E.C. Manning Park is such a fantastic Provincial Park, East of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. I have visited several times now (in all kinds of weather conditions), mostly so we could go hiking. However on our last visit, we thought it might be fun to rent a boat and go paddling on Lightning Lake. The boathouse by the day use area at the lake will let you borrow a paddle boards, canoes, or kayaks. We hired canoes for a couple of hours to paddle through this beeeautiful scenery.
It turned out to be the prefect way to spend a day in the sun – plus we got to see otters and a beaver!
Rent a boat in Manning Park – the basics
What kind of boats are available:
Regular boats : 2 seater canoes, rowboats, kayaks or stand up paddle boards
Big Boats: 5 seater McKenzie canoes
Can you book in advance:
We were told it is first come first served. But there were price lists for multiple days, so you could pay for that if you want to ensure they’ll be a boat available.
Regular boats: $25 (1 hour) $38 (2 hours)
Big boats: $35 (1 hour) $48 (2 hours)
Dates you can rent a boat:
May long weekend until Thanksgiving
The boathouse has plenty of life jackets (PFD), in various sizes which are included in the price. Make sure you wear one.
Firstly, I should probably mention that we had not really planned to hire a canoe. Our original plan had been to hike the Lightning Lake loop that I had done once before in the snow. We woke up, had a leisurely breakfast at the Lightning Lake campground and then set off for this short(ish) walk around the lake.
Once we made it around to the Lightning Lake day use area and boat house it was around 10am. That’s a late start for hiking, but it was early for people who hire boats, so there were only a couple of people out on the lake.
Our friends were planning to leave after lunch, so I stopped to speak to the Manning Park boathouse staff to enquire about renting a boat later in the afternoon. The lady I chatted to said that if we fancied it, it might be better to go straight away while it was still quiet.
We were pretty easy to persuade! It was a hot day, so heading straight out on the water sounded like a great way to spend the morning. We chose to hire 2 canoes so we could chase our friends around the lake.
Paddling on Lightning Lake – tips for newbies
If you are not used to canoeing or kayaking, don’t worry too much! I don’t even remember the last time I have paddled, but the staff told us the basics, and then you can work it out pretty quickly. These were the main things that helped up paddle speedily with the least amount of effort:
- Try to keep the paddle blade vertical as you swoosh through the water. It maximizes the forward propulsion with each stroke.
- Paddle on the opposite side of the boat to your partner (it’s more stable)
- Keep in synch with your partner
Lightning Lake Shape
If you have ever been to Manning Park, you may already know the wibbly shape of Lightning Lake – it is more like two lakes, linked by a narrow section where you can cross over on Rainbow Bridge. You can see the map of the shape on my other post here. We started off by seeing how far we could paddle; Heading towards the second, long skinny lake, where there were fewer people.
End of Lightning Lake
It took us around 40-45 minutes to paddle to the furthest part of the lake. So, if you are only planning to paddle for an hour, you may not be able to make it all the way here and back.
Wildlife in Lightning Lake
We saw plenty of fishes (I think they were trout) jumping out of the lake. However the best part was seeing a pair of otters, just as we were turning around to head back. I have never seen otters before, so I spent my time going “squeeee,” rather than taking good photos! You can sort of see them in this photo!
We have also seen ground squirrels, pikas, a bear, snowshoe hares, eagles and plenty of cheeky whisky jacks close to this lake. Later that afternoon I saw a beaver too. E.C. Manning Park is fabulous for spotting wildlife.
Swimming in Manning Park
Looking at these photos, the water looks like it should be warm and tropical. However it was actually pretty chilly. Just be aware, if you think of jumping in the water while you paddle, you may end up colder than you expect! Marc and I swam a few times here – our favourite spot is in the calm area near the campground.
If you are planning to swim, please don’t wear insect repellent that includes DEET, and choose a mineral based, lake-friendly sunscreen.
Our favourite area of Lightning Lake
One of the nicest spots for paddling is the little bump at the top of the lake, near the Lightning Lake campground. It can be hard to spot the opening to this quiet section from the main lake, but it’s close to the boathouse. It’s calm, shady and has great views of Frosty Mountain.
This is heading back to the main lake – you can see that this little area is slightly hidden. Do watch out for it as it was a pleasure to explore.
We all really enjoyed canoeing on Lightning Lake. Two hours was the perfect amount of time (much longer and I would probably have looked like a lobster, even with oodles of sun cream!) The cold water helps to keep you cool, even on very warm days, so paddling was an absolute pleasure. My arms were pretty tired that evening though.
Hike the Lightning Lake Loop
Once you have finished paddling, if you still have some energy, you can also hike around Lightning Lake. The hike is only 8.5 km, so you can walk the whole way around in a couple of hours. We were a bit too hot to walk after paddling, so we ate lunch, spent a few hours in our hammock; Before doing this walk in the late afternoon once it started to cool down a little.
Meeting a Beaver
I was very happy to see the otters while we paddled on the lake; However the real highlight of my day was seeing a beaver. This was in the late afternoon, so there were no other walkers at the far side of Lightning Lake. We came around a bend to see a beaver munching on some flowers at the edge of the lake! He watched us for a couple of minutes, then swam off towards rainbow bridge.
Marc and I were so excited to see him (or her!?) that we ran along the path to try to keep up and see the beaver swim. He was taking his time, so we kept getting ahead, and were able to watch him swim up. The path is not always close to the lake, so we’d run through the trees, only to cut back to the lakeshore to spot for him (hoping he didn’t change direction…)
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When we saw other hikers, we told them we were watching for a beaver, so by the time the beaver swam through the narrow section of the lake, there was a small crowd of humans waiting to watch him pass. This may not be exciting for most Canadians, but I was soooo happy to see this little fella!
If you are thinking about renting a boat one summer, E.C Manning park is a fantastic place to do this. The lake is large enough to make it feel like you are going on a mini adventure. The scenery is beautiful, the forest is calming and there is plenty of wildlife for you to see by the water. Hiking will always be my favourite activity, but it turns out paddling is fun too!
If you are Camping at Lightning Lake and would like some more ideas of things to do nearby. I have a few other posts that you might enjoy.
- Skyline Trail to Lone Goat Mountain (for spectacular mountain views and alpine flowers)
- The Three Brothers hike (Your car takes you up the mountain, so this entire hike is up in the alpine)
- The Dry Ridge trail (Super easy hike on top of a ridge)
- Windy Joe (Hike up to a historical fire lookout)
- Lightning Lakes Chain trail (Great for cloudy days or shoulder season – hike to four gorgeous lakes)
- Three Falls trail (Short hike to three picturesque waterfalls)
- Lightning Lake Loop (easy loop hike – this post is from when we did it in the snow)