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Nestled beneath lush green mountains near the British Columbia coastline, beautiful Buntzen Lake offers a wealth of hiking enjoyment to recreation seekers. Located less than 30 miles by car from Vancouver, Buntzen Lake is one of the main storage reservoirs for hydro-power generation in the metropolitan area. It is hard to believe that this lovely lake is located so close to civilization; the heavily wooded surroundings lend a wilderness feel, as do the steep mountainsides that provide the backdrop for the scenic rocky shore. Buntzen Lake Reservoir Recreation Area provides many opportunities for water lovers to enjoy the pristine waters and natural surroundings. South Beach Day Use Area at the south end of the lake holds a number of family attractions.
Buntzen Lake's South Beach Day Use Area is often very busy on warm summer days. BC Hydro limits visitors to those who can find parking space in the designated parking areas nearly a mile from the shore. When parking is full, the gates are closed. This allows lucky park visitors to enjoy a sandy beach for swimming, a cartop boat and canoe launch area, dock, picnic tables and shelters, a designated dogs-allowed area, grassy playgrounds, drinking water and rest rooms. Only electric motors are allowed on Buntzen Lake with canoe and kayak rentals available at the Anmore Store nearby. A second beach area is found at the north end of the lake and can be accessed via trails. Probably the biggest attraction other than the swim beach is the wealth of trails in the area open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Trails that begin in the Buntzen Lake Recreation Area include the Energy Trail and the Buntzen Lake Loop Trail for hikers only. Shared-use trails include the Old Buntzen Lake Trail, Academy Trail and Lakeview Trail. Occasionally 10k and 15k races are held along some of the trails.
The Buntzen Lake Recreation Area is bordered on two sides by the Indian Arm Provincial Park and Belcarra Regional Park to the south. Other popular trails meander through Buntzen Lake Recreation Area but end up within Indian Arms Provincial Park. Some of these include the popular Diez Vista Trail (4.4 miles) which crosses the north terminus of the lake and includes a hanging bridge. Swan Falls Loop (12.4 miles), Linsay Lake Loop (9.3 miles) and Dilly Dally Loop (15.5 miles) also begin here. More precise information for all of the trails in the area, including a grueling 42-mile trail along the mountain ridges, can be found on the BC Hydro Trails webpage and at the Indian Arms Provincial Park webpage. In winter, a few of the more accessible trails are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Known for its trout fishing, Buntzen Lake is regularly stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout. The waters also hold a few kokanee and a number of rough fish not usually the prime target for anglers. Boats work best for fishing the lake, but there are a few places along the shoreline that can be fished, including some floating docks that can be reached only by hiking trail. Steep rocky drop-offs along many areas of the shore offer great fishing opportunities for the experienced fly fisherman. BC Hydro provides two campsites within the Recreation Area, but these don't appear on most maps; those wishing more information would be well-advised to contact the Buntzen Lake Warden Office.
Buntzen Lake was once called Trout Lake and later, Lake Beautiful. The current name came from the first general manager of B.C. Electric Co., Johannes Buntzen. Most narratives refer to the lake as an artificial reservoir, however it appears that there was a lake here before it was developed for hydroelectric power. A small gas-fired steam generation plant produces power at Buntzen Lake. Contrary to popular belief, most hydroelectric power is not produced at the dam on the north end of the lake. Instead, a tunnel from dammed Coquitlam Lake two miles to the east was dug under Eagle Mountain in 1905. Excess water from Coquitlam Lake flows to Buntzen Lake. The small dam outlet at the north end of the lake opens into McCombe Lake then enters a pipeline, partially underground, that carries the water down the mountainside to two generating plants on Indian Arm. Indian Arm is a narrow bay of Vancouver Harbour and a major spot for recreational boating.
There are no lodgings available on the deserted shores of Buntzen Lake. In the past a few resorts shared the waters, but they no longer appear to be available. And although there is little camping available in Buntzen Lake Recreation Area, plenty of camping is available nearby in Indian Arm Provincial Park. The village of Anmore just downstream also holds RV campgrounds and other guest lodgings. And with metropolitan Vancouver less than 30 miles away, all types of lodgings, entertainment and fine dining are available, along with boat tours, whale watching excursions, saltwater fishing and pleasure boating. Vancouver's mild climate allows for the development of several world-class botanical features that are always a hit with visitors. Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island is accessible by a delightful ferry ride and offers tours of the greenhouses and gardens. The architecture of Victoria is easily enjoyed by bus tour, and a whale watching cruise on Hero Strait is one of the most popular attractions in the area.
Surrounding Vancouver are numerous outdoor adventures just waiting for nature lovers, including the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife on the North Shore. If heights and sights are your passion, the world's longest suspension footbridge, Capilano Suspension Bridge, awaits. The Grouse Mountain Skyride glides above the temperate rain forest where unusual plants and birds abound. Many hiking trails and lovely scenic vistas await anyone who explores the area around Vancouver, not the least of which is Buntzen Lake Recreation Area. So come hike the trails where the rainbow trout await.
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