Bear Viewing at Chilko Lake
Join us for the best grizzly viewing opportunities in Western Canada. Watch for abundant grizzlies as they hunt for salmon in the azure blue waters of Chilko Lake and the Chilko River! Stay in riverside safari-style tents perched high above the waters while grizzlies feed on salmon right in front of you.
Or take a one minute to explore a typical Bear Camp bear viewing experience by James Ramsay
Or click to watch “Breakfast with Bears”, filmed and edited by Randy Kerr.
Remote and spectacular, the Chilcotin Country of British Columbia remains largely undiscovered by outsiders. Chilko Lake lies at the heart of this vast and diverse region, flanked by the jagged, ice-etched Coast Range on the west and sage-covered plateaus on the east. The lake, a 55-mile-long alpine basin filled with clear glacial water, is our base for natural adventure on a scale rarely encountered. From our wilderness camp we will embark on nature walks, river trips and lake excursions that bring us close to the abundant wildlife that thrives in the Chilcotin: Canada’s true “Wild West.”
Our Chilko wildlife tour group size is limited to 16 people as nature expeditions are best experienced with smaller sized groups of travellers. Based out of Bear Camp, guests will be dazzled by fine food, great hospitality and a “Canadian twist” on the classic wildlife safari.
|Trip Length||4, 5 or 8 days|
|Price||$1995, $2495, $3495 US|
|Meeting Place||Vancouver, BC|
|Gateway City||Vancouver, BC|
|River Rating||Class I-II|
- Itinerary at a Glance
• Take a scenic flight over the Coast Mountains to Williams Lake or fly direct to spectacular Chilko Lake (three flight options are available or drive in yourself)
• Check into the waterfront Bear-Camp and get settled in our deluxe safari tents
• Be amazed by the abundance of grizzlies, black bears and eagles feasting on spawning salmon
• Watch grizzlies feed on salmon below your deck and while on daily excursions
• Explore the Coast Mountains, Chilko and Tatlayoko lakes by canoe, kayak, boat, horse and foot
• Paddle and fish the breath-taking azure waters of Chilko River
• Horseback ride in spectacular mountains
• Hike or bike on paths enveloped by awe-inspiring mountains
• Enjoy home-cooked meals and evening “feasts” paired with eclectic wines and craft beer
• Unwind with a book, or do nothing but drink in the spectacular scenery
• Round trip Vancouver to Williams Lake plus transfers on commercial plane $600 pp (Good)
• One-way direct charter/ one way commercial plane via Williams Lake $800 pp (Better)
• Round trip Vancouver – Bear Camp by direct charter plane $1000 pp (BEST!)
• Float plane or heli access – quotes by request
• Experienced professional guides
• Accommodations at Bear Camp
• All meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 4 (5 or 8)
• All activities described in the itinerary
• Park fees and necessary permits
- Detailed Itinerary
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group and time of year. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like.
Day One – Fly to Bear Camp
We meet in Vancouver for your flight. For those arriving at Vancouver International Airport on Day One – it is essential to arrive a minimum of two hours before our meeting time. You need to allow enough time for possible flight delays, time to clear customs, and time to transfer from the Vancouver International Airport terminal to the South Terminal.
Please make sure your gear is packed in soft luggage (NO SUITCASES PLEASE) as this will allow for easy storage. As soon as everyone’s gear is stowed, we will board our plane for the incredible flight over the mountains and glaciers. Upon arrival, your guides will give you an orientation to the events ahead and we’ll enjoy the first of many delicious meals in our wilderness setting.
Though we are here to encounter nature, the camp environs are also captivating. Your safari tents are built up on large viewing platforms and have either one king or two double beds complete with comfy duvets, indoor/outdoor lounging areas and a view that cannot be beat. The main tent and renovated 1954 Trappers Lodge are the focal points for meals, cocktails and relaxing. Fine fare is a ROAM hallmark, and our chef creates elegant meals using local and regional natural foods. Once checked in we will begin one of or many wildlife viewing options culminating with a sunset paddle or boat ride and bear viewing from our raised platforms.
