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5 Lazy Rivers in BC - The Best Lazy Rivers and Camping Getaways in BC
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5 Lazy Rivers in BC - The Best Lazy Rivers and Camping Getaways in BC
BC is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, and what better way to immerse yourself in the serenity of this province than by leisurely floating down a lazy river while surrounded by stunning landscapes?
Whether seeking a tranquil escape or an adventure-filled getaway, BC offers an array of lazy rivers that will fulfill your desires. From the vibrant Okanagan region to the lush forests of Vancouver Island, we’ll explore rivers that are ideal for tubing and leisurely floating, offering a perfect respite from the summer heat.
But that’s not all - camping goes hand in hand with lazy river adventures. So, I’ll also provide the best camping spots near these rivers, ensuring you can extend your outdoor experience and make lasting memories.
Whether you’re a seasoned camper seeking new hidden gems or a tubing enthusiast searching for the next lazy river paradise, I will provide all the information you need to plan your perfect summer escape in BC. So, grab your inflatable tube, pack your camping gear, and get ready to discover the best lazy rivers to float down and the most picturesque campgrounds to pitch your tent.
Penticton River Channel - Okanagan
Located in Penticton, this man-made Channel connects Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. It’s a favourite spot for tubing, with gentle currents and stunning views of the surrounding vineyards. The water is relatively clear and quite shallow, which makes it perfect for snorkelling and swimming for those who get bored of the float.
The Channel is a great way to spend the day under the sun but remember, it gets just as hot as the beach, and there’s no shade, so bring sunscreen and drinking water.
The Channel starts at the Coyote Cruises building (on Riverside Drive). Tubbers can either stop at the halfway point on Green Mountain Road (approximately 45 minutes and closer to about a third of the way to the lake) or float the entire 7km to the Highway 97 bridge near Skaha Lake (approximately 2-3 hours). Know that the first half of the Channel is faster than the second, and it’s not a good idea to float into Skaha Lake due to dangerous currents.
Note: at both stopping locations, there are stairs on the right-hand side of the Channel before you get to the bridge that will allow you to exit, so pay attention.
There are a few campgrounds near Penticton to stay while enjoying the River Channel. Some popular options include Barefoot Beach Resort (10 min drive to Coyote Cruises), Wright’s Beach Campground (12 min drive), and Sun-Oka Beach Provincial Park (6 min drive).
Similkameen River - Okanagan
Flowing through the Similkameen Valley in the southern interior of BC, this river offers a relaxing tubing experience. With gentle currents and beautiful scenery, it’s a great place to unwind and enjoy the summer weather.
The Similkameen River offers longer and more varied floating options:
- Bromley Rock to the Red Bridge: 4-5 hours
- Red Bridge to Keremeos Pine Park: 2 hours
- Red Bridge to Cawston’s Kobau Park: 3.5 hours
If you’d like, you can camp right at Bromley Rock Campground or Red Bridge Campground. Or if you’re seeking a cabin Gold Mountain is only a 10-minute drive from Bromley Rock or a 20-minute drive from the Red Bridge.
Slocan River - Kootenays
The Slocan River, located in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, offers a picturesque setting for a leisurely float. Known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning natural surroundings, the Slocan River provides a serene and scenic experience from the Passmore Bridge (or Slocan Park) to Crescent Valley Beach Park.
If you start in Slocan, the float is approximately 4-6 hours. If you start at the Passmore Bridge, this will add roughly an hour.
Although not directly on the Slocan River, Valhalla Provincial Park is nearby (7 min drive from the Passmore Bridge) and offers spectacular wilderness camping opportunities. The park encompasses pristine alpine lakes, old-growth forests, and stunning mountain vistas.
The other camping options are a bit of a drive from the river float (30 minutes or so), but the float can take most of your day and is definitely worth the trip. These camping options include:
- Cooley Lake Recreation site - West of Slocan Park but need to drive south to New Settlement to get to Crescent Valley Beach Park (42-minute drive to Passmore Bridge)
- Lemon Creek Pioneer Campground - North of Passmore
Cowichan River - Vancouver Island
Situated on Vancouver Island, the Cowichan River near Duncan is known for its crystal-clear waters and serene ambiance. It offers a relaxing float with beautiful scenery and various entry points along the river. From Cowichan River to Little Beach, a 3km trip takes approximately 3 hours. Don’t worry; you’ll know exactly where the journey ends (there are plenty of signs).
The Tube Shack is an excellent option for visitors as you can rent a tube, and they will shuttle you back to your vehicle.
