I’m too smart by half. We planned to do an early-in-the-week camping trip down to Castle Provincial Park back in June and had three campgrounds to choose from; Castle River Bridge, Castle Falls, and Beaver Mines Lake. Almost immediately, I tossed Beaver Mines Lake from the competition.
There was no beach. It’s a mountain lake so it would be freezing cold anyway. We don’t own any type of boat nor is there a rental facility there. Besides, trees and standing water just mean mosquitoes and I sure as hell didn’t want any of that.
I did not get the last laugh.
Ultimately, I chose to spend our two nights at Castle River Bridge Campground, a ten minute’s drive on a groomed, gravel road to the north of Beaver Mines Lake Campground. It had electricity, after all. And as luck would have it, lots and lots of mosquitoes. Shit!
I cannot elaborate on the mosquito situation at Beaver Mines Lake Campground, having only spent a couple hours exploring the place one afternoon. We weren’t overwhelmed by the evil creatures, but they were present. Then again, strolling around the loops and day use areas is a different thing than sitting in a lawn chair on a campsite presenting yourself as a target.
What remains undeniable is that from a sheer beauty standpoint, I made a huge mistake writing off this campground so swiftly. There are some breathtaking campsites within the four loops at Beaver Mines Lake Campground.
Like backing onto a lake? No problem. Like panoramic views of mountains? No problem. Like the sheltered coziness of coniferous forest? No problem. Wish I could turn back the clock? Big problem.
Whereas the two Castle campgrounds are found north of highway 774, Beaver Mines Lake Campground resides a little over five kilometres to the southeast. The access road is gravel and a tad dusty but no obstacle for any type of vehicle/RV setup.
As expected, the campground hugs the south and east shores of Beaver Mines Lake, surrounded mostly by forest. The approximately two kilometre long, rectangular lake is a good spot for boating and fishing. It is regularly stocked with trout, mostly rainbow but also brown. Other species are present as well. On the western side of the lake is Camp Impessa, owned by Scouts Canada.
The campground isn’t exceptionally large, but it does have a somewhat sprawling layout to it. The four loops are placed in succession with loops B through D alongside the lake while loop A is off by itself to the south.
None of the loops offer power, water, or sewer and with no dump station present, you’ll need to visit Pincher Creek to evacuate your RV tanks. Nor is there cell service, Wi-Fi, store/office, playground, or firewood. This is par for the course with Castle Provincial Park campgrounds, so come prepared and enjoy your days away from life’s bustle.
What I found most unique about Beaver Mines Lake Campground, is the uniqueness of each loop. Sure, they’re all located in the usual mountain forest setting, but each offers a little something special unto itself.
Loop A offers a pure forest setting with a handful of sites boasting some nice mountain views between the trees. It is also set away from the remainder of the campground and in doing so is a tad more private, not having to contend with day users and watercraft.
Loop B is tiny, having only a dozen sites in a tight loop near the main day use area. For my money, this is the least appealing loop and I would only take a spot here if nothing else was available.
Loop C, a long, narrow loop right on the shore of the lake, offers nineteen sites, four of which back right onto the lake. Those four sites must be a bugger to get your hands on, but what a treat they would be. Not that the other sites are awful, it’s just, well, they don’t back onto the water.
Depending which end of the loop you’re at, the day use areas are an easy jaunt to visit from here. A local trail entrance is across the road from the loop entrance. And there are some small, rocky, beach-like spots along the shore you can tie your small watercraft to during your stay.
Loop D, the last of the loops, is placed up into the hillside. It is still somewhat forested but not as densely with the central portion more meadow than bush. Elevation undulates a fair bit through here resulting in some campsites having stunning views of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
Seriously, a few of those sites are near nirvana with a campfire spot worthy of a tourism campaign. It was when walking this loop that my regret in choosing Castle River Bridge took hold. If you are scheduling your camping adventure well in advance, look to loop D first!
Loop D is also home to five of the fancy, new, comfort camping cabins. I first mentioned these in my Castle River Bridge Campground review and while these are a bit smaller, they’re a perfect fit for loop D. The views are delightful.
Each comes with a wood stove, table, kitchen area, bed, and desk inside. Outside, a wood deck, including wheelchair access, leads to a gravel entertaining area with picnic table and firepit. With no power, though, these cabins rely on solar which can be found mounted on a pole next to each cabin. I do not know if there is a battery included to provide nighttime lighting.
