I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about Lakeland Provincial Park http://www.albertaparks.ca/lakeland-pp/information-facilities.aspx but there is a canoe circuit in this area, the only one in Alberta. I love to paddle on lakes, but most of the paddlers in my club prefer rivers, and Alberta has a lot of those. I proposed a trip at Lakeland, way back in late February and waited for responses. Finally, only a week before the planned trip, one other member of my club confirmed that 2 members of the Red Deer club were also interested, and we sent each other many emails to confirm who would bring what. Since everyone had experience and equipment with camping and canoeing, we had to decide who would leave their gear at home. We also decided who would prepare the suppers for each day, and made a general plan for each day and where we would meet.
It took me about 3 hours to travel to the Jackson Lake trailhead from Edmonton, and I arrived around 6 pm. This is the only access point for the lakes, if you are canoeing, and there were a dozen large canoe carts waiting for us near the parking lot. Since the central Alberta crew arrived before me, they had already loaded up the canoes and carts, and they were laying out a lovely supper of cold chicken and assorted salads. We filled up and set out to pull the loaded canoes 3 kilometres to the lakes. I only brought my “natural” bug spray on this trip, and that didn’t scare the local mosquitoes at all, so we all sprayed with strong bug spray and set out. Less than an hour later, we got to the dock. First we had to carry everything through a very large puddle, but luckily, this was next to the lakes.
We set out to find a campsite before it got too late, and we were able to camp at the first site that we found, on Jackson Lake. There was a lot of space at this campsite, with bear poles that we used to hang up our cooler. The grass was pretty long, and we were happy to have a campfire, to keep the bugs away before bedtime. We had enough space to set up 3 tents, and the sunset was really beautiful.
“Doug” is a very experienced camper who loves to get up early, so after we heard him chopping wood, we woke up to freshly brewed coffee. We all made our own breakfasts and we hung up our tents to dry for a little while, since there was heavy dew. It was probably close to 10, before we set out again on the water, and we began to search for a campsite in Kinnaird Lake. Here, there were quite a few motorboats, and one island contained a total of 9 tents, with food spread out everywhere for the bears to enjoy! Other campsites were occupied, or were tiny, and we started to worry that we wouldn’t find anywhere to camp. Finally, we found a small campsite on the point, where we had enough space to put up 2 of our tents. By this time, the wind was picking up, and it wasn’t so appealing to be on the water. We all relaxed, and I think that everyone slept for a bit of the afternoon, as well as reading, painting, and just sitting around visiting. I cooked bison chili during the week and froze it, so it was pretty quick to reheat for supper, along with some salad. After supper, we got back out on the water, to enjoy the beautiful scenery and to explore some more.
We shared a variety of nightcaps: Scotch, Baileys and Jaegermeister at the campsite after our return, and we slept very soundly, even though our space was more crowded on the second night. The mosquitoes and horseflies were very fierce at this site, and in the morning, we awoke to hundreds of tiny mosquito faces staring through the mesh of our tent, waiting for us to come out and feed them! Doug baked a bannock for us in his camper oven and we enjoyed 2 pots of coffee before packing up. We set back out across Kinnaird and Jackson Lakes before portaging back to the parking lot. Again, there were plenty of carts waiting for us at the trailhead. We noticed that there was a campsite near the dock, which is useful to know for the future. Other paddlers told some of us that they camped on the dock the night before, since they couldn’t find any campsites on the lake after their arrival. It was about 3 pm, when we got our vehicles reloaded and took off. I headed straight to Beaver Lake Campground (near Lac la Biche) to wash off my bugspray in the lake, and to eat a giant ice cream cone.
A big highlight of this trip was the variety of bird and buglife that we saw throughout our time on the lakes. I think we saw about 20 loons, in total, which is very unusual, since they’re usually solitary birds. There were butterflies of every colour, and we saw all kinds of water birds, including pelicans, with their young. A bald eagle was perched when we paddled Kinnaird Lake in the evening, and a blue heron was setting out when we first arrived at Jackson. I was sorry to see how many motorized boats there were on the lakes, but they behaved well, generally focussed on finding fish.
We all enjoyed this trip tremendously, and agreed that we will repeat the trip in June/2015, with 2 extra days to explore the area further. We didn’t portage at all between the lakes, but this is possible in many other areas. Some people came out for a daytrip, which would be pretty easy for a fit person with light equipment.