When it comes to Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, the third time really was the charm. Twice previously we had booked a weekend of camping at this park and twice previously we had to cancel that reservation.
Undeterred, in 2023 I once again reserved a campsite at Beauvais Lake and Lady Luck smiled upon my perseverance. She even tossed in a little gift for our spring weekend of camping. No mosquitoes. That, I suspect, is a precious gift indeed as you’ll find out later in this review.
You’re probably thinking, “Wow, Beauvais Lake must be quite the attraction to justify such persistence!” Well, you’d be thinking wrong. I’m just stubborn. Besides, I need blog material.
Which is not to say that Beauvais Lake Provincial Park is a dud. Far from it. It’s just not a high-profile destination like the mountain national parks or Kananaskis. Even nearby Castle Provincial Park, though much younger, is likely better known and more alluring. Think of it more as a hidden (semi-precious) gem than a world-renowned destination.
Located 21 km southwest of Pincher Creek, Beauvais Lake is typical of several Alberta parks. A smallish, seemingly random-chosen prairie lake that had a few cabins on it. Add some land, toss in a campground, and voila, provincial park. Crimson Lake, Dilberry Lake, Gooseberry Lake are other such parks we’ve previously camped at.
On the positive side, Beauvais Lake is more a foothills lake than a true prairie lake. Depending on your biases, that makes Beauvais more visually appealing. On the negative side, it resides in the infamous wind corridor of southern Alberta. The multiple windmills you pass on your way there will remind you of that if the constant wobbling of your vehicle doesn’t.
These postage stamp parks intrigue me, for some reason, so I felt obliged to check it out. And I’m glad I did since it turned out to be a more interesting place than I envisioned. What better way to start another camping season than a long weekend at a pleasant surprise.
Beauvais Lake Campground
The primary campground at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park is located near the northwest tip of the lake. It’s a large, lasso shaped campground with three interior dissecting roads. There are a total of 76 campsites of which 53 have power while 23 do not. None have water or sewer.
Note that the official Alberta Parks website states there are 34 non-powered sites. Best that I can tell that number is erroneous. Even their official campground map only shows 23 non-powered campsites. Counting is hard.
All 76 sites are back-ins. There is not a single pull-through, arcuate or otherwise, to be found suggesting this is an older campground built before people got lazy.
The entire campground is forested, but it’s a thin forest. And “short”. There are a few old, girthy trees to be found, but not many. I’m not sure if this is due to historical logging or if this area of the park was relatively treeless to begin with.
It’s readily evident that Beauvais Lake was once larger than its current size. Between the campground and the lake is a grassy area that surely lay below water at one point. And within the campground itself, there is standing water almost everywhere.
This caught my attention almost immediately. I’d backed in the trailer and exited to help unhitch and was surprised to find a pool of water in the space between our campsite and the one next door. The whole campground is pretty much built into a swamp of sorts. Hence my fear that mosquitoes would be a nightmare.
Thankfully, on the May long weekend, despite unseasonably warm temperatures all month long, we encountered very few mosquitoes. I doubt very much such conditions exist the entire camping season. There must be a time when the bastards are unconscionable here. With all that standing water, it’s inevitable.
We reserved site 39 for our stay. Found on the north side of one of the dissecting interior roads, it ended up being a decent spot. Perhaps not the best of the lot, but certainly not the worst. Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to rank the campsites in any meaningful hierarchy of “goodness”. They’re all fairly similar in my opinion.
Campsites have the typical Alberta Parks setup with a gravel drive for RVs and vehicles. The gravel pad bumps out around the expected steel firepit with partial grate and well-worn wooden picnic table. There was plenty of room for our Geo Pro and Pathfinder. Larger rigs will easily fit this site.
The sites are surrounded by trees and ratty shrubs that provide some privacy from neighbours. The land between campsites, however, is typically below the grade of the site pads and roadways, hence the standing water. This also limits mobility between sites which may or may not appeal to you.
The thinner, younger tree cover also limits the shade you’ll receive. With no true canopy, you’ll get a dappled shade as the sun moves across the sky. Depending on the orientation of your site, the amount of shade will vary as well.
Pit Toilets and Dump Station
Several pit toilets are stationed around the campground leaving every camper comfortably close to at least one. They’re upgraded from what was originally in place, the park opened in the 50s, but are not brand new.
Each building has two unisex stalls, one of which proclaims to be handicapped accessible. Inside the concrete bunker is a simple plastic toilet and paper dispenser.
