The T-shirt motto, “Life’s a Beach” certainly applies to a Shuswap summer, when residents and tourists alike flock to the shores of Shuswap Lake to enjoy the sun, the water and the scenery. But since not all beaches are created equal, there are some that are definitely better than others.
There are certain criteria that can be used to rank Shuswap and Mara Lake shorelines for summertime pleasures. Key factors for ranking the beaches include: sand, access, cleanliness and temperature of water, depth of water, safe swimming, nearby hiking trails, shade availability, lack of weeds and peacefulness. Since the vast majority of the lakes’ shorelines are either steep or rocky, the ideal beaches are rather few and far between.
Most of the Shuswap’s sandy beaches, where children love to play and adults love to relax, are located on or near the fans of creeks and rivers. But sand alone does not make for a great beach. The Sicamous beach has marvellous sand, but most of the small swimming area is very shallow and the scenery is hardly pristine. And there is a wonderful sandy beach at the end of Anstey Arm, but you need a boat to get there.
Using the criteria above, here is what I think are Shuswap and Mara Lakes’ top five beaches in no particular order: Silver Beach in Seymour Arm, Mara Lake Provincial Park, the Adams River mouth beach at Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, Ross Creek CSRD Park, and Little Shuswap Lake at Chase.
Silver Beach has the best sand, great views and very clean water, but the access is difficult with and hour and half of gravel logging road. Adams River has fabulous sand, a spectacular view and huge cottonwoods for shade; however the mosquitoes can be pesky until August. There are some rocks in the sand at Ross Creek, but the distant view of Copper Island is glorious and the sun lasts until very late. Mara Lake and Chase have all the right attributes, although most of the swimming area is very shallow in Chase.
For the second tier of high valued Shuswap beaches it is necessary to drop the requirement for sand. The next five top beaches in no particular order are: Albas Provincial Park, Herald Provincial Park, Canoe, Shuswap Lake Provincial Park, and Sicamous.
Albas is picturesque with a rounded pebble beach and there is a great hiking trail past numerous waterfalls, but the drive on the logging road is tedious. The lawn, views and proximity to town helps make Canoe enjoyable, despite the muddy bottom and cloudy water. The trees, lawn and nearby falls and trails make Herald Park a very enjoyable place for swimming and picnics. And Sicamous is great for families with its water park, lawns and volleyball court.
There are of course other sandy beaches, but most of these are either private or charge substantially for access. The beach near the Quaaout Lodge was once a very popular destination for Kamloops summer beach lovers, but it is now only available for lodge guests. There is great sand and views at Pierre’s Point and Sandy Point, but these areas are very packed, private campgrounds. Also, the water here, especially later in the summer can get warm and questionable as the lake water quality in Tappen and Salmon Arm Bays has been steadily deteriorating.
West Blind Bay Beach has two swimming docks
A few years ago, we did a marathon one-day tour of eight beaches, from Chase to Mara Lake. Although the weather was perfect, most of the beaches were busy but not packed. The best swim was actually at the west Blind Bay beach, where the water is clean and there are two docks. There was some oil on the water at Mara Lake and as happens elsewhere, the fumes from the speed boats and jet skis were at times disturbing.
The final stop was the shoreline just east of Canoe that some locals refer to as “nipple beach” due to its clothing optional reputation. It is just a short hike down from the highway and across the tracks to a rocky beach with clean water and a fabulous view of Bastion Mountain.
We have since discovered another fabulous sandy beach with shade in the afternoon in Scotch Creek at the end of Express Point Road. There is ample parking and few people use it as it is not an official CSRD park.
It seems fewer and fewer people actual go to the beach now and fewer people actually swim, as most lounge around in the water on air mattresses or other floaties. Given the extreme heat and the dangers of sun exposure another key attribute for a good beach is ample shade, which can be difficult to find.