Author's Note: This report was originally published by Curves&Levels in February, 2009 as The Shores Of Valhalla. I am re-posting it with slight alterations for the BlogSherpa program of Lonely Planet Online just in time for the summer camping season.
Slocan is the most pristine of southern British Columbia's large warm-water lakes, warm-water being a relative term in this land below the glaciers. Because it forms the boundary of Valhalla Provincial Park, the west shore of the lake remains largely undeveloped. Driving to Slocan is a challenge, especially for urban weekenders; the closest major city, Calgary, is six to seven hours away and whichever route is chosen, a ferry ride is involved. To truly enjoy both the lake and the park, give yourself at least a week to stay and plenty of time to get there.
Eco-note: Please have a look at the good work The Valhalla Wilderness Society is doing to protect the area habitat.
The remote setting and difficult approach act as a benefit, of course. This is a peaceful place. The vacation cabins are relegated to the eastern shore and, for industry, only one sawmill operates at the Slocan Townsite where the lake drains into a river at its southern tip.
We launched our loaded canoe at the town dock in New Denver on a bright July morning, seeking one of Valhalla Park's "marine" campsites. (PDF park map) It was a calm morning; the trip across took us about 40 minutes.
Danger Note: On this lake there is a phenomenon known as the 'black line', when the weather suddenly changes and strong winds and cold glacier-fed creek water entering the lake combine to produce enough violent choppiness to capsize a canoe. Slocan locals tell stories of paddlers who were never found after heading out into inclement weather. The forboding signal is a black line becoming visible across the distant surface of the water. If you see this, paddle for shore immediately. Better yet, check with area residents on conditions before embarking.
BC's provincial parks are notoriously crowded in the summer, to the point of no availability anywhere on sunny weekends. The park service even has a reservation system in place for the large popular campgrounds. Thus, we were hugely surprised to find this little cove unclaimed. Because it had only one picnic table and one tent pad, situated on a small bluff between the beach and the creek, the space was effectively ours for the next four days. Them's the rules and a sweet deal at that. We were required to pay $5.00 a night to a friendly dude who arrived in a power boat early each evening.
Our paddles along the Valhalla-side shore brought us two bear sightings and we stopped many times for swims in the lake's crystal waters. The small waterfall below was about 50 meters upstream from our campsite.
NOTE: The photos and information for this report are from a trip taken in 2004. Please contact British Columbia's Parks Service for current information.