One of the great benefits of camping in May is that the pit toilets have not yet become unbearable. In fact, during our visit they were actually tolerable. Still not my favourite amenity, but I’ll take not-passing-out-from-holding-my-breath-while-peeing whenever I can.
A larger version of the same pit toilet construction is found all over the park, in the day use areas, tent areas, and boat launch. Their greater width can be attributed to both stalls being handicapped accessible. These accessible stalls are wider with mobility bars affixed to the walls but are otherwise identical to their cousins in the main campground.
For those of you using onboard facilities, Beauvais Lake Provincial Park has a dump station across the main park entry road, north of the boat launch. It’s a large arcuate dual outlet station hidden in an aspen grove.
Unfortunately, when we were there in 2023, it was closed and unusable. You couldn’t even cheat and use it because it is adorned with pay-to-use magnetic devices and they were both solidly secured in place over the sewer holes.
I do not know if this closure is a permanent fixture of the park or temporary. We did receive an email from Alberta Parks shortly before leaving home stating that a pump failure had left the park with no potable water, however, this did not mention the dump station as collateral damage.
Whatever the case, we needed to empty our grey water tank outside the park. Thankfully, the Co-op in Pincher Creek offers a free dump station.
Potable Water in Beauvais Lake Provincial Park
Had the pump not broken and potable water been available, we would have been able to fill our RV at the dump station. Abundant water taps are also found all around the campground, often associated with the pit toilets.
Similarly, potable water taps reside in the day use and tenting areas. You won’t be too far from drinkable water once the pump issue is remedied, which has hopefully already occurred.
Luckily, we were notified before we left home and filled up with city water. Not ideal to be transporting that extra weight but better than showing up dry. I do believe that the Pincher Creek Co-op also has potable water available.
A clearing at the northeast end of the campground is home to a large playground and grassy area. Immediately adjacent is a 3 – 4 car gravel parking space suggesting day users enjoy this amenity as well.
The playground is a fun mix of vintage and new with old school swings and modern climbers. There are even some interactive games and a faux store façade for imaginative play. All of this is situated in a pea gravel space with some benches and concrete picnic tables for tired parents.
The grassy area surrounding the playground isn’t ideal for field games but there’s nonetheless room for tossing a ball around with a younger kid.
Beauvais Lake is home to an impressive Group Camping area. Comprised of an expansive grassed clearing immediately west of Beaver Creek Day Use Area, Homestead Group Use was both open and occupied during our visit.
I say open because it was a tad odd that the neighbouring day use area was closed due to bear activity and yet a few yards away the group use area was business as usual.
Since it was being used by a group of RVers, I didn’t get an up-close look at the facilities though they seem quite new and fancy from afar. And with a trail taking hikers from the campground right into the group area, it’s hard not to stumble into this spot.
The group area consists of a double loop, with an initial smaller loop engulfed by a larger, dominant loop. As mentioned, the entire area is open and grassy, though surrounded by trees. Shade will be scarce anywhere but the perimeter.
At the heart of the larger loop is the main group area facilities. A large, fully enclosed picnic shelter highlights the offerings. The building appears to be very new and though I couldn’t look inside, the chimney suggests a wood stove resides within.
A spacious group firepit is found near the picnic shelter and several smaller firepits in mowed enclaves around the loop offer more personalized spaces for roasting marshmallows.
There is lots of space for RVs of every size and plenty of parking available for guests. A newish pit toilet rounds out the necessities and Lower Smith Homestead is right across the southwest portion of the group use loop road. This struck me as one of the nicer group camping spots I’ve come across.
Beauvais Lake Walk-in Tenting Area
Moving now to the other end of Beauvais Lake, along the north shore, we come to the walk-in tenting area. Consisting of ten campsites spaced out on a gentle slope from the road to the lake’s shore, this tenting area is quite pretty.
Primarily treed with aspen and poplar, the sites range from fully wooded to nearly wide open. The treed sites offer more privacy while the open sites, being closer to the water, offer some lovely views. Something for everyone’s tastes, if you can snag one.
The campsites are dirt or grass spaces with a picnic table, firepit, and food locker. Access from the road comes via a wide, mowed grass path.
At least one water tap is available, oddly located right near the start of the entrance path. Further down a pit toilet services the ten campsites (see above for image).
The only knock on this delightful walk-in tent area is the ridiculous parking. There is no designated parking lot, so tent campers must stow their vehicles on the side of the road above the tenting area.