Every morning before breakfast we offer coffee/tea delivery to your tent. But during bear season we highly recommend you join us for an early morning paddle, returning to camp for a delicious and hearty breakfast. Watching the bears as the sun rises is otherworldly and something everyone should experience. After breakfast, we have a host of other activities, which can also incorporate bear viewing.
The Chilko River lies within an ecosystem that contains some of the world’s best habitat for grizzly bears. They converge in great numbers in the fall (85-100), when millions of salmon return to spawn at the river’s mouth, providing a feast of stunning proportions. Black bears, wolves and cougars also abound in the pine and fir forests.
Activities to choose:
Hiking: there are an endless number of great trails accessible right from Bear Camp. Green Lake offers pretty mellow terrain for stretching one’s legs, while Mt Tullin is a challenging hike with 360 degree views. Heli hiking can also be arranged at additional expense (but is worth every penny) and visits a number of valleys and nearby glaciers.
Kayaking: Chilko Lake is one of the world’s premiere alpine lake destinations where you can explore by boat in total tranquility. Surrounded by massive glacier-capped peaks and a road-less wilderness, you will spend the days paddling the lake and picnicking on sandy beaches. Days are long but the alpen glow sunsets are worth the wait! During bear viewing season, most of the bruins congregate right at our doorstep so we do not have to paddle far to watch bears feeding on Mother Nature’s bounty. We also have a quiver of very stable paddle boards (SUP’s) and paddling above the salmon is truly surreal.
Horseback: friendly horses and astute wranglers can tailor rides for all abilities on mountain trails, through fields of wildflowers, or riverside to beautiful waterfalls. You’ll soon know what we mean by “happy trails”. We utilize incredibly fit and well cared for mountain horses that will get you to places unimaginable.
Fishing: A veritable bouillabaisse of fish, the Chilko is utopia for anglers of all abilities. The river is a giant bevy of hot spots, with clear shallows and deep pools. Draining the main lake, the waters never cloud and fishing is superb throughout the season. The river is “fly fish only, catch and release” and we have jon and drift boats and all the necessary gear to wade and fish this pristine waterway. We can teach beginners to fly fish or you can take a spin rod on the lake, the choice is yours.
Mountain Biking: flowing double track, winding dirt roads, coasting along the rivers edge or gliding through pine-scented forests, we’ve got it all. Our fleet of Kona mountain bikes comes with vehicle support and a knowledgeable guide. What more could you want? Eliminate the hills? We can do that too!
River Float or Paddle: floating right from Bear Camp, we can travel a half-day (10 miles) or an entire day (21 miles with a picnic lunch) by inflatable kayak (aka “ducky”) and navigate some fun and scenic water that is still appropriate for little ones.
Drift Boat: for the ultimate in scenic rides – and ideal for photographers – try a drift on this breathtaking stretch. In a drift boat you get a fun ride but soak up the scenery instead of waves. Our drift boat is also ideal for fly fishing outings and during salmon season, the dories provide an unobtrusive way to float among the bears.
Bushcraft: there are many options for paddling, fishing, hiking or biking but one of the big highlights of this trip is the option for “bushcraft”. This involves a hike or drive up to Scotty Meadow to meet, 77 year old survivalist expert, Mike Yates, a.k.a. “Grizz”. Mike ran a survival school for decades and was better known as the Marlboro Man for the cigarette manufacturer’s advertising series in Europe and abroad. Participants will see how to live off-the-grid, learn about plants and wildflowers as well as learn about constructing traditional log homes. By the day’s end you will be ready to face even the worst zombie apocalypse…or at least light a fire and build shelter!
After another morning paddle and amazing breakfast, we will leave Bear Camp and get ready for flights home. You should arrive mid-afternoon but we always recommend overnighting in Vancouver at the end of the trip in case of weather issues with smaller aircraft. ROAM would be pleased to make Vancouver accommodation arrangements on your behalf as we often get preferred rates.
