“If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water.” Loren Eiseley
I was born and raised in Prince George. I was 25 when I was drawn to the eastern plains of Alberta. As an equestrian, cowboy country made sense for my lifestyle and I competed in professional rodeo for 5 years before I came back home to “visit.”
I never left.
What is it about Prince George that convinced this gypsy soul to plant roots again? Family was always the number one reason, and PG is an ideal place to raise a family. Other factors contributed to my change of heart but I want to focus on scenery. In particular; Alberta’s lakes pale in comparison to the lakes of Central and Northern BC.
I spent 4 of my 5 years in Strathmore, a small town approximately 60 km east of Calgary. The closest swimmable lake was an overpopulated human-made body of water 40 km away. Only certain pass holders could boat on the lake and the beaches were often closed to the public because of “the itch.” Besides that, we didn’t have a lot of options. The pretty lakes of the Rockies were 2.5 hours away and too cold to swim in. Any other body of water always looked appealing from a distance but when you drew near, they were no deeper than a few feet and riddled with weeds.
If you’re like me right now you may have a bit of cabin fever, and not the good kind. Winter is a chilly mistress in BC’s Northern Capital, so I have chosen to write about warmer days rather than dwell on our current (snowy) situation. If you happen to be a cold weather warrior, all the lakes I have mentioned below are excellent for ice fishing, skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Prince George has hundreds of lakes within an hour of town, but I want to focus on 5 of my favorites. Ness, Purden, Nadsilnich/West, Bednesti and Summit.
Ness Lake is what summer dreams are made of. Just 35km from the city it has a public beach and 2 boat launches. The public beach is sandy below but has grassy tiers. Picnic tables make it the ideal set up to bring the whole family for a day of fun in the sun. Ness is a great swimming lake but also amazing for boating. Ness has 3 different basins all connected by smaller portions of water. The waves caused by boats lose momentum easily, making it an ideal lake for kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding.
Purden is a bit colder than Ness as far as temperature goes, but with good reason. It is DEEP and nestled in the mountains. The few degree change in temperature is worth it for the incredible views and clean, crisp water. If you take the boat out for a day be sure to maneuver to the north east corner, a large rock formation creates its own little island prime for exploring (and picture taking) Purden is stocked with rainbow trout and this freshwater lake is large enough to be shared by recreational boaters and fishermen alike. It has both a private and provincial campground, both have great sites and even better views.
Just 15 minutes from downtown you will find West Lake. West has a sprawling public beach with a gazebo, fire pits, picnic tables, horseshoe games and showers. Part of the West Lake beach is even pet friendly! It is perfect for swimming, boating, paddle boarding, hiking and fishing. West Lake also offers a provincial campground and the short commute makes it the perfect lake for affordable, family day trips.
Bednesti and Summit Lakes
A bit of a drive but worth every minute of it are Bednesti (West) and Summit Lake (North) Bednesti is a quiet lake and flocks with avid fisherman. It contains rainbow trout, late trout and whitefish. It has a scenic waterfront campground and is the perfect place for a relaxing, weekend getaway. Summit is much like Ness in that it has multiple basins and provides a scenic boating or canoe trip. It boasts a campground with cycling paths, hiking, fishing and canoeing. Teapot Mountain overlooks the lake and is a hotspot for hikers. The private campground has cabin rentals, RV and camping sites, a boat launch and day use facilities. Summit was even featured in as one of the top 5 “Instagram Worthy Places You Need to Visit in Prince George.”
A part of me will always love the plains of Alberta, but it wasn’t until I left Prince George that I realized just how much life I was missing out on. Every town has its advantages and some things may have been more accessible for my lifestyle at the time, but there is no place on Earth that compares to the amazing scenery we have minutes from our doorstep in BC’s Northern Capital. Our incredible lakes are just a small piece of the puzzle in what makes this city so appealing.