Exploring the Gorgeous Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
Click on the cover photo - this gorgeous red fox photographed by Tenne Bird Andersen - to access the full digital version of our guide! Or pick up a printed copy at a local Cariboo Chilcotin visitor centre.
Why have parks? They are unsurpassed for outdoor recreation, but the most important reason to have parks is CONSERVATION. We need to ensure habitat and wildlife are protected, and how we travel through our environment plays a significant role in its preservation.
This is why CCCS partners with BC Parks to collaborate on a Cariboo Chilcotin Parks Guide for visitors and residents. It is healthy for us, and our ecosystems, to get out there and take them in, as long as we respect our impacts. In this guide, you will find articles on ecological integrity, cougars and bears, grassland fragility, wetlands, spawning salmon, wildlife viewing and backcountry ethics, as well as lots of info on trails, recreation sites, regional flora and fauna, and maps to get you around. It is also printed on non-glossy, recyclable material, so it can return to the environment when you're done! Guides can be picked up FREE at the Tourism Discovery Centre, our office, or digitally: just click on the pic to the left.
Wherever you are in BC, you will be close to more than 1,200 forest recreation sites located around British Columbia for the camping enjoyment of residents and visitors to the province. There are three types of recreation sites: managed with fees, managed without fees, and user maintained.
...with a lighter footprint
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations now manages provincial recreation sites and trails.
For more information, or to plan a trip, visit their website here.
Williams Lake River Valley Trail
Extending from Williams Lake to the mighty Fraser River, the River Valley Trail meanders
with the river for 12 km, through forest and grassland beneath the magnificent cliffs and
vistas of the valley walls. Visitors can hike, cycle, or horseback ride this dynamic trail,
either in part or along its entire length. Toilets and benches are located at various points
along the trail and interpretive signs provide visitors with information on the natural and
cultural history of the River Valley. The area is traditional territory of the Williams Lake
Indian Band, and the mouth of the creek at the Fraser River is federal Indian Reserve land.
Access to the trail can be gained at the main trail head located on Mackenzie Avenue across
from Comer Street or by following Frizzi Road past the landfill site. The latter route can be
extremely slippery when wet and is not recommended for recreational vehicles. A colour
brochure for the River Valley Trail is available at City Hall, Cariboo Memorial Complex and
at the Visitor Information Centre and is also available on the City of Williams Lake web site.
Simply put, the Williams Lake area has legendary mountain biking. There are tons of trails that offer something for every rider. Williams Lake Cycling Club hosts many events and weekly rides, and the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium has all the info you need to plan a trip. See below for back country ethics around bike riding.
BC Parks is dedicated to preserving the natural state of parks while also providing recreational access. Park regulations and policies protect park values, ensuring a quality experience for all visitors, both today and in years to come.
Please obey the following camping ethics and regulations:
- Pets must be on a leash while in the park and are not permitted in the day-use area or on the beach.
- Campfires are allowed in designated fire rings and may not be permitted in all parks at all times. Please check current bans before you go!
- Parking is permitted only in designated areas and on the gravel portion of campsites. Parking is not permitted on roadsides.
- Vehicles used in parks must be licensed and operated by licensed drivers.
- Tents and equipment must remain on the gravel portion of your campsite.
- Swimming areas protect swimmers within marker buoys. All watercraft and water-skiers must stay outside markers. Lifeguards are not in attendance.
- Visitors must leave by 11:00 p.m. Only registered campers are allowed in the campsite after 11:00 p.m.
- Excessive noise is not permitted. Please remember that sound travels further in open air, especially generators, music and loud talking. Quiet time is from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
- Liquor consumption is prohibited anywhere in the park with the exception of your campsite.
- Barbecues must be used on the ground unless barbecue attachments are provided on picnic tables.
- Trees and shrubs are easily damaged; do not use them for wiener sticks. Leave flowers and others plants to grow.
- Trails are planned to take you safely through the most interesting and beautiful parts of our parks without damaging sensitive and unique plant and wildlife habitats. Stay on the trails.
- Bicycles may only be used on park roads and on designated trails. Consult the park facility operator, park brochure or information shelters for information about nearby cycling opportunities.
- Take your photos and memories home with you - but please leave the park with no trace of your visit, so that others may also enjoy our protected areas.
Help Keep Our Waters Healthy
The streams, rivers, ponds and lakes of the Cariboo Chilcotin will only remain healthy if we are careful. Our rainbow trout populations could drastically decline if Whirling Disease is introduced: Whirling Disease affects all species of trout, salmon and whitefish. Rainbow trout are the least resistant to the disease. Be sure to rinse, scrub and dry fishing equipment and gear before leaving an area. Drain all water from equipment and your bilge before leaving. Also, don't release aquarium species into our waters. The painted turtle is on BC's "species at risk" list, and could be threatened by alien breeds like the red-eared slider, a common pet store breed, and the diseases they may carry into our waters. Aquatic alien species can spread disease or eat the food our native species depend on.
