Sunday, September 08, 2013

Camping across British Columbia - Shuswap Lake

Here it is, the fourth destination on our whirl wind BC camping adventure this August.  We spent the final three nights of our trip camping at Herald Provincial Park on Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm in Central BC.  It was off the beaten path and much quieter than Shuswap Lake Provincial Park (Scotch Creek) where most people would typically camp in this area.  We've stayed at Scotch Creek in the past and found it so big that we were eager to camp somewhere smaller that had sites right on the lake.  The site we chose at Herald was less than 5 metres from the public day use area and main beach, and backed on to the walking path that meanders through the campground.  We were pretty excited about this campsite and expected great things.

Paddling on Shuswap Lake

What we weren't expecting was two days of rain and a fire ban to prevent you from ever getting warm at night.  We were camped so close to the beach and yet hardly got to use it because Noah would come out of the water with blue lips after 20 minutes.  He wore his wet suit the whole time and we only got our kayak and paddle board out a couple of times while we were there for short morning paddles.  I paddled in a fleece sweater and contemplated putting on my own wet suit  for the chilly morning air.

Playing at the Beach at Herald Provincial Park

We went for a couple short hikes around camp to Margaret Falls and the Upper Canyon that were stunningly beautiful, and tried to make the best of a cold wet camping trip. 

Rainy morning hike to Margaret Falls
Margaret Falls - A highlight of any visit to Herald Provincial Park
Beautiful hiking at Herald Provincial Park

 Realizing we wouldn't be spending much time in the water, we also took a day trip to the nearby town of Salmon Arm for lunch and a bike ride.  We discovered the lovely Waterfront Raven Trail and I have to recommend it to families that are camping or travelling in the area.  It was a flat hard packed gravel trail that most young children would be able to ride with few problems.   The trail is 8km round trip and very interesting with boardwalks providing views into a large estuary.  (Unfortunately I didn't get any photos so you'll just have to take my word on it that it's a great bike trail.)

Hiking on the Upper Canyon Trail in Herald Provincial Park
Hiking around the Upper Canyon Trail (And the sun came out!)
Walking Trail in Herald Provincial Park Campground

I'm torn as to whether we'd return to Herald Provincial Park again in the future.  It's a long distance from Calgary (5.5 hours+ driving time) and honestly, there are better campgrounds that we can get to if we are willing to drive that far.  The Okanagan isn't much farther and Shuswap Lake can't even come close to comparing to Okanagan or Skaha Lakes.

I know that families with power boats love Shuswap Lake but if you aren't into motorized water sports, I can't say that Shuswap Lake is all that great.   The beach at Herald was rocky, there was little sand to be found, and the water was cold.  Meanwhile, Skaha Lake in the Okanagan has fabulous sandy beaches and warm water that you can play in for hours without getting cold.  I think that the beach at Shuswap Lake Provincial Park has more sand but it definitely wouldn't compare to the Okanagan either.  (For more information on the Okanagan, read my last story:  Vacation Wonderland in the Okanagan Valley.)

Paddling between storms

A few other things we didn't like about Herald Provincial Park:
  • No power sites for trailers or RVs  (hence, lots of generators being used)
  • Walking paths had "no biking" signs everywhere and there were no designated bike paths
  • No playground (Shuswap Lake Provincial Park has one)

This would have been such a nice bike trail.

Topping out at number one though for things to dislike were the overzealous rules and enforcement of said rules.  An average campsite has a large gravel pad and you are requested to place your trailer, vehicle, tent, and boat if you have one on this pad.  Everything else from clothes lines to canoes, hammocks and toys typically gets stored in the grass or dirt beside your site.  Obviously you wouldn't hang a hammock across the middle of your gravel pad.   Or hang your laundry line with wet swim suits across the middle of your site.  At Herald you would have to though.  You are only allowed to use the trees next to your site IF they are physically on your gravel pad.  Otherwise, hands off the trees and don't think of walking on the dirt next to your pad.  Really?  I'm hoping the staff member who told us to take our clothes line down and move our kayak onto the middle of our gravel pad was just having a bad day.

Noah had fun playing in the big waves between showers.

Reasons to camp at Herald Provincial Park:
  • You don't like big campgrounds or crowded places
  • You don't mind rocky beaches or cold water
  • You have a power boat and want to spend your day water skiing and looking for secret coves and beaches
  • You live in the area.  (as a local campground it offers great family-friendly hikes in a beautiful setting)
  • You can't get into the more popular Shuswap Lake Provincial Park

Beautiful place when the sun comes out!


Do you like camping in the Shuswap Lake area?  What is your favourite campground or place to stay? 

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