Reconnect on the Lakeland Canoe Circuit #TakeItToTheLake

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Four lakes make up Alberta’s only multi-day, backcountry paddling route

LAC LA BICHE COUNTY, AB - Frogs hop under fern leaves as trembling aspen whisper above. Sun filters through the high forest canopy as the breeze stirs the treetops, sight and sound combined bringing to mind a sense of shimmering.

We’ve portaged our canoe through boreal forest for several kilometres, but with the large carts provided by Alberta Parks and all the beauty surrounding us, I’ve hardly noticed the burden. Around the next bend, Jackson Lake appears before us, and any and all weight feels as if it’s lifted.

Canoe Circuit
Photo: Jeremy Derksen
Karen Ung dips her feet in Jackson Lake.

The heavens span over glassy lake bordered by gently swaying bulrushes. A bleached wooden dock leads to the water’s edge. Before putting in, we stop to dip our toes in the water, feel the sun on our skin and inhale deeply.

Take It To The Lake this summer. Plan your trip to Lac La Biche...

Jackson is one of four lakes in the Lakeland canoe circuit, Alberta’s only multi-day, backcountry lake paddling route. At a relaxed pace, it typically takes three to four days to complete the trip.

The entire circuit sits within Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area, so all campsites are maintained by Alberta Parks. They also stock firewood at the campsites and provide large carts that make it easy portaging between lakes.

Canoe Circuit
Photo: Jeremy Derksen
Paddling up close to a beaver lodge.

And there’s something else: within the park, cell and wifi signals drop off. This is a place where you can truly disconnect from devices and distractions, and connect with nature. Knowing this, and feeling a gentle wind at our backs, it’s hard not to want to just keep going and do the whole circuit.

Good company always helps, of course. I’m here with Jaclyn Denman, of Alberta Parks, and Karen Ung of Play Outside Guide, all three of us avid adventurers. While Karen and I man the canoe, Jaclyn tosses her paddleboard into the water.

Canoe Circuit
Photo: Jeremy Derksen
Jaclyn Denman on her paddleboard.

We’re soon exploring tributaries of the lake, where beaver lodges sit, butterflies teeter on bullrushes and grebes and mallards dart for cover as we approach.

“I still can’t believe we didn’t see any people for hours!” Karen reflected later. “It was a real backcountry experience.”

Too soon, though, it’s over. Which in the end, leads me to an excellent conclusion: I have to come back and do this with my family. Soon it’s almost an obsession.

On our way back out on the portage trail, I ply Jaclyn with questions about how best to tackle the route - given that she had completed it with her father a year or so prior.

By the time we reach the trailhead again, I have a plan. Hopefully, by now, so do you. Our details may vary but one thing remains constant for anyone who’s felt the backcountry bug: it’s time to #TakeItToTheLake.

And this, as far as I’m concerned, is to be continued.


For families or paddlers seeking a good introductory expedition or long weekend backcountry paddle, the Lakeland circuit is ideal.

  • 3-hour drive from Edmonton to trailhead
  • 38-kilometre lake circuit
  • 3 nights/ 3.5 - 4 days on average to complete at an easy to moderate pace
  • Free camping and firewood

Make sure to register with Alberta Parks so that help knows where to find you, just in case. Remember, nature happens in the backcountry - and that’s a good thing; be prepared with sunscreen, bug spray, water or water purification, waterproof gear and all the basics.

For more on how to #TakeItToTheLake this summer, either search the tag on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or read more here.

Learn about Lac La Biche and start planning your adventure.  

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