Granted, this is not a highway, but it is still used by campers and day users. Having these vehicles only partially pulled off into the grass at roadside is hardly ideal. It’s not as if there is a lack of space for a walk-in tenting parking lot.
North Shore Day Use Area
Six hundred metres back towards the campground, still along the north shore, is the first of two day use areas at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park. Sprawling along the lake’s shoreline between the tenting area and the private cabins, the North Shore Day Use Area looks to be in the midst of a rejuvenation.
At its north end is a parking lot. It’s a small lot with only room for half a dozen vehicles at best. Certainly not enough room for the number of people hoping to use the facility. The remainder park up top along the road much like the walk-in tenters.
Next to the parking lot is a mowed grass area with a few trees with a selection of picnic spots. Each has a concrete and wooden immovable picnic table and a firepit. The trees tend to be half-dead cottonwoods so don’t expect the best shade.
Further along southward is another playground. Much smaller than its compatriot in the campground, it’s a modest, modern metal climbing apparatus that’ll appeal to small kids at the lake with mom and dad.
Between the picnic spots and the playground, higher up on the hill, is a magnificent pit toilet. Really, it’s something. Oh, it’s the same upgraded, dual handicapped accessible pit toilet found elsewhere in the park, but it’s got some mighty fine landscaping all around it.
Seriously, check out the pictures in the pit toilet section. I’ve never seen such an investment made for two holes in the ground that collect human waste.
Finally, at the south end of the day use area, is an enclosed picnic shelter. This has got to be new or near new as it looks pristine. It’s also sporting different siding than the pit toilets so is clearly a more recent addition.
Inside is a wood burning stove with a fancy tile backboard. Oh la la. There’s also space for a couple wooden picnic tables and the entire structure is enclosed protecting users from any inclement weather that might roll in unannounced.
In front of the entire day use area is a concerted effort to stabilize the shoreline. Fencing attempts to keep visitors and animals away from several trees and shrubs planted at water’s edge. This too appears new, and it is currently unclear how successful it will be. Judging by the number of users circumventing the fencing to access the lake for boating or fishing, I’m not optimistic.
Beaver Creek Day Use Area
Considering how lovely the North Shore Day Use Area is, I had high hopes for the seemingly large Beaver Creek Day Use Area. Sadly, I never saw it save for a distant view of a sign at its entrance.
Located at the north end of the south shore, this day use area was completely closed to every human in existence on the May long weekend due to four bears taking up residence. And parks staff were serious about the closure, going so far as to park a pickup truck across the access road and a ranger turning cars, cyclists, and hikers away all day long.
The map shows this day use area as having a parking lot, picnic shelter, picnic spots, and pit toilet. So, it’s a lot like North Shore but I can’t comment on its layout or age/quality. It will all remain a mystery to me and in turn I remain alive rather than a bear family’s breakfast.
Boat Launch Area at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park
The last north shore amenity, but the first you’ll encounter upon arrival at Beauvais Lake, is the boat launch and surrounding accoutrements. Like many lakes in Alberta parks around the province, this one is stocked with fish. Rainbow and brown trout, to be exact, and as such is popular with fisherfolk.
Judging by the size of the boat launch parking lot, it must be really popular. There is room here for a good many trucks and boat trailers, although not many were present during our spring visit.
The boat launch itself is a common concrete ramp into the water. It’s wide enough for a single vehicle to launch or retrieve a boat at a given time and accessed directly from the south end of the parking lot.
Beside the launch is a floating dock with three slips. The most popular use of the dock and slips while we were present was fishing. As summer wears on, one might find a bold person using the dock as a means to jump into the water rather than wading in. But that water is bound to be cold no matter the date on the calendar, so you will never find me doing that.
Next to the launch and dock is a small grassy picnic spot. It’s a nice, singular spot and who knows, you may choose to grill up your catch right after returning to shore.
To clean that catch, you can use the large cleaning station across the way from the boat launch. Oddly, the cleaning station is almost hidden in a young aspen stand. Perhaps not so oddly, this in turn is next to a pit toilet. Hey, keeping all the smelly stuff together makes sense to me.
Birdwatching at Beauvais Lake
If you’re not into fishing, might I suggest you look up? Or more accurately, look on top of the water. Beauvais Lake Provincial Park is terrific for birdwatching, particularly of, though not exclusively, the waterfowl kind.