Bear Camp is a safari-style tent camp with ‘a Canadian twist’
Sheltered by the Pacific Coast Mountain Ranges, deep in the unspoiled raw wilderness of British Columbia, and protected by the vast terrain of the Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) First Nation People, lies Bear Camp. Forged out of Douglas Fir timbers and perched at the juncture of Chilko Lake and the Chilko River, it was originally built 1954 as a hunting & fishing camp, but has since been re-created into a funky, world-class adventure and wildlife-viewing destination. The main log structure is the focal point for meals, cocktails and most socializing. The surrounding tent cabins are a mixture of king or two bed rooms carefully positioned for privacy and view. There are river rock showers, flush toilets and plenty of staff to keep you dearly spoiled while keeping the adventures flowing!
- About the Region
Our trip begins at the north end of Ts’yl-os Provincial Park. Established in 1994, Ts’yl-os (pronounced sigh loss) is 233,240 hectares in the Chilcotin Ranges of the Coast Mountains. Although Chilko Lake is the centre piece of the park, it is just one of many incredible natural features. Though there is much to explore in the region, it is rugged and unserviced leaving its visitors up to their own devices. This is where we fit in.
The Chilcotin River flows near Nazko Lakes Provincial Park and Stum Lake Provincial Park. Both were recently expanded to protect wildlife habitat and BC’s only colony of nesting white pelicans, respectively. Upstream from the confluence of the Chilcotin and Big Creek, lies the new 660 hectares of rolling grassy plateau protected in Big Creek Provincial Park.
To aboriginal people of the Nemaiah Valley, Ts’yl-os is much more than a provincial park. Ts’yl-os was a man, or at least he used to be long ago, and like any man he had his moods. Given his towering height of 3,061 meters (Mount Tatlow on a map), it is wise to respect him and especially not to point at him. His presence can be so dominating that when occasional bad weather hits the valley, the 250 native residents wonder if it is a message from their spiritual protector.
For the isolated Nemaiah First Nation, their agreement on the park represents an important, but tentative first step toward reconciliation with the outside world. It is this world that led to the so-called Chilcotin Indian War of 1864 and the subsequent deaths of many. Today, that historic uprising against the white intrusion on Chilcotin Lands continues to colour the native psyche and the park’s future.
The silty confluence of the Chilcotin and Fraser was also a major territorial boundary. The Ts’ilhqot’in people of the Athapaskan language group held a territory on the northwest side of the confluence where the Junction Sheep Range is located. Small bands of natives traveled the Chilcotin watershed, hunting and gathering food. During salmon runs, these bands would come together at the mouth of the Chilcotin.
- Trip Planner
Planning your trip…
This trip planner will answer questions about travel arrangements, what to bring, and getting in shape. If any of your questions remain unanswered, please do not hesitate to call. We strive to fully prepare you for what to expect on your trip so you can spend your vacation paddling, hiking and watching wildlife, rather than wondering whether or not you brought the right pair of shoes.
Personal Equipment Notes
Although we are returning to the comfort of the lodge each evening, we want to make sure you are prepared for both land and water environs.The personal equipment list we provide you with has been developed through years of practical experience. It is important that the clothing you bring will withstand the rigors of the trip. Your personal equipment should not weigh more than 40 pounds and all clothing should be quick drying and be made of synthetics. Warmth and comfort are the main objectives with this outline. Weather conditions can vary considerably in the North. It’s important to dress in layers so that you can maintain a comfortable body temperature no matter what Mother Nature may have in store. The inner layer should move perspiration outside, where it can evaporate. The intermediate layer should insulate while the outside layer should act as a barrier to wind and rain.
On this trip we will be more likely to have the occasional shower than an entire day of rain. Still, you will be more comfortable if you stay warm and dry, so be sure to pack some rain gear-both tops and bottoms. They should be compact enough to fit easily into your daypack.
Pile or Fleece
The best we have found is 200-weight Polar Plus, which is used by a variety of companies. This fabric is warm, dries quickly and is not excessively bulky. It can be found in many different styles and colours.
Synthetic materials like polypropylene, polyester and natural fibers like silk and wool work well. Both are quick drying and bacteria resistant, as well. Do not bring cotton long underwear. When wet, cotton dissipates heat from your body and takes a long time to dry.
Choose lightweight, synthetic fabrics that breathe well for warm weather walking. Whatever you choose, be sure you have comfortable freedom of movement, especially for uphill and downhill walking.
