Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Steelhead Provincial Park

Location: 1 hour from Kamloops
Camping at Steelhead Provincial Park
Website:  BC Parks
Map: Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Strictly Car Camping
Grade: D-
Stargazing: Acceptable
Summary: A parking lot next to a lake
Thoughts: Being from Ontario, I have a certain expectation of crappiness that comes when one considers a stay in a car camping park.  The sites will be dense, there will be little that resembles a natural ecosystem, and there will be limited privacy.  The baseline expectation I had prior to arriving at Steelhead Provincial Park in BC was knocked a few notches down after my departure.  I don't know if people just have a different approach to camping in BC, but I was shocked at what was considered a campground upon my arrival from Highway 97.  There is little here that meets the low Ontario standard of car camping. 
Hello neighbour! Sites are separated only in spirit.

After the skies started to darken on the first day of a trip through the western moutain ranges, my wife and I started to narrow down the spots we could stay that would represent reasonable progress along our trek, but that was close enough Kamloops that we could just pick up a few last minute items for the rest of our trip (bear spray, we had been told, is essential in BC).  We turned up our noses as Juniper Beach as we passed by, since it looked like nothing more than a parking lot when viewed from the highway. Instead, we settled that Steelhead Provincial Park would be our best bet...which, to our surprise, was also little more than a parking lot. 

You start off by finding yourself a parking stall (each is equipped with a fire pit and picnic table that doubles as your permit post) and the campground host makes their way around to check you in.  The check in is simple (they take credit and debit cards for the $21 fee - 2012) and they also take the opportunity to sell you wood wrapped in plastic.  I believe the price was 2 bundles for $12 or 1 for $8.  We took the opportunity to stock up a bit, because we didn't know if future parks would be providing wood and the plastic wrap prevented a wood splinter mess in the back seat.  Gone are the days when BC Parks provided free, unlimited firewood at their kidding, there are signs everywhere stating that they no longer provide free, unlimited firewood...seriously?  Free?  Unlimited?  Was their operating revenue burning a hole in their pocket?  The host will provide you with a slip that will be clipped onto your picnic table (see above).

The campground has showers (hence the $21 camping fee, rather than the typical $16) and a beach that looked unloved as it was littered with driftwood, coarse sand and was generally unappealing. 

To be clear, the customer service at this campground left nothing to be desired.  However, as you can see from the photos, the designers of this park were not trying very hard; there's hardly any undergrowth, the sites are gravel and it wasn't clear to me where you'd pitch your tent if you weren't sleeping in a camper.  Some of the northwestern most sites were of slightly higher quality, and the scenery was probably the only somewhat redeeming feature. In the end, I can't really thing of any good reason to actually recommend that you stay here unless there is some sort of mechanical trouble with your car that requires you to pull off the road to save the lives of you and your family. 

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