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Anchored on Babine Lake

BABINE LAKE

Launch: There is a good ramp at Red Bluff Provincial Park, and parking at the ramp.

Nearby campsites: Red Bluff Provincial Park

Comments: This is an interesting lake to visit while trailering your boat along the Yellowhead Highway north to Prince Rupert or Alaska

BABINE LAKE

----------Returning south from Prince Rupert on the Yellowhead Highway in tandem with Chris, pulling Rana Verde, we had some time for exploring lakes in British Columbia. We had considered cruising in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park but we were told by a young woman at the visitor center in Burns Lake that the lakes in the Park were artificial reservoirs created by damming rivers to make hydroelectric power ('hydro' power, as the locals say) for the aluminum smelter at Kitimat. Unfortunately, the province didn't require the hydro folks to clear the forests at the reservoir site and today the lakes are choked with underwater dead trees and brush that are hazardous for boaters. She readily suggested her favorite alternative: Babine Lake. "Why, it's the largest natural lake in the province, and is our best kept secret."

-----"How about a launch ramp?" El asked. "And, oh yes, we need some supplies and is there a campground for this evening near the lake?"

-----"We have everything you need," the lady smiled. "Granisle began as a mining town in support of major open pit copper mines, and although the mines have been closed for years, the town is a delightful place for retirees and holiday folks. There's a good grocery there for light needs. A few miles down the road from town is Red Bluff Provincial Park with excellent campsites and an easy boat ramp. You'll love it."

----- Armed with a few perfunctory maps from the Center, we made a quick decision to give it a try. We headed off to Granisle. This town originated in 1965 as a townsite for Granby Corporation's open pit copper mine, near the shore of the lake. Noranda established a second mine in 1971. The last mine closed in 1992, but Granisle hangs on as a retirement and recreation town. There is a nice small museum at the InfoCentre and good stores for resupply.

-----In the museum are casts of some very large bones. In 1971, copper mine employees were stripping cover for a mine extension and they uncovered bones. Dr. H. W. Tipper, of the Geological Survey of Canada, was asked to excavate and identify the bones. The skeleton was a Colombian mammoth that stood 11 feet tall at the shoulder. It roamed the area 40,000 years ago. It apparently became bogged in a muddy pond, working itself deeper and deeper trying to escape. The bones are now in the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa.

-----The store supplied us with the bread and milk we needed and, after chatting with some local folks about the great fishing in the lake, we set out to the launch ramp. It is a fine ramp and, although the camping looked excellent, we prefer to sleep aboard the boat at anchor, so quickly launched the boat. We anchored to a sandy shore off the park picnic area and fixed a-nice fire for dinner ashore.

-----What appeared to be a very large family from the nearby Tachet-Lake Babine First Nation Village were also fixing a dinner over a nearby open fire. We were soon in discussion with Alex about a program he conducts for children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Their community had severe alcohol problems and some of their young children were afflicted with the syndrome. He and his wife were taking a group of afflicted kids away from their unsavory home environments for an evening around the campfire. They are also instrumental in planning and now supervising construction of a large hall and educational area for these children. The site is on a remote island that belongs to the band. There the children will receive counseling and health care. It was an interesting evening, and it was heart warming to know that there are folks aware of children's problems and committed to doing something about it. As the sunset flared with a brilliant rainbow, that we all took as a good omen for their project, we boarded Halcyon and set out to anchor in a protected cove.-

-----The next day we set out to explore the northern portion of the 110-mile long lake. It is an attractive lake for boating, with a beautiful setting. Babine is a deep lake, full of forested islands and framed by low tree-covered hills and interesting marshes. Snowcapped hills lie against the western horizon.

----- This is fine habitat for moose, deer, bear, fox, coyote, wolf, and beaver. There are many bird species, but the most dramatic and easily observed are the Bald Eagles, Crows, and Ravens.

-----Human impact on the lake environment is obvious. The evidence of mining activity is clear with huge spoils piles, some on the edge of the lake. The forest is virtually all second-growth, attesting to intense past logging activity. This is not unspoiled wilderness, but most of the lakeshore is without development today and area is slowly recovering.

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Steep, Wooded Islands and Swampy Shores, with Beaver Lodges

-----There is great fishing here. The lake supports a special strain of Rainbow Trout (the Sutherland population) that grow much larger (over 12 pounds) than common Rainbows. These giants are a "pelagic piscivorous ecotype" according to fisheries biologists, that simply means they eat other fish by foraging in open water and hence grow unusually large. There are Kokanee and Cutthroat Trout and trophy-size Char (up to thirty pounds).

-----There is a large fish hatchery for Sockeye Salmon where the Fulton River flows into Babine Lake. The Sockeye enter Babine Lake from the Skeena River and thence up to the tributary Fulton River. The hatchery has four miles of rock tunnels and pipelines to control the temperature and amount of water flowing through the breeding channels. The natural river is the spawning ground for about 50-100,000 salmon. The artificial channels add another 150,000 fish, with a higher survival rate than in the river. The large runs of Sockeye Salmon in August attract many anglers.

-----For those interested in geology, Bear Island, a steep spire, is mapped as a volcanic vent. Newman Peninsula has outcrops of lava flows.

-----Babine Lake is an interesting stop en route to or from Prince Rupert. It is not wilderness, but makes a good destination for anglers or those looking for an interesting and beautiful lake with abundant history and wildlife. And its also a good place for kids, young and old, to enjoy a little challenge and a good time:

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-----And, of course, a little friendly tussle between our kid, Brad, and grandkid, Bryce:

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Nobody went Swimming - and the Truce

----------We love to ride ferry boats, and the next afternoon we took the ferry back and forth across Francois Lake, south from the town of Burns Lake. En route, we enjoyed a chicken dinner on the bow. Nothing like riding a boat on a boat -- and leaving the driving to them.

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(07 - 06)

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