron however it is also documented that evidence of pit houses existed along Bowron Lake’s north shore, particularly at the mouth of what is now called Kibbee Creek. This can only mean that there was also year-round First Nations habitation in this area.

It is stated that in 1964 there was a large land slippage in this area and some have postulated that this may have coincided with that year’s Anchorage Alaska earthquake. There is certainly evidence when paddling along the Bowron Lake shoreline of a significant land slide which has reportedly obliterated any evidence of the pit houses, which unfortunately had not been carbon dated.

Frank Kibbee arrived at the Bowron in 1912 and he built his first home approximately below the present-day site of Bear River Mercantile, right where the Bowron river flows out of Bowron lake. When digging his garden, he uncovered evidence of a First Nations burial site, this would certainly suggest year-round occupation of this area that could go back as much as 2000 years. When you think of it, this location had all that was needed for year-round habitation, in particular an annual run of salmon to ensure a winter food supply.

The Bowron became a provincial park in 1961. That year the park was gazetted and some private lands within the park were purchased by the government. Actually the area that lies within the lakes had been established as the Bowron Lake Game Reserve in 1926. Prior to this date, this area was a big game hunters and trappers free-for-all. Today the Bowron Lakes is a wildlife mecca, on our journey this year we came within a few feet of browsing moose, we saw several black bears. At the turn of the 20th century, hunting big game was a popular rich man’s sport and those who pursued this pastime had a lot of success in the Bowron. Prior to the establishment of the Game Reserve they were assisted in their pursuits by big game hunting guides like Frank Kibbee, Roy and Norman Thompson, Floyd
DeWitte Reed, Dean Cochran and Joe and Betty Wendle. But there was concern about the scale of the hunting in this area and it is interesting to note that the push to create the Game Reserve was spearheaded by some of these very same people as well as by J.P. Babcock the B.C. Fish Commissioner at the time, Chief Justice Hunter of the B.C. Supreme Court and Thomas and Elinor McCabe, an intriguing couple who were truly naturalists and environmentalists years ahead of their time. If these names seem familiar, it is because virtually every one of them is commemorated on some landmark within or adjacent to the Park.

As for early day (pre 1926) trapping in this area, there were a significant number of trappers running traplines throughout the Chain. After 1926 their activities were government regulated and of course after 1961 there was no trapping within the Park. Beginning with a few disaffected gold miners who found that the Cariboo Gold Rush was not to their liking, trappers included the ethereal Swamp Angel. Just who was he? His surname was Wilson, his given name was Neil or was it Richard or possibly Mathew (my vote is for Neil). He lived along the lower Swamp River hence the name Swamp Angel. The Swamp River is today’s Cariboo River, the lower river is that section just above and below the Cariboo Falls, the upper Swamp River is the section upstream from Lanezi Lake running right to the headwaters above McLeary Lake. On this trip around the Chain I took a critical look at this river and the fact is, much of the land adjacent to it is in fact a marsh or a swamp.

The Swamp Angel’s trapping partner was another gold stampeder named Ken McLeod and an early-day contemporary was George Isaac who was a gold miner. Prior to 1926 they were joined throughout the Chain by other trappers including Harold Mason, Jason Moxley, Eric Woltortin, Marius Andersen, George Turner, James Duffy, J. Brierly and Mr. McLary. The location of each man’s trapline has been documented but if their cabins were still standing, in some cases they would now be close to 150 years old. Needless to say, these rustic structures are all gone but one, and that is the 97 year old Joe Wendle cabin built on the banks of the Upper Bowron River in 1926. As we paddled by this cabin on this trip, it was clear that the cabin has been severely undermined and is in danger of sliding into the river.

The earliest land access road/trail into the Park ran north initially following the Bowron River and then branching more easterly to Thompson Lake and then running to Indianpoint Lake The trail crossed Indianpoint Creek where it flows out of Indianpoint Lake at the site of the beautiful McCabe home. This trail continued to run in a northeasterly direction just north of Indianpoint Lake (with a branch running to Kruger Lake) and north of the west arm of Isaac Lake to Wolverine Bay where it then turned northward, eventually connecting with the Goat River Trail. Parts of this early access route were apparently even fit for automobile travel by the 1920‘s, certainly pack horses and even horses and wagons used it.

