We set out early from Prince George, eager to see the first leg of our adventure unfold as we make our way to Cheslatta Falls Rec Site for an overnight camp. The route we choose does a loop from Fraser Lake through backroads circling Cheslatta Lake, then we ride the edge of the massive Nechako Reservoir until we turn towards the Francois Lake Ferry and carry on into Burns lake.
The abundance of lakes and streams coupled with wildlife dotting our path makes it difficult not to stop and consume the sights and sounds of the area.
Our first real stop though is Fraser Lake for fuel and some incredibly delicious Mexican food at the local’s secret jewel, the inconspicuous Senior Duggies Tacos and Pizzeria.
Once our tanks and our bellies are full, we point the wheels up the Holy Cross Road. This gravel road carries us past seemingly endless views of heavily forested rolling hills, dotted in pristine lakes and layers of distant horizons. Large fluffy clouds provide the occasional shady spot but more so emphasize the depth of the land before us as they stretch on for miles above us.
Each corner, each crest of a hill, we experience a rush of anticipation for what lies ahead. Whether it is the sight of a black bear, a distant lake waiting to accept the cast of the rod, or a winding road leading into the base of an unknown mountain scene, BC’s Route 16 backcountry never seems to disappoint us.
As we pull up to the crossing of the Cheslatta River, the roar of the large volume of water drowns out the constant crunch of our wheels on the gravel. Approximately 50 metres across with large dark boulders jutting out from its banks, the Cheslatta River is truly a sight to see. On the far bank, we see multiple camping spots overlooking the beauty of the water and not another soul in sight. The entire scene is so beautiful – it’s reminiscent of a painter’s dream.
We do some exploring of the Recreation Site and find the perfect spot to set up camp, perched upon a cut bank is a picnic table with views of the river and plenty of space for the tents. Once the camp is set up we explore our surroundings further. A path leads down to the river and is a great spot to sit and relax, maybe do a little fishing, or simply skip some rocks across the water. As we enjoy the view, a lone deer slowly approaches the water’s edge directly across from us. It seems to look at us in wonder as to what we are, takes a few sips from the cool river and then slowly wanders back into the dense forest from where it came.
By the campfire, we share all of our joys from the day; each person bringing a different perspective and appreciation for the beauty of our ride. As nightfall approaches, our minds begin to drift, thinking about the excitement of what lays ahead on the road yet traveled.
As early morning sunlight filters into the campground and mist begins to rise from the river, our crew begins to assemble. Once we have fed ourselves we pack up and ready the bikes to hit the road.
Nechako Reservoir/Ootsa Lake
Our adventure skirts along a portion of the vast Nechako Reservoir, sometimes referred to as Ootsa Lake, a body of water that is 90,000 hectares in size, created in 1952 with the building of the Kenney Dam. At one point along the Nechako Reservoir, we can see the massive snow-capped peaks of Tweedsmuir peak in the Northern Tweedsmuir Park, which borders the Nechako Reservoir.
Lush green fields of grass dotted with bright yellow dandelions line the roadside and the black and white contrast of Poplar trees become a staple in the scene. The arrival at Upper Cheslatta Falls is dreamlike as sun rays beam through sporadic clouds and an eagle soars overhead. Exploration of the canyon and falls is a must, so we spend some time checking out the views from the water’s edge.
The Upper Cheslatta Falls are gorgeous and would be another fantastic place to overnight but the departure of our ferry is fast approaching. Our crew gets back in the saddle and begin the last leg of our backroad journey before we board the Francois MV Forester Ferry. This ferry takes us across Francois Lake and then there is 26 km of travel before we get into to Burns Lake.
Once settled in Burns Lake we take up a local’s tip on another delicious surprise called Tandoori Bliss. The delight to the taste buds of the authentic Indian Food is truly (as the name says) a blissful end to an amazing day of travel.
Fort St. James
For our last day of the journey, we take Route 16 back towards Prince George until it is time to turn towards Fort St. James so we can check out the National Historic Site situated on the shores of yet another beautiful BC lake, Stuart Lake. The Historic Site is an immaculately kept gem in the town of Fort St. James. Home to world-famous chicken races and original outpost buildings of the Hudson Bay fur trade, like a time warp back to 1896 the Historical Site is not to be missed. After an enjoyable lunch at the Commemorative Café in the Historical Site it is time to head back to Prince George.
The trip seems over all too fast but we are eager to share our stories of adventure and the stunning images of Route 16’s back country, and the amazing experience that is Cheslatta Falls, with family and friends.
Photos and blog contributed by Bill Campbell
For a full map of Route 16, click here.