Burns Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Burns Lake.

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Burns Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: Canada - British Columbia -

Surrounded by over 300 fishing lakes in the heart of the Lakes District, he feels like a kid in a candy store. Some of the lakes, like a few of those in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, are only accessible by floatplane. Burns Lake, where he is staying, is very accessible — Highway 16 runs right along the northern shore. He picked the house he’s staying in from a list of vacation rentals and it’s perfect — right on the water surrounded by British Columbia’s majestic wilderness. The only question that remains is where to fish first.

The Lakes District in British Columbia’s heartland is dotted with lakes and streams. Over 3,000 miles of shoreline and thousands of acres of water combine with the wilderness and wildlife to create an amazing outdoor experience. The Lakes District extends from the Stikine Mountains in the west to the Omineca Mountain Range in the east. Burns Lake is affectionately known as the “Heart of the Lakes District” and is the home of the Lakes District Museum and Visitor Center.

In 1866, the Boreland Expedition discovered the 2,916-acre lake during the construction of the Collins Telegraph Line. A disastrous forest fire later gave the lake its name; originally called Burnt Lake, the name evolved over the years to Burns Lake. The lake stayed relatively undeveloped until 1911, when Lyster Trygarn Pelham Mulvaney, also know as “Barney,” won a railway construction camp in a poker game. Mulvaney set up a tent hotel near the railway camp, and the Village of Burns Lake was born. The hotel grew along with the community. Today, visitors to Burns Lake can see the Bucket of Blood, a hand-hewn log structure built for Mulvaney. Used as a gambling den in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the building got its unfortunate name from a particularly gruesome fight that took place on the premises.

Burns Lake no longer has a Wild West feel, but it maintains its historical charm. In addition to the museum and visitor center, there are restaurants, various accommodations — including campgrounds — and outfitters specializing in getting visitors ready to explore the surrounding wilderness. Logging is one of the area’s primary industries, and there are logging roads and trails to explore by car or on foot. The Lakes District Circle Trail passes through the Village of Burns Lake and crosses the lake on its way to the free ferry across Francois Lake.

Trails for hikers of all skill levels crisscross the area, and the opal bed trail leads hikers to the Eagle Creek Agate-Opal Site. It is one of the few known sources for opals in British Columbia, and hoodoos, or columns of eroded rock, mark the end of the trail. The Omineca Ski Club, established in 1927, maintains world famous cross-country ski trails, and there are also trails for snowmobiles. A mountain bike park near Burns Lake has boardwalk trails, jumps and drops and provides a fantastic playground for mountain bikers. There is real estate available for sale for anyone who wants to stay in the area long term.

Considered the gateway to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Burns Lake is the perfect home base, making an almost inaccessible wilderness accessible. Established in 1938, the park was named for the fifteenth Governor General of Canada, John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfied. At over 2,424,104 acres, it is one of British Columbia’s largest parks. The Dean River forms a natural border, dividing the park into north and south sections. The northern section is closest to Burns Lake, and it is surrounded by the lakes that make up the Nechako Reservoir. As a result, it is almost an island with many trails but no facilities. The park is truly wild, and access is primarily by floatplane or boat. Guides also lead visitors into the park on horseback and by canoe. Deer, bear and moose roam the park and hunting is permitted in season. The lakes in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park are full of fish and there is ample opportunity to fish by boat or from the shore.

The Lakes District is known for its fishing lakes, and Burns Lake is no exception. The best fishing is in spring when the char and rainbow trout are plentiful. The lake freezes from November through early April, and the ice fishing is very good. Near Burns Lake, the Fulton River Spawning Channel is the site of one of the largest salmon runs in the world. The salmon run from late August through early September.

The fishing, wildlife and wilderness along with Burns Lake’s accessibility in one British Columbia’s wild places make it an amazing outdoor destination. The breathtaking beauty of the surrounding landscape makes it unforgettable. Come and see what you’ve been missing.

Custom Burns Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Burns Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Snowmobiling
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Provincial Park
  • Museum
  • Playground

Fish species found at Burns Lake

  • Char
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Burns Lake

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Burns Lake photo gallery

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Burns Lake statistics & helpful links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 2,916 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,299 feet

Average Depth: 30 feet

Maximum Depth: 131 feet

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