REVIEW: Shuswap Lake Provincial Park Campground (aka My Favorite North Okanagan Campground)

by - Friday, August 08, 2014

We recently got back from beautiful British Columbia, where we stayed at five different campgrounds in three different regions, all with different geography and amenities. As a backpacker at heart, I am extremely picky when it comes to car camping locales. Basically, if I am going to be crammed in with a whole bunch of other people and deprived the chance to really "leave it all behind" as RV televisions blare, there had better be some tradeoffs. Of all the places we stayed, our favorite was Shuswap Lake Provincial Park campground (Shuswap Lake). Before I tell you why we loved this campground so much, you have to promise not to book it for two weeks every year; it is already hard enough to get a spot there without booking three months in advance!

Lazing on Shuswap Lake Beach
Besides a lovely, sandy/pebbly beach, Shuswap Lake boasts several amenities making it a dream location for family getaways:
  • large, semi-private, shaded campsites; double sites and a group site are also available
  • a bike-friendly campground - everyone rode their bikes everywhere
  • playground
  • amphitheater with great programming including a "Learn to Fish" session (more details below)
  • Nature Hut that has some neat exhibits and offers free activities for the kids on weekend afternoons (games, Jerry's Rangers program where kids can earn badges) as well as t-shirt painting for $15 (a good activity on a rainy day)
  • short, interpretive nature hike perfect for families with small children to complete in less than one hour
  • warm weather and no mosquitoes (Herald Provincial Park on the other arm of the Shuswap Lakes was considerably cooler as it is in the lee of Bastion Mountain for a good part of the day.)
  • a huge number of picnic tables near the beach, many are shaded by large trees
  • walking distance to a small, general store; short drive to grocery store
  • free, hot showers and flush toilets
We were happy just walking, exploring the trails around the campground, and going to the beach, but on Saturday morning, we were invited to a "Learn to Fish" presentation at the amphitheater. Appreciative of the invite, I politely declined, explaining we had left our fishing equipment at home and were from out of province so didn't have valid fishing licenses. The GoFishBC staffer told us she had loaner rods on hand and reminded us that kids under 16 don't need a license, so we put away our breakfast dishes and tagged along. We learned to identify different kinds of fish, how to hold a fish if you catch one, how to release and resuscitate a fish, and finally, how to tie a clinch knot, and cast! After the presentation, kids were allowed to borrow a rod and reel for an hour and try their luck. We didn't catch anything, but it was wonderful way to spend the morning.


Exploring the Nature Hut
The surprises kept coming. Not only was there fishing class in the morning, but children's activities in the afternoon. Older kids could play games such as Red Rover on the field. My girls joined the Jerry's Rangers group (suitable for 5-12 years old, though my 3 year old was allowed to join and loved it): Parks staff led the kids on a scavenger hunt through the interpretive trail and taught them about the area's history, plants and animals; how to protect the environment; and how to be bear aware. At the end of the scavenger hunt, every child was presented with a certificate, and was allowed to stick her earned sticker badges on her certificate. Goody bags complete with lollipop, pin and coloring book were handed out and of course, graduation antlers were donned. The scavenger hunt took about one hour in total and was a nice way to break up the day.

The Nature Trail at Shuswap Lake Provincial Park
Shuswap Lake Provincial Park, you are doing it right! Educating children in a fun way is the best way to get them to appreciate nature and hopefully work to protect it as they get older. For the rest of the trip, my girls remembered to stay on trails to protect plants and prevent soil erosion (and they are only 3 & 5 years old!), they (mostly) did not pick plants or wildflowers because "that's what Jerry's Rangers do", and asked about doing more fishing when we got home. We can't wait to go again.


The Littlest Ranger
What is your favorite family-friendly campground?

Links

For more information, visit BC Parks' page for Shuswap Lake Provincial Park.
Campground reservations must be made through Discover Camping.
To discover other places that offer "Learn to Fish" sessions or free fishing equipment rentals, visit GoFishBC.

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