Take Me To The River
5 Star Route / Published February 2022
This is a 5 Star Route, meaning that it is a highly curated, premier riding route.
Rugged, wild, scenic. Dreamy gravel. Could be one of the best rides around! This advanced route takes you high above the Fraser River, the most important river in British Columbia. A climb up to Cougar Point allows for some great views of the Fraser River running through the deep cliffs of Cougar Canyon. From there, be prepared as you traverse your way down a steep grade (23% in some spots, average 12.5%) to the river where you wind your way along on smooth gravel and flowing switchbacks gradually regaining 4700 feet over 36 miles. You might even see a few wild horses as you are rolling through the ranchlands. Views abound. Plan some extra time for grabbing some amazing photos!
Adventure / Gravel Route
– Lollipop: 59 miles / 6300 ft gain
– Technical Difficulty / Risk: Advanced
– Surface: ~100% gravel
– Tire Size (recommended min): 40mm
– eBike Friendly: Yes
– Location: ~ 1.5 hours northwest of Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
When we like to ride this …
Early spring to late fall is a great time to ride this route.
Kelly Lake parking area.
Lat / Long: 51.010796, -121.777636
Terrain and Riding: What to expect …
This route has incredible beauty with the overall gravel surface being smooth and fast, providing great traction. This is big, open territory!
The first half of the ride is dominated by the mighty Fraser River. The steep descent, the rocky cliffs, and the rolling, arid terrain. The second half of the ride is a long, gradual climb, up into the ranchlands of the Cariboo region of British Columbia with the Marble Mountains backdropping the views to the east.
Be cautious though, riders not accustomed to descending steep terrain at higher speeds will find the descent of High Bar Road (miles 7 to 13) a big challenge.
The back half of the ride can be more difficult than anticipated as the clinging adds up and there can be headwinds.
Highlights & Anchor Points
Cariboo Region of B.C.
This ride is exclusively within the Cariboo Region of British Columbia.
“The Cariboo is an intermontane region of British Columbia, Canada, centered on a plateau stretching from Fraser Canyon to the Cariboo Mountains. The name is a reference to the caribou that were once abundant in the region.
The Cariboo was the first region of the interior north of the lower Fraser River and its canyon to be settled by non-indigenous people and played an important part in the early history of the colony and province.”[Wikipedia]
Kelly Lake / ~ Start of Route
What does the remote 115-acre Kelly Lake have that other lakes don’t? Why are NASA and the Canadian Space Agency hanging about here? It has microbialites!
Do you know what a microbialite is? Not many people do. This is because microbialites look like slimy underwater rocks, but they are actually reefs made up of microbes(simple, one-celled organisms). Microbialites are fascinating, because these rock-like structures are made by the interaction of millions of microbes that live in certain aquatic environments. The microbes facilitate the precipitation of minerals from the water, to form the microbialite structure. Since microbialites are like rocks, they have remained on earth since extremely ancient times. Fossilized microbialites, known as stromatolites (from the Greek strõma, meaning bed or layer, and lithos, meaning rock), are the oldest evidence of life on Earth, dating back to 3.7 billion years ago. [Frontiers for Young Minds]
It is hoped that the research of the microbialites will help in the study of near-Earth asteroids and the exploration of Mars.
Cougar Point Lookout / ~ Mile 9.9
A spectacular scenic lookout of Cougar Canyon and the Fraser River. Oh yes, you will want to stop here for a few photos!
Fraser River / ~ Mile 14.3 to 25
The Fraser River, stretching 854 miles is the longest river in British Columbia, beginning on the western side of the Rocky Mountains at Mount Robson Provincial Park and ending in the Strait of Georgia at Vancouver. The river is named for explorer Simon Fraser, who in 1808, led an expedition and first descended its waters to the Pacific Ocean. In 1858, gold was discovered on sandbars south of Yale, setting off the Fraser River Gold rush.
The Fraser River and its tributaries are home to one of the most productive salmon fisheries in the world, supporting five species — sockeye, coho, chum, Chinook and pink. Numerous other species of fish are found here as well as a wide diversity of vegetation which includes lodgepole pine, white spruce, trembling aspen, Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce, alpine fir and western hemlock, with grassland found in the arid regions. A variety of wildlife species including woodland caribou, black-tailed deer, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, coyote, wolf, black and grizzly bear, muskrat, grouse and Steller’s jay inhabit areas along the river. [The Canadian Encyclopedia]
Marble Range Provincial Park / ~ Miles 36 to 59
The Park is named after its unusual limestone karst formations. These mountains feature caves, sinkholes and disappearing streams, as well as cliffs, chasms, and crenelated ridges.
The park is located at the southwest edge of the Cariboo Plateau and protects mostly alpine and subalpine habitats and ecosystems. The forests contain old-growth Douglas-fir, spruce, lodgepole and whitebark pine, ranging into subalpine parklands and extensive alpine tundra. The karst topography is unusual in BC and is protected in only a few other parks, mostly on Vancouver Island. Soils in the area are high in calcium, so they support a number of rare plants.
Marble Range Park is situated within the traditional territory of the Shuswap People. Three First Nations continue to use the park for sustenance, spiritual and cultural purposes.[BritishColumbia.com]
Technical Difficulty[what this means]
Riding Difficulty: Advanced
Be cautious of some steep descents with exposure. There are a few punchy climbs that might give your legs a workout. Heat in summer can be a factor, plan accordingly.
Navigation Risk: Low
Easy to navigate with only a few turns.
Locale Risk: Advanced
Remote backcountry. No cell reception, it is highly recommended to carry a satellite communication device.
Food & Water
~ mile 34.1 / Natural spring, you may want to use a filter.
Other Ride Notes
- Recommend larger tires for added comfort and floatation on the sandy bits. 40mm or wider.
- Respect private property, stay on the road at all times.
- It is highly encouraged to have a red blinky on your bike.
You can break the ride out into a 2-day ride by staying at the Echo Valley Ranch at ~ mile 37. The ranch is ~ 1 to 2 miles off the route.
- February 2022 / Original Post as a 5-Star Route.
The Fraser River Salmon
Given the importance of Fraser River salmon (ecologically, culturally and economically) and the intensity of development pressures in the Lower River, Raincoast has initiated the Lower Fraser River Conservation Program.
Their goal is to see healthy populations of wild salmon returning to the Lower Fraser River. Their work on the Lower Fraser is focused on research and restoration in the estuary and on building a broader vision for salmon habitat conservation and restoration through the whole Lower Fraser River.