The Edge of Civilization
Revitalizing air fills you as you breathe in deep. The turquoise blue water of Murtle Lake licks at your vessel as you dip and bob, cutting through the surface. Lean into the warm breeze and look up and out. The sky above is dramatic and inspiring, interrupted by the craggy snow-capped peaks of the mountains. This is wild, big sky country where the gentle sound of nature is your soundtrack for a back-country canoe camping adventure.
Murtle Lake — North America’s Largest Paddle Only Lake
Set in the rugged wilderness of Wells Gray Park, Murtle Lake is the quintessential nature lover’s paradise. Fed by the Murtle River from an unnamed glacier in the Cariboo Mountains, this peaceful body of water does not allow motorcraft. Go where your own two arms and canoe or kayak will take you. Skim the waters and set your speed. Marvel at the stunning shoreline dotted with forest. Bring your vessel ashore and hike through old growth rain forests, the scampering chipmunks and flittering birds your only companions. Pitch a tent on the sandy shores and star gaze by the campfire. Wake up to the dawn of a new day and feel like your paddling on cloud nine.
Easily Accessed Wilderness
Murtle Lake is where wilderness is just a step away. It is easily accessed off the iconic Yellowhead Highway through Blue River. Wind your way along a backcountry road to a parking lot — the head of a 2.5 km (1 mi) wheel-chair accessible wooded trail to the lake. Clamour down to the water’s edge where North America’s largest paddle only lake opens up all around you. Choose a direction and start paddling. Moving west, propel your outrigger along Fairyslipper, Leo and Smoker Islands that lay in wait; the northern course showcases the great scenic union of rough, rugged mountains and tranquil, clear water. Leave your cares behind; paddling this stellar beauty is the best way to unplug, disconnect and recharge.
Into the Wild
This is where nature is born. The sky can be painted any colour here — robin’s egg blue on a clear summer’s day, with the night releasing shades of indigo punctuated with thousands of flickering stars. When on display, the spectre-like appearance of the Northern Lights floats in the air with an array of colours. The weathered Cariboo Mountains rise on the horizon and reflect on the water. Golden, sandy beaches give way to forests overflowing with every shade of green. Shimmering mica swirls and swims in the water making it sparkle in the light of the sun.
Whether you bring your own or choose to rent a canoe or kayak, search the shores for signs of life; deer and elk grazing on leaves, moose ambling along the trees, black bears wading into the shallow depths and fishing for a feast. Catch the slow, gliding ballet of an osprey, or the hunter-like eagle snatching fish from the water’s surface. The rainbow trout that call Murtle Lake home can be colossally-sized; toss a line in and make a catch for dinner.
The massive body of Murtle Lake is not the only part of nature’s bounty to be explored here. Pull your canoe up on the shoreline and take an adventure in the trees. If you’re a hiker, you’ve found your paradise. Venture out for a full day hike through Wavy Crest Range where you journey through old cedar and white pine and emerge onto a ridge where unspoiled wilderness surrounds you. Or, for a more restful endeavour, take the 20-minute trek to Henrietta Lake where solitude is at its finest. 5 km (3 miles) from Diamond Lagoon will have you sitting at McDougall Falls, 14 metres (46 feet) of watery muscle cascading over rocks and captivating your thoughts.
Make your home for the night on the sandy beaches that surround Murtle Lake. With conveniences such as bear-proof caches, outhouses and fire rings, setting up camp means creating an idyllic Canadian event. Cook the day’s catch over an open fire in the glow of a picture-perfect sunset and calming silence. Rolling clouds signify the start of a show better than a block-buster movie as lightning flashes in the sky. Climb out of your tent in the morning to a lake so still and calm it looks like pure glass reflecting the multi-coloured vibrant remains of sunrise. Vast and unmoving, this is your nirvana.