We hauled our gear over the “modern” portage trails, I’ve formed a close love-hate relationship with them over the years. Just about 100 metres before Kibbee Lake there is a nondescript trail branching off from the portage trail to the left. About 25 metres down this trail we found a small marker tacked to a tree which stated Sentier Pedestre — National Hiking Trail. This trail, which is not to be confused with the Trans Canada Trail, is part of a nation wide network of hiking trails that has been under development for the past 30 years by a group now known as Hike Canada, which is represented in British Columbia by Hike BC. This trail would link up with the old access route to Indianpoint Lake and beyond, eventually connecting with the present-day Kruger Lake road, then running past Littlefield Creek before linking up with the Goat River Trail.

When we got to Kibbee Lake it became obvious that the early day pioneers were right, Kibbee Lake and Thompson Lake are not two separate lakes, they are actually just one lake with an ancient beaver dam constructed to make it look like there are two lakes. In the early days the single lake was in fact called Beaver Lake and Kibbee Creek was Beaver Creek.

Our little group of six had left later in the day than the other members of the larger group We decided to complete the second portage to Indianpoint Lake where we camped right at the end of the portage. With binoculars we could see the others camped a few campsites ahead at Kruger Bay. We had left a canoe at Kibbee Lake because very early the next morning, the last member of our group who had to work on Day 1, was going to drive out to the registration centre and hike to Kibbee Lake where he would be met by the canoe….this arrangement worked out fine, and by 8:00 a.m. on Day 2, the (now) seven members of our little group were all together in our east-facing campsite and enjoying breakfast and a beautiful sunrise over Indianpoint Lake.

Once we were on the water we made a side trip to visit the site of the McCabe home located overlooking Indianpoint Creek at the point that it flows out of the lake. Elinor
Bolles McCabe had pre-empted 135 acres in the 1920’s and she and her husband built a two story log structure with a dirt basement, using huge logs harvested on site. It is said that the logs were so large that Thomas McCabe constructed beautiful drawers that actually slid in and out of the logs and that this is where he kept his supplies for banding birds. It is said that the railing of the stairway leading to the second floor was a work of art, each of the balusters and spindles being hand carved, the bottom of each was a depiction of a local or native tree while the top was a carving of the head of one of the local mammals. This home had french doors, it is said that books filled the shelves that lined the walls. All that remains of the home today is the stone and brick fireplace and various bits of debris slowly decaying in the soil. This is one of the structures that was burned to the ground after the creation of the Park, but there are conflicting stories about just who actually started the fire.   The local flora is gradually reclaiming the site but there is still evidence of the McCabe flower gardens . I have often thought that this would be a great spot for an archaeological dig.

We paddled on, the morning was sunny and warm. At the other end of Indianpoint Lake, just before entering the marsh that leads to a small lagoon, stands the cabin that was part of Frank Cushman’s registered guiding area which was actually headquartered at Kruger Lake to the north, home of his Wolverine Mountain Outfitters. This is one of the cabins that was not burned down by parks officials, in the 60’s it would have been pretty new., and was actually built by the previous owner of the guiding area.  The fact is, it was not the first cabin to be located on this inviting site, at least three early-day trappers had cabins in this area and one of them stood on the same little knoll where the Cushman cabin stands today.

We made the portage over to Isaac Lake, relieved that the portaging was finished for at least 24 hours. I always look towards the “elbow” of Isaac and Wolverine Bay in awe, probably because of the splendid backdrop that Wolverine Mountain provides. At this time of year the slide areas show up green against the white snowy backdrop. I was told that grizzly bears congregate in these areas in the spring because of the tasty plants that mature early because the darker slide areas collect the sun. Wolverine Bay was a busy place in the past, at various times trappers Kenneth McLeod, J. Brierly, Eric Woltortin , Slim Good and Alf Brown and until 1965 Ole Nelson all trapped in this area. There seemed to be a tendency for these men to run their traplines along the various creeks that flowed into the lake. This was the case for Jason Moxley who had a trapline along what was first known as Moose Creek and then Cottonwood Creek before it became known as Moxley Creek, located just around the corner on the east shore at the beginning of the long arm of Isaac Lake. We rafted up and ate our lunch right at the elbow…huge delicious sandwiches on a bun big enough to choke a horse.

Our little group spent the night at the Lynx Creek campsite, we didn’t really know for sure where the other members of our larger group were camping that night but we had a hunch that they were a few campsites ahead of us on the other side of Betty Wendle Creek and as it turned out we were right.

