Always on the hunt for new places to go, I spotted Gladstone Provincial Park in our Kootenay Rockies Mapbook one summer afternoon. Encompassing the top half of Christina Lake and the mountains beyond, this Provincial Park looked intriguing.
For one thing, I had never heard of it before.
Second, there were a handful of marine campsites located along the shore of the long, narrow lake.
A quick Google taught me that Christina Lake was the warmest tree-lined lake in Canada. That made three reasons and cemented my interest. A canoe camping trip to Gladstone Provincial Park was officially in the works!
Read on for the story of our canoe camping experience plus a trip guide to help you plan your own adventure in Gladstone Provincial Park.
Originally published 2015, updated 2020. This post includes affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Arriving at Gladstone Provincial Park
Staying overnight at a recreation site near Mt Baldy, we arrived at the Christina Lake boat launch on early Saturday morning to find a quiet, albeit fairly populated lake. The first thing we noticed?
There were houses along the lake as far as the eye could see. Not quite what I had imagined but we weren’t too worried. Maybe all the houses have been vacated for the summer already.
It was also pretty smoky, with the tail end of the fires in Washington and in the southern Okanagan still burning. Oh well, we said, maybe it will clear up.
After a leisurely paddle across the deserted lake (exchanging a wave with any house owners we spotted) we arrived at our destination – Axel Johnson Marine Campsite on Christina Lake.
Christina Lake Camping – Axel Johnson Marine Site
Axel Johnson was the first marine campsite not was surrounded by houses. It made the choice of where to stay pretty easy. While these houses may be accessible by boat only, it was still a different setting than we had imagined for our Christina Lake camping experience.
Regardless, we cried land ahoy and set up camp. The first of the day was spent sunbathing, fishing and swimming in the lake that was, indeed, pretty warm. By lunchtime though, we had realised that we were definitely not alone.
Unexpected company on Christina Lake
The first boat that landed on the beach was a surprise. By the time the sixth one landed, we realised we had made a bit of a mistake. Christina Lake isn’t really the place you go to for a wilderness experience (for one thing, we’ve never camped with jet-skis crossing in front of us).
Most of the boats didn’t stay too long, but two actually ended up staying overnight with us.
Wilderness or not, we still had fun. JR caught a bunch of fish and we were able to have our first fire of the summer!
The long dry summer had caused a very early fire ban so we hadn’t had a chance since early May. Almost nothing makes a camping trip better than a campfire, especially with a view this sweet!
Up Christina Lake without a paddle
It was just before we lit the fire that I noticed my canoe paddle was missing. We had originally landed around 150 metres away from our eventual camping site.
In my excitement of landing at the beach at our campsite, I had jumped out of the canoe and left my paddle on the sand. When JR later moved the canoe, he, unfortunately, didn’t spot my paddle.
We assume that one of the boating groups must have picked it up and taken it home with them. I can understand how this could happen but it felt sad that they didn’t double check with the only people on the beach with a canoe.
Lesson learned! Keep your stuff close.
On every other canoe camping trip and most day trips, we bring along a spare paddle, just in case. Of course, this time we forgot (one of the reason we have comprehensive packing lists now!)
Strong winds were forecast for Sunday afternoon so we decided to cut our losses and leave Gladstone Provincial Park early.
We made do with a tree branch found on the beach, which actually worked pretty well! In the end, a kind boating couple gave us their spare paddle to use with instructions to drop it at a friend’s house on the way back.
Return to the desert of the Okanagan Valley
Driving back to Penticton a shorter, but slower way (via Mt Baldy ski resort), we accidentally discovered the most desert-looking area we have seen in the Okanagan. With such low vegetation and being so dry, it really did look like somewhere located much further south. In the distance, the wildfires could be seen still burning in Oliver.
While it was still a fun canoe camping weekend, I have to admit that Gladstone Provincial Park wasn’t quite what we expected. Looking closer at the map on our return, it is possible to see a very thin strip of ‘private land’ marked along the shore of most of Christina Lake.
As it turns out, Gladstone Provincial Park doesn’t actually protect much of the lake’s shore as I thought. I would love to return to the park’s northern section, as the mountains and views in that direction really did look spectacular.
Gladstone Provincial Park: A Quick Trip Planning Guide
Located on the western edge of British Columbia’s Kootenays region, Gladstone Provincial Park is about a seven hour drive from Vancouver. The journey time is very similar from Calgary, albeit around a half hour longer or so.
Gladstone Provincial Park is best known for the vehicle accessible Texas Creek Campground on Christina Lake’s eastern shore. There are 62 campsites in the campground, all reservable in advance via BC Park’s Discover Camping service.
There is another vehicle accessible campground – Xenia Lake. This offers rustic camping at the northern end of the lake for three groups and is only accessible via gravel roads. The last kilometre is said to be in poor condition (4WD vehicle needed).
Gladstone Provincial Park has seven backcountry camping sites only accessible by water (and hence also called marine sites). All of these have picnic tables and at least one pit toilet. Most of the marine sites can be found on the western shore of Christina Lake, starting opposite the Texas Creek campground. The camping fee is $13/per party/per night.
We started our Gladstone Provincial Park canoe trip at the official BC Parks boat launch at Texas Creek campground. It can be found just before the campground’s entrance. There are two fairly large parking lots located across the road.
There are over 48km of hiking trails in the park. We haven’t hiked any of these ourselves yet but from my understanding, they are not maintained often.
Looking for somewhere to stay in the Christina Lake area?
Parklane Resort and Motel – Good value
Island Beach Bed and Breakfast – Highly rated on Booking.com