Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (2022)

Can you think of a more Canadian adventure than canoeing down the great rivers and lakes of British Columbia? The great news is it’s actually way easier than you think to organize a weekend trip with relatively little experience. Here’s a weekend itinerary to take the stress out of your trip with little effort, tons of fun, and only the stars at night for company.

Quick Facts

Time from Vancouver: 2 hours
Two Day Rental: $150 for 2 person canoe.
Trip Length: 2 days
Paddler Experience: Novice

Contents

(Video) Kayaking at the junction of Harrison River and the Fraser River Slideshow

  • Itinerary
    • Route Map
    • Paddling the River
    • Fighting the Reeds
    • Morris Lake
    • Morris Lake Campground
    • Paddling Back Up The River
  • Hints and Tips for this Adventure
    • Overnight Canoe Rental
    • Arrival Time
    • Campsites at Harrison Lake
    • What to Bring
    • Canoeing Basics

Itinerary

A group of 4 of us did this trip over two days, though you could easily extend for a further night and explore the river banks.

Route Map

The paddle to Morris Lake requires about 3-6 hours of paddling in each direction, depending on the conditions. Typically the wind travels down Harrison Lake and channels into the river, so the journey to Morris Lake will be shorter than the return leg.

The return leg is likely to be more tiring as you fight the wind, although there is no major river current to worry about. Stay close to the banks to shelter from the wind as much as possible.

Paddling the River

You begin your trip by paddling West across the South End of Harrison lake, until after about 30 minutes you hit the river mouth. For most of us canoeing is an occasional past-time, so by this point you’ll already feeling those new muscles burning. Fear not though, as you venture down the Harrison River and explore the coves and eddies, admire the wondrous secluded cabins, and debate the names of the wildlife none of you really know, this pain will soon be forgotten.

From here the river flows South West and is gentle and slow moving which makes it ideal for any level of paddler. Wind is likely to be your only enemy, so be sure to ask the rental shop for their opinion before you start. You’ll probably have the wind with you in one direction, and against you in the other. Take your time exploring the rocky sidings and wildlife and keep going for about an hour until the river opens up into a wide expanse of water, met on both sides by the mountain slopes tumbling into the river.

Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (1)

Fighting the Reeds

After another couple of hours you’ll meet a junction in the river (see the map at the bottom). Take the right hand junction, a smaller tributary which over a period of a couple of kilometers will turn you through about 150 degrees to face North East. Depending on the time of year this area can be fairly overgrown with reeds. It’s very easy to begin down what looks like a tributary, distracted by your partners apparent lack of effort, or the constant circles you find yourself going in. It is possible to push your way through these reeds, though you may find it easier to go round until you find the correct path. With a little luck, you’ll find the small channel which leads to Morris Lake, another 40 minutes or so through the reeds.

(Video) Harrison River Canoe Trip February 2022 - Clipper Tripper

Morris Lake

You’ll reach a small lake with a steep rugged cliff face on the far side. On old burnt out car lies at the bottom of the cliff, not important in itself but is a good marker as to where the camp site is (at the top of the cliff). To the left of the bottom of the cliff you’ll find a shallow and convenient exit point where you can hop out easily from your canoes. If you’ve got a big lock with you, you may be able to find a tree down here at the bottom to lock up your canoes for the night. If not, we chose to carry the canoe’s in pairs upto the campsite.

Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (2)

Morris Lake Campground

To get to the campsite, follow the path up from the exit point until you reach the gravel road (about 3 mins). Turn right and walk along the road for about a minute until you spot an opening on the right, which will lead you after about 30 seconds to scenic camp spot at the top of the cliffs. It’s likely you won’t see anyone else so make yourself at home – a hammock would work well at this spot!

A night here really does connect you with the wilderness. When we camped here we sat on the cliff top until midnight or so with a beer in hand, listening to what we think were two moose in the forests below, calling intermittently to each other as they got closer and closer throughout the night. The camp site is in the middle of nowhere, although a small dirt road does pass by so there’s a chance of visitors!

Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (3)
Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (4)
Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (5)
Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (6)
Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (7)

Paddling Back Up The River

The paddle back up the river is likely to take you significantly longer than on day 1, since the river is now flowing against you. Add to that wind that’s often blowing down from the lake and you’re in for a decent slog. Stay close to the banks to avoid the wind as much as possible. Once you get to the lake you may find it surprisingly windy. Again stay close to the shore and take breaks at the many little beaches along the way as you make your way back to the rental shop.

Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (8)
Canoe Camping | Easy paddling on the Harrison River (9)

Hints and Tips for this Adventure

Overnight Canoe Rental

Unless you specifically ask, most places in BC won’t advertise an overnight canoe rental. Objections or hesitations in giving you a canoe overnight will be down to experience or group size. If you’ve canoed a little before, and go as a minimum of two boats you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. That way they know there’s other people around should you get into trouble. Killer’s Cove Rentals at Harrison Lake rental provides you with everything you need, from the boat, safety, waterproof bags for your essentials, paddles, buoyancy aids and ropes.

Arrival Time

If you can get across to Harrison on a Friday night, you’ll be able to take it easy on the Saturday morning.

(Video) Kayaking down the Harrison River

Campsites at Harrison Lake

To make your arrival at Harrison Lake a little easier, consider camping on the Friday night at Lakeside campground (Deer Lake), or Hicks Lake campground.

What to Bring

Check out my blog It’s surprising how much kit you can fit into a canoe or kayak. That said /canoe-kayak-touring-gear-list/

Canoeing Basics

If there’s ever been a good test of compatibility with your partner, it has to be canoeing. Although you both think you’re working towards the same goal, you may quickly find yourself going in circles. What makes this trip great is that none of that matters. The waters are calm and safe, and you have all day to do a fairly short distance.

Getting In

Getting into a canoe for the first time can be a little daunting. But three simple tips will keep you stable and dry.

  1. Always step on the centerline of the canoe. This is the most stable part and will help stop the canoe from leaning to either side.
  2. Stay low. The higher you stand, the more impact your weight has on the angle of the boat.
  3. Communication! Let your partner know what you’re doing so there are no unexpected movements. Get in one at a time.

Paddling

Generally, the more spatially aware and steering capable crew should sit in the back. You’ll have the ultimate say on where the canoe goes. The more powerful crew member should sit in the front. Since strokes in the front have less turning effect on the steering, this will help you stay in a straight line. What happens if the stronger member is also the most spatially aware? Well…and I can say is good luck and have fun!

Try and paddle together, but on opposite sides of the canoe. The person at the front should try and keep a constant rhythm, whilst the person in the back is responsible for matching that rhythm.

(Video) Canoeing with Mom on the Harrison River

More Tips

Here’s a useful video with the basics of tandem canoeing:

  • Camping
  • Water Activities

Related Posts

  • Exploring Clear Creek FSR at Harrison Lake

    (Video) Harrison River Canoe/Kayak Trip - Fraser Valley BC

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Videos

1. Pitt River hot springs by canoe & bike
(lifeofluke)
2. 125km Kayaking on Harrison lake in 2 days
(Adventure with Arastou)
3. Kayaking the Harrison River in November
(David Knott)
4. Canoeing Trip Down Harrison River
(Celina Pederson-Welch)
5. Fraser Valley, BC - Harrison River Canoeing
(OuiRV)
6. BCKC Harrison river paddle
(Alena H)

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