One night stands are legendary for a number of reasons ranging from the terrible to the unforgettable. For me, they are also an experience of which I have no knowledge and as a happily married man, they are very likely to remain as such. Yet, despite my ignorance of brief liaisons, I’m increasingly throwing caution to the wind and reviewing campgrounds based on single night stays. Like hasty romantic encounters, this is a dangerous practice relying too much on first impressions. It’s also better than nothing!
An extended camping trip through British Columbia, while stunning for sheer pictorial beauty, inevitably requires a lot of additional driving. Compared to the Prairies, BC is a damn difficult place to get around. All those mountains get in the way of direct transportation routes resulting in long, backtracking detours. Two places at identical latitudes but either side of a mountain range can easily elevate travel times to double that which the crow flies. As a result, stopovers are inevitable elements of any BC camping itinerary. This is especially true if you are camping with kids who won’t sleep in a car enabling long haul trips deep into the night. Or if you’re old. I suffer from both.
This past summer we made two such one night stays. The second was at Robson Meadows Campground in Mount Robson Provincial Park which you can read about here. The first was at Beaumont Provincial Park, a small, lakeside park and campground approximately two hour’s drive west of Prince George on BC’s Interior Plateau.
Beaumont Provincial Park straddles the Yellowhead highway at the eastern end of Fraser Lake and it is tiny. You can navigate along the Yellowhead on Google Maps and it won’t even show up unless you’re zoomed in to nearly 1:1 scale. I only found it because I was specifically looking for campgrounds in this region to the west of Prince George. We needed a place to spend on night on our migration from Barkerville to Smithers and hoped to do a quick morning trip up to Fort St. James National Historic Site. Beaumont fit our requirements otherwise I’d still not know it existed.
In fact, we still managed to almost miss the place while driving to it. Signage for this provincial park is completely absent until you are two kilometers from the park itself. And even that sign was a small afterthought of a sign. This is obviously not a high priority park for the provincial government and therefore I assume it is a secret to all but the local citizenry. That’s a shame because it’s not a bad park and campground.
The Interior Plateau is quite a contrast to the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Coastal Mountains to the west. Gone are the rugged, snowy peaks though rounded hills remain, reminiscent of the foothills around Calgary. Aspen is more dominant here and logging clear cuts stretch in all directions. Farmland is also present giving the whole region a less alpine feel, though we are still well above sea level.
This area west of Prince George and spreading northward is also lake country, with many lovely mountain lakes, all natural, ribboning across the land. We are in the heart of fur trading history with town and lake names reflecting the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company explorers and traders that built the region, or stole it, depending on your perspective.
Beaumont Provincial Park is a reflection of its surroundings and history. It is a nice, treed spot with lots of aspen plus some spruce and pine. It was surprisingly muggy the day we camped there. I have no idea if this is common or we just happened to be there on a rare day, but this surprised me. Despite the humidity, mosquitoes weren’t a nuisance on this mid-August evening.
Sites remain a nice size here, again with large gravel pads, fire pits, and immovable wood and steel picnic tables. This has become expected in BC provincial parks and the mountain national parks. It is a nice, reliable setup for RV camping and we appreciate there being no surprises when booking at these campgrounds. Most are well treed giving campers shelter from the sun though a few, more open sites are available if you prefer skin cancer, ach, I mean warming sun.
There are 49 campsites of which only 16 are reservable, so this is primarily a first come, first serve campground likely used almost exclusively by locals and travelers needing an overnight stay. An additional 5 walk-in tent sites with fire pits and picnic tables are available lakeside.
There are no site services at Beaumont. Fresh water taps dot the campground and a flush toilet facility is centrally located. Pit toilets are also present by the beach and day use area. There are, however, no showers at Beaumont which is likely an issue if you’re camping there for more than one night. Sunscreen, bug spray, and fire smoke all make for a smelly mix if left uncleansed for more than a day. Hey, what can I say, I’m a pretty boy. The washrooms are also almost entirely stainless steel and concrete. It looks like they could be washed down with a garden hose.
There is no office or store. The park warden comes around once a day to check registrations and give his/her spiel about park rules and such. The park was half empty while we were there in prime camping season, so either this place is unknown or unpopular, or the forest fires wreaking havoc to the south were impacting camping dramatically in the north. Quite possibly both reasons had an impact.
The dump station costs $5 and has but a single spot. We had no need to use it but if the campground ever got full, there could be lineups upon leaving Sundays or long weekend Mondays.
Beaumont is located on the shore of a large, handsome lake making it somewhat of a resort-like destination for summer fun seekers. Boating and fishing are two ideal activities for a lake this size, being much larger than the oversized sloughs Albertans flock to. A boat launch enables those with motorized water toys to get their babies into the lake with little difficulty. A large parking lot provides ample space to stow vehicles while out fishing or waterskiing.
A good sized day use area, with two beaches and a picnic area, can be found a short walk from the campground itself. This isn’t exactly a spectacular beach, but serves the purpose I guess. The beach is sandy with rocks. A large swimming area is roped off and it remains very shallow which is great for younger children. We saw kids walk out to the rope and they never had water rise above their waists. That said, there are warnings posted that water depths drop off quickly beyond the rope so you’ll want to stay vigilant if you have wandering or headstrong offspring.
The campground does have a modest but nice, newer playground for the kids to burn off energy. A green space behind the washroom would allow for some games of catch and whatnot. A trail from the playground heads to the beach making everything connected and easily accessible. The whole complex is never going to knock your socks off but it’s efficient and suitable. Considering its obscurity and location, you get most of what you need in a camping spot for a family.
The entrance is a bit off the road, but the campground remains near a TransCanada highway so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear traffic. This is far enough away from major centres that it isn’t exceptionally busy or noisy, but you will notice big trucks. Similarly, we are now back near major rail lines so you’ll hear trains through the night as well. Thankfully there are no road crossings so no blasts of train horns to startle you out of your slumber. You’ll experience far worse in that Golden – Revelstoke corridor, but it isn’t absent here.
Now, if you are at all queasy about bugs and creepy crawlies, you should be aware that this park is home to huge populations of western thatch ants. These black critters build enormous mounds out of dirt and conifer needles, which you will find all over the campground and day use area. Streams of marching ants will be found near and far from these thatches. Our campsite was completely encircled with them, snaking to and fro along the edge of the gravel pad. They don’t harm humans or even notice us, but you’ll be certainly notice them. It’s a fascinating sight but will spook those to whom insects do not appeal.
As with Robson Meadows, Beaumont provided us with an ideal overnight stay during our big BC camping trip. I have no complaints as we got everything we needed here. That said, it isn’t a jaw-dropping experience. You won’t leave Beaumont wishing the stay had never ended. You can swim, boat, camp, and play with no more and no less than a simply average experience. For our needs, it was perfect. If I lived nearer, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a weekend there, lack of showers notwithstanding. But would I make it a destination for future camping adventures from anywhere further afield? Not likely. It deserves 2 ¾ Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. It’s fine, just not exceptional and therefore only really on your radar if you’re in the vicinity or driving through.