Footwear for Hiking and Walking
The importance of good footwear cannot be overstated. What may seem like a good shoe at home could leave you with sore feet on your trip. Given that our trails are often gravelly or sometimes muddy, you need a good walking boot with a firm sole, good ankle support and a degree of water resistance. It’s now easy to find a “hybrid” walking boot, which combines the lightweight, ventilated features of a shoe with the support and durability of a boot. If you buy new walking shoes or boots for the trip, make sure you break them in well before you go.
Bring at least one pair for each day unless you want to wash them out each night. We recommend synthetic/wool blend as these tend to draw the perspiration from the foot and will keep your feet warm, even when wet. It may be a good idea to bring along some additional items such as foot powder, cushioned pads and/or bandages to place inside your footwear-just in case. Another worthwhile product is something called 2nd Skin, which provides cushioned comfort with an antiseptic for blistered and sore feet. Many people find a product called moleskin gives them great relief from blisters. The guides carry a blister kit as part of their first-aid supplies.
Bring a daypack that holds approximately 20-35 litres to carry raingear, camera and water bottle.
Personal Equipment List
• 1 pair light hiking boots with appropriate number of socks
• 1 pair river sandals (Tevas) with neoprene socks and/or wetsuit boots
• 4 pairs warm wool socks
• 2 long-sleeved shirts
• 2-3 T-shirts
• 1-2 long underwear tops (synthetic)
• 1 pile or fleece jacket (100-200 weight)
• 1 high quality waterproof rain jacket
• 1 down or synthetic jacket
• 1-2 pairs long underwear bottoms (synthetic)
• 1 pairs of light shorts (quick-drying)
• 1-2 pairs of quick-dry pants
• 1 pair high quality waterproof rain pants
• Undergarments (ideally 1-2 of them synthetic)
• 1 swimsuit
Head & Hands
• 1 sun hat or visor
• Fleece hat
• 1 pair lfleece gloves
• 1 day pack (for use on boats or day hikes)
• 1-liter water bottle
• Toiletry kit (personal medications)
• Sunscreen, lip salve, insect repellent
• Sunglasses with safety strap and extra prescription glasses (if necessary)
• Small flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries
• Camera (optional)
• Notebook, journal, reading material (optional)
• Binoculars (optional)
• Fishing rod, with case and tackle (optional)
We are flying from Vancouver in small passenger planes, so please pack your gear into soft duffle bags (NO SUITCASES). The gear should weigh less than 40 pounds in total. The airline may charge you for excess baggage or even, in rare circumstances, refuse your bags.
Equipment Provided For You
Wetsuit, paddling jacket, personal flotation device, bike and rafting helmets, fishing equipment waterproof day bag.
Getting Insured -Trip Cancellation Insurance
R.O.A.M. strongly recommends that you purchase trip cancellation insurance. You risk forfeiture of all monies paid, if you cancel your trip. You have the option of purchasing an insurance policy that meets the specific needs of our travellers. http://www.travelinsure.com/what/imedhigh.htm?32931.
Please make sure you understand what the insurance will and will not cover. Please consult the policy for exact coverage, details of other risks insured, and for other benefits and limitations of the insurance.
Getting in Shape
Our trips are designed for people who enjoy the out-of-doors, rather than for fitness fanatics. Still, they are active holidays. Age is unimportant when it comes to your ability to do the paddling, walking, and/or hiking-the more important consideration is your physical condition. If you haven’t attempted the kind of exercise levels required by our trips within the last couple of years, please be aware of the sort of trip you are taking. it is an active one and you will enjoy it more if you have been doing some exercise before you go.
Your guides will give you an orientation to expedition practices and teach you all the basic skills that you will require to enjoy the different aspects of the trip. Our prime consideration is to provide you with a trip that is as safe and comfortable as possible while still maintaining the integrity of a wilderness experience. Activities that involve aerobic conditioning, such as swimming, walking, jogging, squash, and tennis are great for overall physical conditioning. Keep in mind the relative topography of where you live compared to the region you will be visiting. If you live in flat country, for example, consider supplementing your training with artificial hill training on a treadmill or stair-master.
