Whiteswan Lake in the Winter (Corey Bullock/Kimberley Bulletin)

My spare time; Whiteswan is always an adventure

Picture this: you wake up to the sound of birds chirping, no alarm clock, just the warm sun peeking through a crack in your tent. It doesn’t matter what time it is, it’s morning and it is a new day.

You slowly unzip yourself out of your sleeping bag cocoon and exit the tent. You give your body a stretch and say hello to the sunshine, splash some cold, clear lake water on your face and proceed to make a warm cup of coffee.

With your mug, you sit by the lake’s edge, listening to the sound of the water lapping over the stones, sipping your coffee and enjoying a moment of morning peace.

Mornings are one of my favourite parts about camping, and Kimberley provides so many opportunities to take in those precious moments with nature, away from cell phones, work and school.

There are endless camping spots in the area, and as a resident I have barely begun to scratch the surface. I am looking forward to exploring all that the Kootenays have to offer and I hope you will share in my experience by reading this new column, My Spare Time.

One of my favourite places to camp, so far, is at Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park. Having camped there in the winter, spring and summer I know first hand that it can change drastically each season. Wether it’s shovelling snow for three days, dealing with high winds and rain, or clear blue skies and hot temperatures – Whiteswan is always an adventure.

There are two lakes in this park; Whiteswan and Alces. One of the focal points is Lussier hot springs, which are located near the park entrance at kilometre 17.5on the Whiteswan Forest Service Road.

There are five lakeside or riverside campgrounds, three boat launches, a historic lakeside trail and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. Rainbow trout spawn in the inlet and outlet of Whiteswan Lake in May and June. Mountain goats and big-horn sheep can often be found grazing along the sides of the backroads. Moose, elk, deer, grizzly and black bears also call Whiteswan Provincial Park home. Common loons, red-necked grebes, belted kingfishers, blue herons, bald and golden eagles and many other bird species can be seen on the lakes and in the surrounding woodlands.

The park is 1994 hectares and was established on August 2, 1978. According to the B.C. Parks website, “Whiteswan Lake was an important seasonal hunting camp of the K’tunaxa native people and their use of the area dates back at least 5,000 years. During the 1800’s and early 1900’s trappers, prospectors and guides worked in the area and soothed their work worn bodies in the hot mineral waters of Lussier Hot Springs.

“The area surrounding the park is part of the Kootenay Region working forest. Logging and mining currently provides jobs for many people living in the region, as well recreation and tourism have become important aspects of the economy.”

“In the summer of 2001, wildfires swept through the forests north and west of the park. These fires, while seemingly “destructive”, are recognized as a part of a natural cycle of renewal that ensures the long term viability of diverse ecosystems and their inhabitants,” says the site.

B.C. Parks enforces and recommends the following at Whiteswan Provincial Park:

With the exception of Inlet Creek Campground (which is open year-round), vehicle accessed campground gates are closed during the off-season while walk in camping is permitted. Backcountry camping at Cave Creek Campground is permitted year round but access to it will depend on snow levels and the condition of the ice on Whiteswan Lake. Camping fees do not apply in the off season if no services are provided.

No towing is allowed on the lakes and no power boats are allowed on Alces Lake, which is a fly fishing only lake. Snowmobiles are allowed on the lake only for access to the winter fishery.

Use extreme caution on the Whiteswan Lake Road at all times. Extreme care must be taken when driving the canyon portion (kilometres 15 to 18) of the access road to the park. For improved safety turn your headlights on. Be aware that mine ore trucks and oversized logging trucks are on the route. Always give them the right of way.

Mountain and lake weather can change rapidly, be prepared. Visitors should be arrow that high winds can come up quickly so use caution while boating.

There is no public phone or cell phone service at Whiteswan Provincial Park.

For more information visit the B.C. Parks website at www.env.gov.bc.ca, contact EK Parks Ltd. at info@ekparks.com or phone 250-422-3003.