Over the August long weekend, three of my friends and I went to camp at Semaphore Lakes, a place in the backcountry north of Pemberton where you can camp among heather meadows. It is a beautiful place, but one that is reeling from how popular it is.
Locomotive and Tender from the campsite
The way to access it is from a pullout on a logging road. When we came there, there were 23 other cars. Since the pullout can only take three, the rest were all parallel parked along the edge of the road.
The camp itself is in the alpine, among a series of small lakes and tarns, with great views of the Railroad Group. There is little running water except upstream of the lakes, and many campers, including us, get their water from the lakes. Some campers also wash their dishes in the same water. The tarn we used to get water had soap suds floating in it. There was also some garbage we found that we took out. And that makes me think that the proportion of people who pack out their crap isn’t exactly 100% either. An outhouse would help make Semaphore Lakes less shitty, literally. The camping area is, as I mentioned, a heather meadow, so there is very little dead wood, and things grow very slowly. Yet people are camping on vegetation, and burning campfires. We did it too. There were a ton of mosquitoes and everyone around us was burning a campfire, so we said to hell with it. I know, we were wrong. But people are relatively law-abiding – and into passive aggressiveness! If there was a sign banning campfires, I bet there would be way less of them.
One of the larger among the Semaphore Lakes
What it amounts to is the Semaphore Lakes are being “loved to death”. And I can only imagine that it will become more and more popular. I don’t know what to do about this more generally, but probably small steps like putting in an outhouse will alleviate some of the issues. But currently the area isn’t protected or cared for in any way as far as I know, and that’s just not a tenable solution.
There is a petition and accompanying website that I just saw on facebook to ask the BC government to turn Semaphore Lakes into a Provincial Park. I encourage you to sign it if you think it’s a good idea. Comments say that a conservation or recreational site designation may be other options to give the area some protection. I am not well versed in what is the best step forward. But I think some sort of protective step does need to be taken.