Monday, July 20, 2015

Another Great Camping Trip to Surveyors Lake, BC

We love camping across the border in British Columbia, and Kikomun Creek Provincial Park is one of our favourite base camps for an active vacation. Located 30 minutes south of Fernie, it is only a 3.5 hour drive from Calgary and much closer than the sunny beaches of the Okanagan. 

We spent a week here at the beginning of July and managed to survive one of the hottest camping trips we've ever taken with 35+ degree weather the whole time. Fortunately we were camped at Surveyors Lake Campground which has a beautiful lake with two beaches for cooling off in.

Surveyors Lake, Kikomun Creek Provincial Park


Top 5 Things We LOVE about Surveyors Lake


 

We Love Swimming and Paddling with Turtles


We love taking our kayaks and my stand up paddleboard out on the water at Surveyors Lake in search of painted turtles.  The water is full of them and they are fun to spot swimming alongside your boat.  And if you don't see any turtles in Surveyors Lake, you're guaranteed to see them in Engineers Lake which is connected to Surveyors by a small channel.

Paddling on Engineers Lake
Turtle swimming beside my board
Peaceful paddling on Engineers Lake

It's a fun little paddle over to Engineers Lake in search of turtles as you navigate logs and the pedestrian bridge that you must duck under to get between the two lakes.  It's especially tricky on a SUP board but manageable most of the time.

Paddling under the bridge between Surveyors and Engineers Lakes
Not a lot of room to get under this cute little bridge
Somehow I can get my board under the bridge to reach Engineers Lake
How low will I have to go to get under this thing??
Here's where you don't want a very wide boat!

And if you still haven't seen enough turtles, you can take a walk around Hidden Lake in the morning to see dozens of turtles sunning themselves on logs surrounding the lake shore.

Turtles sunning themselves at Hidden Lake

The kids in our group also had a lot of fun fishing for crayfish in the shallow water of Surveyors Lake using a net and a couple of sand buckets.  I'm sure they could have done this for hours!!

Searching for crayfish in Surveyors Lake
Cute little critters aren't they?  (blah!)

Don't have space to bring boats with you?  You can rent them right on the Campers Beach at Surveyors Lake.


 

 

We love that there are No Motor Boats on Surveyors Lake


This is the second reason we love Surveyors Lake.  The lack of motor boats on both Surveyors and Engineers Lakes means that children can learn to paddle and swim without fear of them getting hit by some out of control speed boat.  It's also peaceful and serene at the lake, and you can float out into the middle of the lake on an air mattress or tube if you want.  This is the perfect place for families to play!  Meanwhile, those who want to go water skiing or wake-boarding can go to nearby Lake Koocanusa which definitely allows motor boats.

Safe paddling on Surveyors Lake
Nearby Lake Koocanusa is great for families with motor boats

 

 

We love the Dock for Jumping at the Day Use Beach!


My child loves swimming but if there's no dock, it's just not as much fun!  Jumping off of docks and wooden platforms in lakes is a classic experience all kids should have while growing up.  Fortunately, at Surveyors Lake, you can do it for hours every day!  We especially loved going down to the lake in the evening to play on the dock before bed.  The beach was quieter and the sun not as strong.

Hours of fun jumping off the dock at the day use beach

 

 

There are Awesome Bike Trails around Camp


We love biking on the Great Northern Rail Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park and this year we discovered how fun it was biking around the lake on the Surveyors Lake hiking trail.  While not an official biking trail, it definitely had a few exciting moments and one of us came close to falling in the lake.  (yeah, me.)

Biking on the Great Northern Rail Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park
The beautiful trail between junctions 1 and 3 on the map below
The Kikomun Creek Biking/Hiking Map

If you follow the map above, the loop from #1 to #7 is about 7km in length and is great for introductory mountain biking. Our personal direction of choice is to go backwards from 1 to 7, down to 6, etc. And when you get to the country gravel road, that is what you will follow to connect #6 to #5.  The biking along the road is actually quite pleasant.

There's a short steep hill that you'll probably have to walk up at junction #5 (unless you are coming down this part) and then it's flat easy riding along the old rail bed to junctions #3 and 4. At junction #3, we go left rather than take the trail between Stink and Fisher Lakes.  It avoids a big hill climb and is very pretty through what resembles an old growth forest. (see photo above with the bridge.)

Biking around Surveyors Lake (this is the bridge we were paddling under)
Single track mountain biking around Surveyors Lake

We like the Proximity of Surveyors Lake to Fernie for biking, hiking and paddling


While you could stay at Surveyors Lake for a week without running out of activities to do, we like to explore the area around Fernie so chose to leave camp three times for biking, hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort, and for paddling on the Elk River between the two bridges in town.

Paddling the Elk River in Fernie

Regardless of what you choose to do, there is no shortage of activities near camp.

Hiking at Fernie Alpine Resort
Mountain biking in Fernie

For more information on biking in Fernie, follow this link to the Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie.

To read about our big hike at Fernie Alpine Resort, follow this link to First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort.   

To read about our previous trip to Surveyors Lake, check out this story:  Camping in British Columbia:  Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Playing at the Fernie Bike Park beside the town aquatic centre

 

The few "constructive" pieces of criticism we have about Surveyors Lake



I'd love to see BC Parks invest in creating some power loops in their campgrounds like we have in many Alberta provincial park campgrounds.  Then, those who want air conditioning can have it, and those of us who want peace and quiet will not have to listen to generators running for two solid hours every evening while cooking and hanging out at our site.