The Lynx Creek campsite is the spawning ground for what has become a local urban (rural) myth.  About 20 years ago a young German, a medical intern from Seattle was paddling the Chain with his girlfriend. They were camped at Lynx Creek when they were attacked by a black bear and depending on what bit of gossip you believe, the young intern lost a good part of his posterior in the attack. His girlfriend safely barricaded her severely injured boyfriend inside the Lynx Creek cabin while she paddled their tandem canoe solo in the middle of the night back to the ranger cabin at Wolverine Bay. A helipad was hastily constructed by the rangers, a helicopter flew in, the injured German was treated at GRB in Quesnel before his mates flew in and took him back to their hospital in Seattle for convalescence. This could have been the end of the story if it wasn’t for Cariboo Observer Editor the late Gerry MacDonald who wrote a great story about this incident…so great that it was published in the Reader’s Digest, and this is where the urban myth comes in. It is stated among locals that this young German intern’s wife was still in Germany and it was only by chance that she read the Reader’s Digest article about her husband on the Bowron Chain….you can take it from there.

The cabin at Lynx Creek has a little different provenance than many on the Chain, it was built in the late 1950’s by a local log builder and gold miner (he also built the cabin on the Bowron River) named Erik Rask. He was commissioned to build the Lynx Creek cabin by the Wells Rod and Reel Club. The 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s was really the Wells era on the Bowron and the Rod and Reel Club at one time had 9 cabins located throughout the Chain. They actually perfected a type of pre-fabricated structure that could be brought in disassembled on a motor boat and then assembled in situ.

Our group made it to the end of Isaac in a pelting rain storm around noon on Day 3. Our friends travelling a few hours ahead of us had seen us coming down the lake and they made sure that the stove in the new shelter was still burning when they left to complete the Isaac River portage. The heat from the stove was wonderful, we stripped off our wet rain gear and stood around the heater enjoying a cup of hot soup along with our bean,rice, cucumber, tomato and avocado sandwich wraps, hot chocolate and french press coffee. What a group of intrepid troopers!

We did the portage, first the chute which had actually disappeared in what is truly a high water year for the Chain. Then the roller coaster where we were buzzed by confused harlequin ducks. We then slogged through knee deep snow on the portage trails, eventually rafting up in the middle of McLeary Lake….or should it be McLary Lake. There is good reason to believe that McLeary is a typo. We looked over at Fred Becker’s cabin (did you know that there are two Fred Beckers who figure in the history of the Bowron?), noting that before him, trappers Jason Moxley and Floyd De Witte Reed had cabins in this same spot. We also speculated, as we do on every trip, that there just had to be a trail that ran from McLeary Lake to Isaac Lake along the east side of the Isaac River. The sky was darkening and we still had about two hours travel to get to our night’s campsite so we turned our canoes down the Upper Swamp River towards Long (Lanezi) Lake. It was great to be travelling with a current…watch out for the sweepers.

Because of the steep mountains that come right down to the shore line, it can be very difficult to find a decent camping spot on Lanezi. We stopped at the first campsite to put on rain gear it was a spot that was totally saturated and which features a round plastic neo-Star Wars outhouse with no roof, giving it a hot tub look. We figured that the high water table must make it impossible to dig a hole for a traditional kybo and this space crapsule which was located at the top of a small rise overlooking the lake seemed like a good substitute.

Within half an hour we reached Turner Creek on Lanezi Lake, this has to be my most favourite spot on the Chain. To quote Jean Speare from her booklet Bowron Chain of Lakes –Place Names and People “…in a broad bay to the right, Turner Creek boils down out of the interior mountains to fan its clear water out into the milky waters of the lake. Turner Creek was named for George Turner, early game warden and a member of the B.C. Provincial Police”. There is a beautiful new fir timber frame shelter at Turner Creek, complete with doors and plexiglass windows….and inside there is a heater and it is both dry and warm.

This is where we finally met up with the rest of our larger group, they said that they had been less than an hour ahead of us but this was the first that we had seen of them in two days. By the time everyone had arrived at this campsite there were 17 wet paddlers seeking to set up their tents, dry out their gear, cook their supper, kick back, visit and relax, 15 in our group plus two fellows from Vancouver who had left a bit before us. It turned out to be a great evening, lots of inflated talk (i.e. B.S.), mostly about the Bowron, of past trips in all seasons — spring, summer, autumn as well as winter expeditions. It was indeed a unique group of contented paddlers that sat back and enjoyed that memorable evening together.

