North America > Canada

Chilko Lake, BC: Great for Grizzly Sightings

Chilko Lake

Photo credit: Sam Beebe on Flickr.

lakeChilko Lake
countryCanada
surface area186 km2
maximum depth366 m
average depth91 m
lake typeNatural
length65 km
width5 km
catchment area2,159 km2
altitude1,172 m
volume17 km3
outflowsChilko River
islandsDuff Island
shore length185 km
residence time10,455 days
average discharge19 m3 / sec.

Chilko Lake Information and Facts

Chilko Lake is one of the largest lakes in the province of British Columbia, Canada, especially because of its great depth. Its main outflow, the Chilko River contains the longest white-water rapids in North America, which can be commercially navigable.

Geography and Surroundings

The lake is fed by dozens of mountain creeks and is located in a rugged and relatively untouched wilderness region, covered in tall mountain ranges, stunning waterfalls, eternal glaciers and green pine forests. The 180 km2 lake is located on the Chilcotin Plateau, and the glacial valley on which it can be found opens onto a large lava plateau, which lies inland from the highest section of the main mountain range nearby.  

The peaks bordering Chilko Lake are among the tallest in British Columbia. Moount Good Hope, with an elevation of 3243 m and Mount Queen Bess, with an altitude of 3242 meters are two of the most important peaks close to the lake.

Two deep and large glacial valleys connect the Chilko region to the Taseko Lake, which drains towards the north, parallel to Chilko River. Both of them end up in the Chilcotin River, a main tributary of the Fraser. This area is referred to as the Chilcotin-Fraser Drainage Basin.

The area between the Chilko and the Taseko Lake basins is a protected area, called the Ts’ilos Provincial Park. It is co-administered by the Parks Branch of the provincial government and the Xeni Gwet’in, made up of residents of the Nemaia Valley and the Tsilhqot’in people. The Provincial Park is mostly covered in Douglas fir forests on lower elevations and dry alpine vegetation on higher grounds. Grizzly bears, wolverines, bald eagles and mountain cats make up the most frequently-seen animals of the park. There are, however, a few ecologically sensitive species such as the California bighorn sheep.

Historic Facts

The area surrounding the lake served as the backwoods maneuvering site for the Chilcotin war of 1864. The Xeni Gwet’in people are said to have descendants of the Klatassin, who initiated the war, still living in the lake basin. In the 1950s there were discussions about the Chilko River and Lake as a potential hydropower resource for Alcan. But because of the large salmon presence, the plans were passed over. The hydroelectric plans included the diversion of the Taseko Lake into Chilko Lake. They also had in plan to combine the Chilko and Taseko Rivers, which flow into Tatlayoko Lake via a series of dams down the Homathko River.

Since the area between the Tatlayoko and Chilko lake’s isn’t officially protected, so the plans for these dams could still be made possible. The largest one was to be built immediately atop the site of the first battle of the Chilcotin War, marked as “Murderer’s Bar” on government maps.

In the vicinity of the lake, especially in the Brittany Triangle area, between the Chilko and Taseko Rivers, one of the last holdouts of the Cholcotin Country’s once numerous herds of wild roses can be found. The area is in discussion of becoming a reservation site.

Tourism and Recreation

The most popular activity is fishing, with steelheads, cohos, Chinooks and sockeye salmon representing the most important catches. The salmon actually travel 500 miles to reach the lake. In autumn they begin their spawning, and it’s the perfect time to spot bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, ravens, seagulls, coyotes, lynxes, black bears and especially grizzly bears feasting on them. It is one of the best locations in Canada to spot grizzlies. It is also a prime spot for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.

Chilko Lake lodge supports numerous water sports activities, such as rafting on Chilko River, kayaking and canoeing on the lake. Bear Camp is known for glamping, which is a more luxurious side to camping in upscale waterfront safari-style tents.

Chilko Lake Fish Species

Rainbow trout
Bull trout

Chilko Lake Reviews

dave rukke

2016-11-04 21:17:24

Been on this lake for three weeks in a small raft during ...

5.0

Been on this lake for three weeks in a small raft during the summer of 1974, awesome scenery, awesome huge Rockie Mtns surrkunding lake 65 miles long I landed on a dirt airstrip on the outlet of the lake, and a swift River salmon move a huge distance to reach this wilderness lake my friend helped manage his dad's lodge on the both end of this lake, my Goddard and many high mountains surround the lake mountain climbers come from over seas and Rainbow Creek is about 50 miles south of the gravel airstrip, I was joined by two friends, we three had small inflatables, paddled and rowed 50 miles one way, each in our personal inflatable, a canoe was seen five miles on the other shore, it capsized both in the canoe believed drowns an expedition of Mountain Climbers was seen, Mt Giddard is only one Mt some may be very high 18,000 or so huge interest internationally, very dangerous and very remote wilderness, Walt Disney had filmed a wilderness film, the animals used like bears were still in cages, we cought Rainbow Trout, and Dolly Varden, the largest was 13 lbs, we saw moose, huge meadows full of thousands of moose antlers and the black bears were vary wild, some native Americans dried fish along the shore and some private rights to build a cabin, some winter trappers go into this deep wilderness for a winter of trapping, some horse pack trains explore a high trail or trails around this lake the worlds record grizzley was in 1974 taken at Bella Coola, closer to the coast, we were picked up by sea plane three weeks after we were dropped off, the bush planes were chartered from Williams Lake, British Comumbia,