Wetlands - Wonders Worth Saving
Wetlands truly are wonders. Covering only 6% of the Earth's surface,
wetlands are areas that remain wet for all or part of the year. Marshes,
bogs, swamps, fens and shorelines are the most common types. Wetlands
are often called the kidneys of the earth: they filter out suspended
sediments that have been picked up through erosion, convert excess
nutrients and fertilizers into lush vegetation, and release clean water to
downstream users. Wetlands act as giant sponges, soaking up the
excess water of spring runoff, and releasing it gradually into streams
and underground aquifers. These functions are vital to the health and
sustainability of waterfowl, wildlife populations, fish stocks, amphibians,
agricultural industries and people.
There is an estimated 514,000 hectares of wetlands within the
Cariboo-Chilcotin biome. Ducks Unlimited Canada is working to conserve,
restore and manage these wetlands and associated habitats. In 1970,
Ducks Unlimited Canada completed its first project in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the conservation program has since grown to more than 80 projects consisting of 257 basins, including 6,700 hectares of wetlands and 2,100 hectares of associated upland habitat.
Catching a glimpse of wild animals in their natural habitat is a real thrill for many people. But remember, you are a visitor in the animal's home - please respect the needs of wild animals for space, and their natural food and shelter. To avoid stressing wildlife, please:
- View or photograph from a distance, use binoculars and telephoto lenses.
- Avoid noises or actions that might cause animals to flee, wasting unnecessary energy.
- Respect den sites and nesting areas. Nesting birds are very sensitive to disturbances, birds who moult (lose their flight feathers) after nesting, must grow new feathers before they can fly again. Roosting and hibernating bats are very sensitive to being disturbed.
- Wild animals may be dangerous if they feel threatened or have young. If you find a wild young animal leave it, the mother is near by.
- Feeding wildlife is illegal and unsafe. Feeding often leads to unnatural food dependency, habituation to humans, disease or even death.
- Keep pets under control, they may chase or injure wildlife.
-Avoid trampling or damaging vegetation - it's part of the wildlife's ecosystem.
- RESPECT private property and other viewer's need for space. Keep the area clean!
Take your garbage out with you.
- REPORT any abuse of the environment and its wildlife to the nearest conservation
- Ensuring that species habitat needs take precedence over human use helps protect
threatened, endangered and vulnerable wildlife. Many groups and organizations
contribute to conservation projects and public awareness in our region. Be sure you
are doing your part to preserve healthy, functioning ecosystems.
- In the Cariboo Chilcotin region there are several designated Wildlife Viewing Sites.
To mention a few: 100 Mile Marsh, the Chilcotin Grasslands, Riedmann Wildlife
Sanctuary on Alkali Lake, and the Beaver Pond trail at 10 Mile Lake Provincial Park.
Bear and Cougar
Bears and cougars are wild animals and as such are unpredictable to a very large
extent. Normally they are wary of people but they can become habituated and food conditioned in a very short period. Even though there are numerous bear-human encounters each year, in parks, protected areas, on crown land as well as private lands, the number of encounters that result in contact and or injury or death are very small.
Sightings or human contact with cougars are very rare, but do occur. Once bears are fed, they quickly learn to associate food with people and become increasingly aggressive towards humans in their search for food. It is almost impossible to reverse these habits.
There are many things that you can do on the trail to prevent bear or cougar encounters:
• Make enough noise so as not to surprise a wild animal at close quarters
• Be aware of tracks, droppings, digging, torn stumps or carcasses
• Avoid thick brush and stay in the open
• Avoid concentrations of natural food stuff, i.e. berries when ripe
• Keep your dog under control, on a leash, or leave at home.
• Avoid walking in twilight hours or dark as bears and cougars are more active during twilight and dark
• Always keep children close and in sight
• If you encounter a bear or cougar - DO NOT RUN or CRY OUT, stay calm, retreat slowly, talk softly and avoid eye contact.
When selecting a camp site:
• Choose an open site off a trail, not along a running creek, a ridge or near a berry patch
• Do not sleep in the open (without a tent)
• Store food and garbage at least 100-200 meters from the sleeping area in bear-proof containers or suspend between two trees.
• Keep your camp clean, burn all combustibles, pack out your garbage
• Never cook or store food, utensils, toilet articles or cosmetics in your tent or tent trailer
• Eliminate or reduce food odours. Avoid cooking greasy foods and foods with strong smells. Freeze dried foods are relatively odour free. Keep yourself and gear free of food smells
Additional information and precautions:
• Never approach a young bear or cougar, females will defend their young very vigorously.
