What to Expect from Alouette Lake
On the Vancouver side of Alouette Lake, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, is a large beach, campsite and picnic area with great facilities. BBQs, canoe and kayak rentals, a swimming area, toilets and changing rooms with running water and a huge car park all combine to make this a relaxing and convenient day out. Add mountain views and 16 km of pristine waters and you get something truly spectacular.
If you had visited 100 years ago however the lake wouldn't have even been half this size.
The History of Alouette Lake
Prior to the 1800s the area was for centuries the hunting and fishing grounds of the Katzie and Douglas-Lillooet peoples, indigenous groups based in the Lower Frazer valley. It is from the latter group in fact that the lake and its river derived their names.
Originally called Lillooet Lake and Lillooet River they were renamed Alouette in 1915 to avoid confusion with another Lillooet Lake further north. 'Alouette' is French for lark and was chosen as the new name because it sounded similar to the old one.
At this time the lake was only been about 2 km long but this was soon to change.
The Industrialisation of Alouette Lake
In 1891 two dykes had been built off the Lillooet River. In 1911 these had been dammed for the purposes of generating hydro-electric power, and Stave Lake had been created.
By the 1920s this complex had become insufficient so the newly renamed Alouette Lake was brought into the mix.
Between 1923-8 permission for a new dam was applied for and granted and Alouette Dam was built. This fed the Stave Lake hydro-electric plant via tunnels, supplying further electricity to the surrounding area.
It was not without its environmental impact however. Alouette Lake swelled to 8x its original size and local ecosystems were devastated. Salmon in particular was badly affected.
The dam was put up with no thought of how it might disrupt their migration patterns. As a result several species that once thrived here have since been wiped out.
Since the 1980s there have been efforts to reintroduce some of these into the river but the damage has not been undone.
Alouette Lake into the Modern Day
In 1967 the lake became part of Golden Ears Park, named for the Golden Ears Mountain that towers above it (which itself is likely a corruption of 'Golden Eyries Mountain', it having been named for the local golden eagles). This lead directly to the development of the campsite and beach on its western shore, about one hour's drive from Vancouver city centre.
Practical Information About Alouette Lake
The beach itself is more stony than sandy and can be muddy in places so its best to bring water shoes. The lake is also a popular spot for windsurfing, waterskiing and fishing so bring your equipment if you enjoy any of these sports.
On sunny summer days the car park can fill up. Get down early if you don't want to miss out, or book a spot at the campsite which is a walk away from the water (sites A85-91 are the closest).
In the off-season expect some facilities to be closed, and all year around dogs are not permitted on the main beach but are allowed in a designated area just up from it.
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