You can camp at the various provincial parks near the Cowichan River. For example, Cowichan River Provincial Park offers riverside campsites like Stoltz Pool Campground (16 min drive from Tube Shack). You can also check out nearby campgrounds such as Lake View Park Campground (4 min drive) or Gordon Bay Provincial Park (15 min drive).
Alouette River - Lower Mainland
Located in Golden Ears Provincial Park near Maple Ridge, the Alouette River is another popular spot for tubing. The river flows from Alouette Lake to a junction with the Fraser River through a picturesque valley, and you can enjoy a leisurely float surrounded by lush forests and mountain views.
This is a beautiful day trip for those living in the lower mainland, BC.
If you want to camp, Golden Ears Provincial Park is an excellent place near the Alouette River. The park has three campgrounds: Gold Creek, Alouette, and North Beach.
Coquitlam River - Lower Mainland
For those looking to stay closer to Vancouver, the Coquitlam River is an excellent option for tubing. Still, you likely need to stay more alert to boulders than with some other rivers.
If you choose the Coquitlam River, you’re more likely to be a Vancouver lower mainland local, so you’re probably headed home after a day on the river. But there are a few places to consider camping if you’re from out of town.
Pinecone Burke Provincial Park offers backcountry camping opportunities for those seeking a more rugged and remote experience. Note that backcountry camping requires proper preparation, knowledge, and permits. For example, access to Widgeon Creek campground is by boat access only.
Another option is to cross the bridge into Surrey to camp at Dogwood campgrounds (25 min drive). You can also camp at Alouette, but if you’re going to do that, you’d mid as well float down that river.
What to Bring with You on Your Lazy River Adventure
Preparing the right supplies and gear is essential for a successful and enjoyable river adventure. Here's a list of items you should remember to bring:
- Suitable floatation device: Depending on your preference and the river conditions, bring an inner tube, inflatable raft, or purpose-built river tube for your float.
- Sun protection: Pack sunscreen with a high SPF rating to protect your skin from the sun's rays. Bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lightweight, breathable clothing to shield yourself from excessive sun exposure.
- Water: Stay hydrated throughout your river adventure by bringing ample water. Consider using a reusable water bottle or hydration pack to minimize waste.
- Snacks and meals: Pack energy-boosting snacks like granola bars, fruits, or trail mix. Pack a meal or sandwiches in a cooler for a longer float or a picnic along the river.
- Waterproof bag or container: Keep your belongings safe and dry using a waterproof bag or container. This will protect items such as your phone, wallet, car keys, and any other essentials you need to bring along.
- River shoes or sandals: Choose sturdy water shoes or sandals that provide good traction and protect your feet from sharp rocks or potential hazards in the river.
- Protective clothing: Wear a swimsuit or quick-drying clothes that allow freedom of movement. Consider bringing a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt to protect your skin from the sun or bugs.
- First aid kit: Prepare a basic kit that includes band-aids, antiseptic ointment, adhesive tape, pain relievers, and necessary personal medications.
- Waterproof camera or phone case: Use a waterproof case to capture beautiful scenery or moments during your float.
- Trash bags: Practice Leave No Trace principles by bringing trash bags to collect and carry out garbage or litter. Keep the river environment clean and preserve its natural beauty.
When embarking on river float adventures, it's crucial to prioritize safety to ensure a pleasant and secure experience. Here are some important safety considerations:
- Wear a life jacket: Wear a properly fitted life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) when floating on a river. This is especially important for non-swimmers or when encountering rapids or faster currents.
- Check river conditions: Before heading out, research the current conditions of the river you plan to float on. Factors such as water levels, flow rate, and weather forecasts can impact the safety of your float. High water levels or swift currents may pose risks and should be avoided.
- Choose appropriate floatation devices: Select one suitable for the specific river conditions and your swimming ability. Inner tubes, inflatable rafts, or purpose-built river tubes are common choices. Ensure your floatation device is in good condition and not prone to punctures or leaks.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs: Staying clear-headed while floating on a river is essential. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents or injuries. Stay sober during your river float adventure.
- Protect yourself from the sun: Apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lightweight, breathable clothing to shield yourself from excessive sun exposure.
- Be aware of potential hazards: Familiarize yourself with the river's layout and potential hazards such as rocks, fallen trees, or other obstacles. Watch for changing conditions, including strong currents, submerged objects, or sudden drops. Stay away from dangerous areas and exercise caution around rapids or turbulent sections.
- Float in groups and inform others: Whenever possible, float with a group of friends or family members. Communicate your float plans to someone not participating and tell them your intended duration and location. This ensures that someone is aware of your trip and can take action if necessary.
These safety considerations are general guidelines, and specific river conditions may require additional precautions. Always use your judgment, follow local regulations, and seek guidance from experienced river floaters or professionals when necessary.
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