A Thumbnail Training Program
• Two-three months before the trip starts: try to do exercises that involve aerobic conditioning three times each week-swimming, walking, jogging, squash, cross-country skiing, tennis, biking.
• One month before the trip: go for a couple of longer walks each week.
• The week before your trip: try to go for three long walks.
• Be sure to stretch after exercising-it reduces the chances of injury, muscle pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
The Chilcotin is one of the driest areas in Canada; rainfall during September averages less than a few inches. The average temperature for September is high: 65F/18C, low: 50F/10C. Convection showers are not uncommon near the Coast Ranges.
The Canadian monetary unit is the Canadian dollar (CDN). Like U.S. currency, coins are the nickel, quarter, the one dollar “Loonie” and two dollar “Twoonie.” The most common bills are 5, 10, and 20-dollar denominations. Avoid carrying large sums of cash at any time during your holiday. Credit cards are widely accepted, especially VISA and MasterCard.
American dollars and travellers cheques are accepted everywhere though at exchange rates that thieves envy. When converting American to Canadian dollars, you will get the most favourable rates at banks. Most banks are open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday to Friday though some branches stay open later and on Saturday mornings. ATMs are everywhere.
Canada is very safe for travelling, but still there is no point in carrying lots of valuables when travelling. Regrettably, tourists are among the most easily targeted, so please exercise some caution. We also recommend that you check your personal insurance policy before travelling to ensure that you are covered for theft and loss while travelling. As a safety precaution, do not travel with excessive amounts of cash or jewelry if it is not necessary.
Canada is officially a bilingual nation with English and French being the two recognised languages. However, the chances that you will hear any French spoken out west are slim. Of course, once you are “oot” and “aboot” on your Canadian holiday, you shouldn’t have any language problems, eh? Once a forbidden subject, it is now okay to speak to Canadians about Olympic Hockey.
Passports are required for all travel to and from Canada.
On our trip, we will be travelling through some environmentally and historically sensitive areas. Our excursions are designed to promote an understanding of the delicate ecosystems that make our province unique while preserving their fundamental integrity. We ask participants to share our concern for the environment by practising low-impact touring in this sensitive area.
R.O.A.M. operates on a “leave-no-trace” policy, meaning we travel in a self-contained manner, carrying in what we require and carrying out all garbage and human waste. We believe the survival of the natural environment and the wildlife it supports depends on establishing an economy beyond simple resource harvesting. Our goal is to immerse our clients in B.C.’s vast natural beauty, which, in turn, supports eco-tourism as a viable, economic choice.
Good and Service Tax
British Columbia has GST (5%) and a provincial sales tax (PST) 7%
Telephone and Fax
Phoning and faxing in Canada is the same as in the United States. Coin-operated public telephones are the norm in Canada, and there are also phone-card-operated machines. Local phone numbers in Vancouver require the area code (604) followed by the 7 digits. For international calls, you begin by dialling 1, and overseas calls begin with 011.
Bear Camp has a satellite phone in the main office that people can use (778 417 0091) and WiFi. We find Skype via the Internet works just as well, if not better. There is no cell service. We carry a satellite phone during activities for emergency purposes.
Our guides and staff are as impressive as the scenery; passionate about their work, they are delighted to pass on their knowledge and skills. They have an intimate knowledge of a region’s wildlife, natural history, culture and folklore. Trained in wilderness first aid and professionally certified to the highest provincial level in British Columbia, our guides are eager to please and will ensure you have a memorable experience.
Tips and Tipping
• Tipping is common in Canada, and fairly similar to U.S. practices. Of course, there are some exceptions, which we have noted.
• Taxis – 5% is appropriate for good service and 10% is generous.
• Porters – $2 per bag.
• Restaurants – It is appropriate to leave 15% before tax.
The tipping of R.O.A.M. guides and staff is entirely discretionary, and we feel strongly that gratuities should not be offered to them if they lead anything less than a great trip. However, we expect that our guides will do a great job in making your trip memorable and, when they do, it is not uncommon for our travellers to offer a gratuity. The guides very much appreciate it. We are often asked what is appropriate. In general, we have found that when our travellers offer a gratuity, it is in the range of a “thank you” to 15% of the trip cost per person. But again, tipping is entirely at your discretion.