The furthest southeast reach of the lake is a critical nesting area and thus closed to boats from April 1st through July 10th. Thankfully, where boats cannot go humans on foot can. An easy hike from Scotts Point along the north shore passes several excellent viewpoints for catching a glimpse of pretty birds.
Canada geese and other familiar faces are plentiful, but rarer species also come to nest at Beauvais Lake including a pair of trumpeter swans. They’ve been returning for a few years now and it was quite a treat to see them.
The bridge and viewing platform at the tip of the lake is attractive in its own right, and you’ll find yourself up close and personal with many red winged blackbirds in the surrounding reeds. That said, you’ll benefit from a zoom lens on your camera.
I have one, though it’s rather small. Not once, but twice I was overcome with severe zoom envy as we passed bird-loving photographers with far greater equipment budgets than mine!
The birds aren’t exclusive to the critical nesting area of the lake. In fact, one duck family took to nesting literally on the side of the gravel road to Beaver Creek Day Use area. And in the nearby lake itself, at the edge of another reed bed, a grebe was busily tending its eggs within easy viewing distance of passersby.
Back at our campsite, terrestrial birds will regularly make their presence known throughout the day. Some will even come by for a visit, including a woodpecker that had a short but heated argument with a metal sign near our campsite.
Hiking and Cross-Country Skiing
Like fishing, birding isn’t to everyone’s liking. Beauvais Lake Provincial Park has one last trick up her sleeve … a sizable trail network. This was a bit of a surprise considering how relatively small the park is.
Cross-country skiing must be popular in Southern Alberta, more so than one might expect. All these trails at Beauvais Lake are actually cross-country skiing trails. It’s a network very much like the one we encountered at Chinook Provincial Recreation Area less than an hour’s drive west of Beauvais Lake.
Trailheads are found near the campground playground, at Beaver Creek Day Use, and at Scotts Point parking lot. From any of these low areas near the lake you can hike your way all around and up into the highlands southwest of Beauvais Lake.
Along the way, you’ll pass three old homesteads now slowly returning to nature. Akitt and Upper Smith are located in clearings uphill from the lake. Lower Smith is immediately adjacent to the aptly named Homestead Group Use area. A fourth, Lynch Homestead, is found near the campground entrance.
Lynch still stands but is a singular structure. Lower Smith has more buildings and some old farm equipment scattered around. Akitt and Upper Smith have little left to them but the collapsed, rotting timber of former homes.
The trails are all dirt, some with more grass remaining than others. All are wide, a lovely benefit of their cross-country skiing pedigree. And some are quite taxing, with steady, steep inclines that’ll make your thighs burn.
The signage along the trails is quite good so you won’t get lost. Not that this is likely considering the areal constraint of the park. It’s a robust trail network for the size of the park but you’re hardly heading into backcountry.
Three viewpoints, Mount Baldy, Mount Albert, and Piney Point, headline the trail network destinations. Having spent much of our time birdwatching, we only managed to ascend to Mount Baldy. And we were rewarded with an impromptu thunderstorm of wind, rain, and plummeting temperatures as we approached the peak. This limited our view, though we could still appreciate how beautiful it would be under clear skies.
Trails also circumnavigate most of the lake. The South Shore Trail was partially off limits due to the aforementioned bear activity in the day use area.
On the north side of the lake, the short loop around Scotts Point is an easy jaunt for those looking for a less strenuous hike. At the tippy top of the point you are rewarded with a lovely view of the lake.
Along the way you’ll stumble upon some hints of former homesteading activity. We found partially buried iron wheels from a coal cart or some such vehicle while hunting for a geocache.
Beaver activity is also plentiful. Chewed trees stumps abound along the trail and a fully functioning beaver lodge can be seen in the lake offshore of the walk-in tenting area.
On the return portion of the loop around Scotts Point we were greeted by the final resting place of James Whitford, a Métis who lived for many years at his beloved Beauvais Lake.
I should also mention that we encountered fresh bear scat on a couple of trails. Not shocking considering an entire day use area was closed down due to bears. Remain vigilant, travel in groups, and bring your bear spray.
I quite enjoyed the hiking, storms notwithstanding. There’s plenty to see, like the Beaver Ponds, another wetlands spot with plentiful birds on display. The park offers a fine variety of trail difficulty enabling all visitors a means to explore. I wish we’d had more time to visit the other two viewpoints but alas, that’ll have to wait for another visit.