We all got away early on Day 4. I always look for the carving in the rocky outcrop at the end of Lanezi Lake…Morris – Reed Ohio 1926. Who was this man? What was he doing in that spot in 1926?. Just around the corner we soon entered Sandy Lake. I looked along the lake’s northern shore and there it was, the cedar forest that I had been reading about and which I had never really noticed on previous trips, the place where all of the early day lodges and cabins built around the Chain obtained the cedar for their shake roofs. To quote Dave Jorgenson, “500 km from the coast the rainforest reappears behind Wells. Besides being unique in the world, a repository for rare species of plants and animals, and being the most biologically productive forest in the world….it’s also unbelievably beautiful”.

We had lunch at Sandy Lake and then took off to conquer the last (and probably the best) major portage, the one along Babcock Creek. This creek used to be called Three Mile Creek and the lake that it drains used to be called Three Mile Lake (now Babcock Lake). This is the part of the Chain where the Wells Rod and Reel Club really made its mark. Picture a bunch of hard rock miners at the end of a Friday day shift all leaving the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine with nothing on their minds but fishing out on the West Side of the Bowron Chain. The car is packed and ready to go the 18 miles from Wells to Bowron Lake. It is 1950, there are no motor restrictions on the Chain and some of the families, the McKelvies, the Gradys, the Motherwells, the Gilberts have built rough cabins or shelters that they refer to as “shake shelters” out at Grizzly Lake, what we now call Unna Lake. George Gilbert has also built a shelter on a little lake that he christened Rum Lake, where he and his chums would go to drink rum. These camps have colourful names like The Knot Hole and The Ram’s Pasture.

The Wells Rod and Reel Club had boats with motors located throughout the Chain for the use of club members. To facilitate the portaging of motor boats, the club was responsible for rebuilding and maintaining a little “railway” that ran from Spectacle Lake to Skoi Lake (also known at various times as Tenas and Little Lake) with a second line running from Skoi Lake to Babcock Lake. The original wooden tracks had actually been installed by James Kew and Sid Susag in the ’30’s but this was upgraded by the Wells Rod and Reel Club with squared timber “rails” and a moving platform made from a rejigged ore cart obtained from the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine.

And if this wasn’t enough, in 1958 the Forest Service invited the Wells Rod and Reel Club to improve access to the Park as a precaution in the event of a forest fire. To accomplish this, a channel (as in canal) was blasted (as in dynamite) between Spectacle and Skoi Lakes.  The sloughing sandy soil made it difficult to keep the canal open, but this was used until the Bowron became a park in the 60’s. The current discussion about the maintenance of the ‘rough’  portage trails in the Park seems pretty tame when compared with laying tracks and blasting canals in the old days. This is a great story and it appears complete with photos in George Gilbert’s memoir Kicked By A Dead Moose.

By the time we arrived at these portages, railway tracks or not, we had this portaging thing down to a science, it took us no time to get over them and on to Spectacle Lake, just about an hour and a half’s paddle to Pat’s Point, the “Riviera of the Bowron”.

Who was the Pat that Pat’s Point is named after, was it Pat McKenna? This beautiful piece of property was once owned by Harold Mason, an electrician who was responsible for “electrifying” Barkerville. The creek that flows into the Cariboo River from river right just before Babcock Creek is named after him, today it is known as Harold Creek, it used to be called Mason Creek. The cabin at Pat’s Point was built by the families of Vinse Halverson and Sid Dannhauer, brothers -in-law who purchased the property in the late 1950’s. The families camped out at Pat’s Point for a whole summer while they built the cabin. Each evening, Vinse Halverson would tow a barge load of building materials behind his motor boat as he commuted after a day working at his Wells Barkerville Sawmill. For years after the establishment of the Park, this cabin served as accommodation for Park staff before the ranger cabin now located across the bay was built. This explains why this cabin wasn’t burned down when the Bowron became a park.

Our group had a great evening and night at Pat’s Point. We had two teenagers with us, and they added a refreshing dimension to our time around the fire ring. With the boys’ example and encouragement it was Smores all around as this group of old fart paddlers let their hair down and joined in the fun. Before long we were all teenagers again, some of the fellows had even jumped into the lake for a swim. We had a great supper, while we were a large group we cooked in smaller groupings so it was fun to compare meals and to sample what others were eating. One of the fellows from Vancouver offered a trout that he had caught in Spectacle Lake and this was cooked over an open fire.

