I.C.Y.M.I.: Canoeing in Northern Alberta – Experiencing the Province from a Different Point of View

By Wendy Powell on May 20, 2024.

A canoe trip in Lac La Biche or Peace River is an unforgettable experience.

The Lac La Biche canoe circuit in Lakeland Provincial Park is one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets. It is the only backcountry canoe circuit in the province. The circuit includes four lakes, 38 kilometres of paddling and 13 kilometres of portaging. Most people take three to four days to complete the circuit. The lakes are flat water and easy to paddle.

Alberta’s Only Backcountry Canoe Circuit

The circuit begins at the Jackson Lake Staging area, which is located on Highway 633. From this point, visitors must portage their canoe three kilometres to the boat launch, but canoe carts are available to make the hike a little easier. There are short portage portions of the circuit between each lake and canoe carts are available at each trail. According to adventure travel blogger and Albertan Leigh McAdam of Hike Bike Travel, the portage trails are not too difficult.

There are 14 backcountry camping areas along the circuit. Each campsite comes equipped with a composting toilet, picnic table, and bear locker or bear pole. These campsites are available at no charge but are not reservable. Canoers should be prepared to move on to the next camping area if occupied. Camping outside of the designated camping areas is not allowed in Lakeland Provincial Park.

Lakeland Provincial Park is located approximately two and a half hours northeast of Edmonton.

Paddling the Peace River

The mighty Peace River flows all the way from the B.C. Rockies to eastern Alberta where it connects to Slave River. It is a canoers dream. There are countless boat launches along the way as well as many campgrounds to stop at. Both one day and multi day paddling trips are quite common in this area. Peace River is classified as a class 1 river with no rapids or portage points.

Since there are so many boat launches and campgrounds on Peace River, it is important that visitors plan their trips beforehand. Teresa Griffith of Flow North Paddling Company has created an incredible paddling guide for the entire length of the river. It is available as a free download on her website and includes everything from camping and paddling tips to campsites and GPS waypoints. She has even included interesting historical information.

A great place to include in any paddling tour of Peace River is historic Dunvegan Provincial Park. Here, visitors are able learn about the history of this traditional Indigenous gathering place as well as the history of Fort Dunvegan, a fur trading post. The park is accessible directly from the river with a campground conveniently located close to the shore. Campsites at Dunvegan are $37 per night and are reservable.

The Beauty of Canoeing in Northern Alberta

Exploring northern Alberta by canoe really is an incredible way to experience some of the most spectacular scenery in the province. Visitors should make sure that they come prepared, leave camping areas cleaner than when they arrived, and follow all guidelines and rules for the parks and natural areas.

Wendy Powell is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was republished for the Great West Media & Southern Alberta Newspapers Hot Summer Guide advertising feature. The Hot Summer Guide is a special feature about summer activities, bucket list adventures, staycation options, road trips, attractions, events, and road trip-worthy food & beverage destinations across Alberta. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

This article was originally published on July 19, 2021.

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