Odds and Ends about Beauvais Lake Provincial Park
Beauvais Lake Provincial Park wouldn’t be an Alberta park without the stereotypical outdoor amphitheatre. Found at the end of a short, gravel trail from the south end of the campground, the amphitheatre is both large and recently upgraded. The stage building looks to have been resided not too long ago.
Still, like all its brethren in parks across the province, there was no indication that any performances occur here. No schedule is posted, and the seating area looks all but abandoned. Every time I encounter one of these installations, I’m overcome with wonder at what camping in Alberta was like during the golden age of oil boom profligacy.
Another large building is found in the woods between the main park entrance road and the main campground entrance road. The structure is accessible from either side and is designated a park office, however, it is not a “registration and campground store” type office.
Not surprisingly, it was closed during our various walks past. I peered inside through an unclean window, and it looks to be a genuine office building with, umm, offices and a service desk of some kind. But definitely no store or concession.
Outside in the large parking lot were four Alberta Parks pickup trucks and I wonder if this isn’t a regional hub for Parks operations. It’s possible they manage not only Beauvais Lake, but also nearby Castle Provincial Park from here.
A well-established campground host has a site in the campground. I word it that way because the hosts, who are an older couple, had a family gathering to celebrate one of the host’s birthdays. They were inviting what i assume to be regulars to join them for cake. Can’t say I’ve seeen that before.
The host site has a small library as well as an information board. They do not, however, sell firewood so you’ll need to bring your own or purchase outside the park.
Beauvais Lake is also home to a dozen or so private cabins. Most of them are found along the north shore between the boat launch and day use area.
The existence of these cottages in provincial parks has always irked me but at least these do not appear to be second home monstrosities like you find at other Alberta parks. Oh, most have been upgraded, don’t get me wrong. None are tiny cabins. The homesteaders would marvel at these structures. I just felt they were slightly more modest than at, say, Sylvan Lake.
How’s this for an old school comment. Radio sucks here. Despite not being terribly far from a major east west highway corridor, radio reception is dicey at the lake. We could only pick up three stations, none that well, and all played country music. Ugh.
Similarly, cell service isn’t pristine. It wasn’t absent, but signal strength varied a fair bit depending where one stood in the park. Them foothills are sneaky good at blocking signals.
Pincher Creek Pioneer Village
One of our goals for camping in 2023 is to visit nearby attractions to complement our campground adventures. For our May long weekend stay at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, we decided a trip to nearby Pincher Creek to visit the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village was in order.
Small town attractions like this can be a bit of a coin flip as to their appeal. Many are nothing more than a token old building or two with some salvaged antiques inside. But Kootenai Brown looked more legitimate than that. Well, at least it did from outside the fence.
Strung out along Pincher Creek in the heart of town, it’s far more sizable than I expected. Unfortunately, it was closed. A sign at the main entrance informed us that their season opening would occur on the Tuesday AFTER the first long weekend of summer. You know, the long weekend that every other tourist spot in the entirety of Canada lists as their season opening weekend. Yes, that long weekend.
It still baffles me why they would remain closed on the May long weekend. Makes no sense to me. And they lost my entry dollars because of it. I don’t get to Pincher Creek often, but when I do, I’ll be sure to hold this grudge for an incomprehensibly long time and NOT visit Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village no matter how much I may now want to.
I must admit to leaving Beauvais Lake rather pleased. Despite my repeated attempts to camp here, I truly had low expectations for the park. It truly was much more enjoyable than I anticipated.
I’ll grant Beauvais Lake Provincial Park 3.75 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. Perhaps luck was on our side, and we simply missed a nightmarish mosquito experience, but I can’t judge on what ifs. Had there been flush toilets and the water was working, it easily could have been a 4, something I never imagined when I first made our reservation.
Beauvais Lake is a surprisingly quiet campground. There is no traffic noise whatsoever. Even on a long weekend, the patrons were well-behaved with no late-night whooping or howling going on.
It’s a very family-oriented park, so there are kids playing and scurrying around on foot or bikes, but they don’t continue this beyond quiet hours. And the campground is well enough away from the lake to not hear boats, not that there motorboats pulling tubes or SeaDoos ripping around on the water anyway.
The birding is excellent. The hiking is robust and varied for a park of this size. I imagine the cross-country ski crowd quite enjoys it during the winter. Fishing appears to be popular and rewarding. All in all, a great camping experience and an underrated provincial park although some wily veterans undoubtedly know this already.
Be sure to check it out if you’re looking for a new camping experience in southern Alberta.