We anticipated getting to the take out in the mid afternoon so were on the water early on Day 5. There is an island in the middle of this section of Spectacle Lake, we paddled to the right of it. Now generally known Maternity Island (because the moose apparently favour giving birth on the safety of the island) and Deadman’s Island. I have read the identical and very compelling account of just how this latter name came to be applied to this island in three different sources however none can be considered to be a primary source of information so it is very difficult to know for certain just what may have transpired on that island in the past. The account I have read is related to the tragedy of the small pox epidemic that essentially decimated the First Nations people living at Bowron (then called Bear) Lake in the 1880’s. There is certainly a need for much more archaeological work in this area with the hope that this could spread some more light onto the history of First Nations people on the Bowron.

In the late 50’s Paul Pavich purchased the property on the Bowron River (where both the Bowron River cabin and the 1926 Joe Wendle cabin are located) from Joe Wendle. Paul and Eugene Krause were partners on this purchase and the plan was to build two cabins however only one (the Pavich cabin) was finished. This cabin was built by Erik Rask, the same fellow who built the Lynx Creek cabin for the Wells Rod and Reel Club. Everyone stayed in the 1926 Joe Wendle cabin while the new Pavich cabin was under construction. Volunteers helped to fall and peel the trees for the cabin itself, the shakes were cut from the huge cedar trees on the north shore of Sandy Lake and transported to the building site by barge. I have been told that when the cabin was finished there was an “official” house warming and many people made the trip out to the cabin from Wells for what was apparently a great party that people still talk about over 50 years later.

We visited Birch Bay (The Birches) located in Swan Lake, just to spend some time at this special campsite.  We then took the ‘back door’ towards the upper Bowron River.  There is often confusion when paddlers talk about another island called Pavich Island, confusing it with Deadman’s/Maternity Island.  The Pavich Bowron River cabin is actually located on an island, and this is Pavich Island.  It is possible to paddle all the way around that little island by taking this ‘back door’ route to connect with the Bowron River.

Due to the high water levels we were fighting a strong current where water from the river “spilled” into the lake until we made the turn into the river itself and started silently and quickly moving downstream. The moose were just standing there looking at us as we glided by. We had favourable winds on Bowron Lake and made good time down the right shore. As it turned out we were the first paddlers to complete the circuit in 2013.….hurray! There was a nice new floating dock at the take out which made the process of offloading the gear and getting the canoes ready for the portage up to the parking lot that much easier.

CELEBRATE THE BOWRON

CELEBRATE THE BOWRON

This website has been developed to share information regarding all that is great about wilderness canoeing, kayaking and hiking on the Bowron Lake Provincial Park Canoe Route. This place is unique, a group of ten key lakes that are actually in the shape of a quadrangle. The lakes are connected by a series of streams and rivers and in some places by overland portage trails. It is a paddling destination that takes you over flat water and moving water for a distance of 70 miles or 116 kilometres, yet it ends where it begins.

It has several monikers: The Chain, Chain of Lakes, The Circuit, the Bowron, The Bowron Lake Chain, The Bowrons, Bowron Lake Provincial Park Canoe Route, and on this site you will probably see all of these being used.

  • This site will talk about all that is great about the Chain and how to keep it that way. 
  • As much as the idea is appealing, this is not primarily a Bowron history site…there are other great sites that tell the story of the history of this special area, particularly of the people who have made this history. Passing references will be made to the Bowron’s past…..
  • however, this site will seek to protect and safeguard the history of the Bowron, and to encourage the documentation of the provenance of the special buildings and places that abound within the Park
  • This site will seek to create opportunities, events and venues to Celebrate The Bowron and the people who have made it such a special place
  • This site will offer a forum to share the experiences of everyone who visits and travels on the Chain
  • This site will seek to promote a positive working relationship and a greater understanding between Park managers (BC Parks) and the general public…those people who use and love the Chain…..
  • to ensure that everyone who cares about the Bowron has a forum for being heard, for offering input, is part of the decision making process, has a voice!!! That BC Parks is sensitive to the wishes and needs of the public
  • This site will promote increased volunteer involvement in the preservation and future direction of Bowron Lake Park, in keeping the Bowron such a great place 
  • This site will seek to promote fiscal responsibility, to advocate that money spent on the Chain is spent where it needs to be spent
  • This site will promote the Park as a year-round wilderness destination
  • This site will seek to learn more about the special treasures and little known places that the Bowron has to share with us….hikes, forests, plants, trails, cabins, animals…..
  • This site will work with others to safeguard the animal, bird and fish habitat, the water quality and the integrity of the Bowron’s forests
  • Most importantly, this site will seek to preserve the Bowron as a wilderness paddling destination for the intermediate level paddler