Lac la Biche, AB, Canada
Time to finish circuit
3 – 4 days
Driving time from Edmonton
Where to start
First up: the basic essentials. You can park and unload all your canoe gear at the Jackson Lake Staging area (near Lakeland Provincial Park), 35 minutes northeast of Lac la Biche. No canoe? No problem. Rent one from MEC Edmonton.
Prior to putting your paddle to the water, you’ll need to conquer the 3km portage along the Jackson Lake Trail to reach Jackson Lake. There are canoe carts located on the trail to help speed up the process. The portage trail is wide, so it’s an easy trek to start and end the circuit.
Following Jackson Lake Trail to the dock, you may come across some insects. While these pesky bugs will encourage you to quickly load and unload on dry land, the good news is that they’ll be few and far between once you’re on the water. Tip: be careful on the dock, it can become slightly submerged and slippery with weight.
Camp along the way
Some paddlers choose their route based on the campsites they want to stay in, and you can choose from 16 backcountry campsites along the circuit. Most campsites have picnic tables, fire pits and bear lockers. If you get a late start, or if the weather is less than ideal on your first day, there’s a campsite only 30 minutes into the paddle near Isthmus Bridge.
Portage like a pro
The first and last portages are along the Jackson Lake Trail. Using the canoe carts can speed this process up significantly. Another tip? Stash your gear in a waterproof pack. If you’ve got waterproof dry bags, you can fit them into a backpack with a chest and hip strap to distribute the weight.
To help you plan your route, the portage distances are marked on the map; Mark’s Guide for Alberta Paddlers is another resource to check out. The toughest portage is the one between Blackett and McGuffin lakes. You can also skip the Kinnaird to Blackett portage by paddling through the narrow channel at the far end of Kinnaird Lake.
Enjoy the paddle
The Lac La Biche Canoe Circuit is an easy flat water paddle where you might drift by some local wildlife, like moose, deer or beavers. As you explore, pay attention to the wind and watc hthe skies to avoid storms and choppy water. The lakes are small, so you can stick close to the shoreline without adding too much time to your trip.