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BC Hydro rec areas are busy, so avoid weekends if you can

Image of a picnic site at the Upper Campbell River Reservoir campground
The new Upper Campbell River Reservoir campground – which replaces the closed Strathcona Dam campground – has been wildly popular since its opening in February. You can expect all campsites at the new facility will be full each weekend and most weekdays through the spring and summer.

Even in early spring, most campsites and day-use sites have been packed

COVID-19 travel restrictions have limited our access to the outdoors to places close to home, but that hasn't prevented thousands from heading out to BC Hydro's recreation sites this spring.

"All our campgrounds have been full on weekends, and our day-use areas have been busy, too," says Jamie Mair, who monitors usage at the recreation sites as a public safety advisor for BC Hydro.

Mair's first advice is to stay close to home. And if you plan to head out to a BC Hydro campground, try to do it mid-week.

"With camping, there's still no guarantee mid-week that you'll get a spot, but your chances are better," says Mair.

COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential travel are in effect at least through May 25 and fines can be given to people who leave their region for non-essential travel.

While BC Hydro's popular dam visitor centres will remain closed this summer, most of the utility's recreation areas remain open with COVID-19 distancing and safety guidelines in place. If you're planning a visit a BC Hydro recreation area, he asks that you:

  • Stay close to home and only visit recreation sites in your community.
  • Follow physical distancing requirements outlined by the Public Health Officer.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes to practice safe hygiene.
  • Stay home if you're sick.

Before you go, check our website for any updates about access to the rec area you're planning to visit. 

Did you know? BC Hydro campgrounds are first-come, first-served with no reservations. BC Parks sites, meanwhile, are reservable as early as two months in advance online via Discover Camping.

Trail closures at Buntzen, and a new park on Vancouver Island

Gone is the old Strathcona Dam campground, which was permanently closed as of November 2020. In its place is the new Upper Campbell River Reservoir campground, which opened in February.

The new site is in a stunning location, features 21 formal campsites, trails and an informal boat launch. Not surprisingly, it's been full much of this spring, a trend that should only intensify as the weather warms.

Those planning to visit BC Hydro's most popular recreation sites, including the day-use areas at Buntzen Lake and Hayward Lake should be aware that the parking lots often fill up within minutes of opening on weekends, and that there are local parking restrictions in effect outside the parking lots. It's important that people do not park illegally, obstruct local roads, or block emergency access routes.

While Buntzen Lake's popular main trail loop remains open, a rockslide has closed pedestrian access on Powerhouse Road between North Beach and Buntzen Dam. Hikers completing the Diez Vistas trail should use the Old Buntzen Lake trail to access either Lakeview trail or the west side of Buntzen Lake trail to get back to South Beach and the main parking lot.

Get the latest trail closure updates and other restriction info on our Buntzen Lake and Buntzen Lake trails pages.