Near these cabins you’ll find a large, new pit toilet complex. It too comes with a roof-mounted solar panel suggesting some sort of lighting is available. Larger than the typical Alberta Parks pit toilets, even the new ones, it was presumably built for the cabins, all of which are situated nearby.
As for the rest of Beaver Mines Lake Campground, the typical, albeit newer, dual stall pit toilets are found in each loop. Again, I didn’t use any of them so can’t personally vouch for odour. I doubt it’s any different than elsewhere in the park.
Fresh water is sketchy here as well. Each loop has a funky, old-school, hand pump capable of providing water. Affixed to a post at each is a sign warning you not to drink the water. I’m sure some do. Some will cook with it (boiling the snot out of it) and some will clean dishes with it. To each their own. We lugged our own water from home.
A nod to Beaver Mines Lake Campground’s larger size, seventy-six campsites in total, you’ll find two day use areas. The larger of the two encompasses the area on the south shore of the lake right as you enter the campground. The smaller is found past the north end of loop C just before heading into loop D.
There bigger one is a bit complicated. You’ll immediately see people playing in/near the water as you approach the campground and once past the lake, a small parking lot is present on your left. Continue along further, beyond the entrance to loop A and you’ll find another short road that takes you to a much larger parking lot.
This large parking lot feels much more the epicentre of the day use area. There is another oversized, brand-new, pit toilet station here, identical to the one in loop D. At the far other end of the lot is the boat launch, a single concrete ramp with smallish, floating wooden dock.
There was certainly watercraft on the lake, but nothing especially large or motorized. Dinghies, canoes, single-person craft were the boats of choice while we were there. This included a fancy, one-man fishing thingamabob that looked rather fascinating to me.
Along the east side of the parking lot, up a modest incline with inlaid stairs, are a handful of picnic tables and firepits. The location of these isn’t the greatest and not surprisingly, we didn’t see anyone using them. I didn’t even think to investigate the forested area between this large lot and the aforementioned small lot. I presume there are more day use picnic spots hidden in there based on what I can interpret from Google satellite views. Sorry for not having the sense to look.
Next to the slope-top picnic spots, back nearer the big pit toilet station, there is a single warming hut. It looks very similar to the cabins in loop D but is empty inside save for a wood stove and benches along either wall. We are unsure who uses this amenity but speculate it could be anyone from ice fisherfolk to cross-country skiers to early/late season hikers. Whatever the use, it’s a nice little perk.
If you’re not into fishing, hiking is your best bet for recreation at Beaver Mines Lake Campground. In addition to the re-purposed, former OHV trails that are accessible nearby, the trailhead for the Table Mountain hike is located just past the entry road to the boat launch parking lot.
Table Mountain is the dominant feature to the campground’s east and makes a great picture from the day use areas and some loops. However, if you do a quick Google image search, you will find some truly breathtaking views from atop Table Mountain. Seriously! I would never in a million years pose for some of these pictures (too afraid of heights) but those crazy enough to do so are rewarded with spectacular images.
A ten kilometre round-trip, this hike was beyond our capabilities on this trip. It must, however, be the prime attraction for many campers here. And rightly so. Plan for it if you’re headed that way.
If day-long hikes aren’t your bag, there are a handful of geocaches in and near Beaver Mines Lake Campground. I was a bit disappointed at the dearth of caches near the other two campgrounds, so I was happy to see at least some here.
When our short adventure at Beaver Mines Lake Campground finished, I fully wished I had chosen this campground for our stay. I honestly don’t recall if any sites were even available, surely the nicest were booked up, but I didn’t look very hard either. That was a mistake on my part because in my opinion, this is the loveliest of Castle’s three main campgrounds.
As with the other campgrounds, I am unsure if reservations will remain the only method for camping at Beaver Mines Lake. During 2020 and COVID-19, that is the case, but this campground also has self-registration kiosks near each loop entrance. The cabins, which are unfortunately closed during the pandemic, obviously need reservations, but as for the campsites, time will tell, I guess.
If you are planning to camp at Castle Provincial Park, I recommend that Beaver Mines Lake Campground be the first place you look for a site. I give it 4 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. It offers no additional amenities than the other campgrounds. It doesn’t even have power like Castle River Bridge. But it does house a handful of genuinely awesome sites. If you can get one of those, it’ll earn the 4 rating no matter how much is “missing” compared to resort campgrounds.
Next time I won’t overthink my destination.