• Bears will often stand on their hind legs to better identify you and may move closer to identify what they are smelling or have seen. If a bear comes at you with its head high it will most likely not charge. However if it moves towards you in the low crouch position it will likely attack. Bears will likely make a series of woofs and pop their teeth as a warning that they do not want you around.
• Rather than risking an encounter, it is better to back track or re-route.
The Cost of Campfires
The warmth of a crackling campfire is cherished by almost every camper visiting BC Parks each year. To many, it is a favourite and important social aspect of camping. But campfires come with a cost that goes far beyond money. BC Parks is committed to the conservation of natural resources, and is working towards decreasing the amount of wood being burned in campgrounds. In an average year, 22,000 cords of firewood are burned at our 11,000 campsites. It takes 235ha of forest carried on the equivalent of 2000 logging trucks to bring this wood to the parks. The risk of wildfires is also on the rise in recent years. Every year, forest fires are started by careless campers. Please be aware of current fire bans when traveling the back country, and practice responsible campfire management: never leave a fire unattended. We recommend using a camp stove for cooking, as it is easier on the environment and far less likely to burn your food!
Noxious Weeds in the Grasslands of the Cariboo Chilcotin
In your travels through this region you will have the opportunity to visit the grasslands, many of which serve not only as home for wildlife, but also as range for the Cariboo/Chilcotin cattle. It is important to keep these grasslands healthy and free of "noxious weeds" - non-native plants that are difficult to control. As a recreationalist, you may be affected by these weeds - which may be poisonous, or thorny and difficult to travel through. When travelling in any type of vehicle, bicycle or on horseback, keep to established roads and trails, check undercarriages, hooves and tires for weeds or seeds. When finding a noxious weed, PULL isolated plants, CLIP and bag the seed heads, BURY or BURN plants and seed heads and REPORT weed locations to land managers. For more information on Noxious Weeds, see our page on invasive plants, contact the Cariboo Regional District (1.800.665.1636), or e-mail Cattlemen's Association (1 250.573.3611)
Ecological Reserves are areas selected to:
- preserve representative and special ecosystems
- protect rare and endangered plant and animal species
- preserve unique, rare or outstanding botanical, zoological or geological phenomena
- scientific research and educational use
BC Parks is responsible for the management and protection of British Columbia's ecological reserves, under the Ecological Reserve Act. Volunteer Ecological Reserve Wardens assist BC Parks by visiting the reserves regularly, and reporting their findings. Ecological Reserves are not created for outdoor recreation. However, some are open to the public for observational purposes such as bird watching and photography. Camping and the use of motorized vehicles are not permitted. There are ten ecological reserves in the Cariboo Region, covering a total of 17,307 hectares. Please cooperate in caring for these areas.
Back Country Ethics
British Columbia's wilderness areas are a popular destination for both residents and visitors. Popularity has its drawbacks, though. Over-use and improper traveling and camping practices in the back country have led to damage to the natural environment and unfulfilled wilderness expectations. To retain the high quality of our wilderness experiences, we all must accept responsibility for minimizing our impact.
Special care must be taken in alpine and sub-alpine areas. These are among the most fragile because of severe conditions and a short growing season. To preserve this pristine wilderness, it is important to hike on designated trails, put up your tent on tent pads, where provided, and use a back-packing stove for cooking rather than an open fire.
Taking pets into the back country, especially dogs, is not recommended. Pets can disturb other campers, foul trails and aggravate wildlife.
Everyone who uses the back country must strive for "no trace camping". In other words, when camp is broken, there should be no sign of human use. Leave the area in better condition than when you arrived.
IF YOU PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT - Take along a garbage bag and carry out all trash that you generate including biodegradable scraps such as apple cores, orange peels, etc.
- Use portable gas stoves for cooking.
- Boil or filter and treat water before drinking it.
- If there is no outhouse provided, burying your waste in a shallow hole is the best disposal method. The hole should be located at least 200 feet from any water sources, campsites, and trails.
- Pack out all toilet paper, tampons and disposable diapers or use a natural wiping alternative such as snow, leaves, or tree lichen.
- Avoid urinating on plants because animals are attracted to the salty liquid.
- Any washing activities should take place at least 200 feet from natural water sources and, if you use soap, make sure it is phosphate free and biodegradable.
- For tooth cleaning, use salt or baking soda instead of toothpaste, which contains detergent.
- Take your photos and memories home with you - but please leave the park with no trace of your visit, so that others may also enjoy our protected areas.