No "attack" specifically against generators, but have you noticed how they are always set up on the opposite side of a trailer (away from the occupants of the trailer, but right up against the neighboring site?) - I've noticed this too. And unfortunately, the hours that generators are allowed to run coincide with the same hours that most people are at their sites in the morning and evening (meaning, if I want to cook breakfast or dinner at a normal time, I have no choice but to listen to your loud generator.)

Camping should be peaceful

Second, The campground needs more patrolling by the park staff.  On our recent visit, generators were running well past the cut off hours, music was blasting past quiet time hours, and there were sites that had two trailers, a tent (or two), a boat, and 20 people on them. Try driving past one of these sites and you can't even get your vehicle through!  Not to mention the noise generated by such large groups sharing one site.

In our week camping here, we never once saw a parks vehicle drive past our site.  And when I went to the front gate one night to seek out help, I was told I would have to flag down the official parks truck driving around.  Good luck on that!!


Big plus for the campground - everybody drove very slowly and kids could play anywhere

Surveyors Lake in a Nut Shell


This is a great adventure base camp for active families who want to spend a week camping, biking, hiking, paddling and swimming.  Just don't expect the campground to be quiet.  Surveyors Lake has a "lively atmosphere" to it and you just have to accept this when you make your reservation.

To make reservations, visit the BC Parks Reservation Service.

4 comments:

  1. Loved and enjoyed reading about your camping trip. How was the water temperature for swimming? was it cold?

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    1. Water temperature is pretty warm. Definitely swim-able.

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  2. I disagree with your "party atmosphere" comment. I have been going to Surveyors for our weeklong camping trips every year for 22 years and never have I found it to be a party campground. I always find, myself included, that by quiet time, the campground does become quiet. There are times yes, when you may find yourself beside a site that has a little more loud fun than most but typically quiet time is quiet time. As for generators...I myself have one. I don't feel they should be banned, in fact, I think the hours they have selected for generator time is very good. To tell people who need to use a generator to go elsewhere seems wrong. The main reason I use mine at Surveyors is because we have a dog that we need to keep in the trailer while we go to the lake and as you said it yourself, its gets VERY hot so we like to run the generator during the morning hours and get the trailer borderline like a freezer from the AC so our dog has a comfortable place to hang out while we are at the lake for a couple hours. Just because you don't like something, you don't need to tell other people not to like something. If I were reading about and hearing about Surveyors for the first time and I read your "party atmosphere" comment, I would have immediately passed by Surveyors and kept looking but Surveyors really is 100% in my opinion, the BEST campground I have ever been to. It's extremely family friendly, well taken care of and perfect for all types of campers. You have labelled it something that it is not. I guess it's your opinion...so here was mine.

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    1. Hi "anonymous." I published your comment because it had several good points. However, I do not usually publish criticism (even if constructive) without a name to go with it. It's not fair to me that you know all about me and I don't even know your name.

      RE "Party atmosphere" I have changed the wording to "lively." Surveyors Lake is not a peaceful national park campground where you can sit at your site listening to the birds chirping. Too many generators for that! (sorry, but it's the truth.) Please don't take that to mean that I don't like this campground. I do. I LOVE Surveyors Lake and would camp here again. However, visitors should know that unless they luck out with quiet neighbors, it can be loud at times.
      Maybe you were on a different side of the campground from us and had a different experience.
      From our site however, we had at least two generators beside us running until 10pm (well past the cut off time,)- and park staff never once came by. We had a loud multi-family group up till midnight a few sites away with kids screaming and running around, and music playing that was loud enough to hear two rows away. They were definitely not obeying quiet time hours and nobody ever came by to talk to them about it from the park. These are just two examples. We were there over the July long weekend so perhaps that impacted our stay and our experience. We have stayed here before and have not always found it to be so noisy. In June it is quite pleasant. :)

      I hope we can perhaps agree to disagree on the lively nature of the campground and perhaps you have exceptionally good luck with neighbors, and we just had several bad ones. By no means do we expect people to sit around knitting at night but we do appreciate not having to sleep with ear plugs - which we had to do every night we were there.

      As for generators, we will definitely have to agree to disagree on the use of them. However, to be respectful of different camping "Styles" I have edited the text in the story. You can read it and let me know if it is a bit less offensive. I will always find them noisy and obtrusive to one's neighbors. I'm sure you always turn yours off at the designated hours but not everybody does. It's a fact of life. People will always enjoy pushing the rules as long as they can get away with it - and without BC Parks driving around to enforce the rules, there is little motivation to obey rules around quiet time or generator use.
      Mostly, I would love if more campgrounds had power loops. I too enjoy having power to run my coffee pot, to charge my phone, run my lights, etc. However, I make do when I don't have power and get around it by camping more simply. With power loops though, everybody who wanted power would be able to pay the extra $5 per night to have it. It's really a win win for everybody. (and imagine having a power site so that you could run your AC quietly for your dog. - again, win win for everybody.)
      So I guess what I'm saying is that my criticism is more at BC Parks for not creating power sites or loops. It forces people like me who don't like the generator noise to either have to camp and hike into the backcountry, or seek out those rare campgrounds that do have power sites.

      Again, thanks for your opinion. Feel free to leave comments any time. I do appreciate a name however. :) Then I don't have to call you "Mr Anonymous." ;)








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