Can anyone visit a lake?

A frozen lake with a mountain backdrop.

Access to lakes and along waterways such as creek beds or rivers is a complex legal question, with different laws applying in different parts of Canada.

While lakes themselves are generally considered public resources, the land surrounding a lake can be privately owned, and the owner of that land can restrict public access. Likewise, roads can also be privately owned. This largely prevents access to many, if not most, of the lakes on Vancouver Island.

Access to the outdoors is a big issue on Vancouver Island, and it should be. While the island is known and loved for its wilderness, much of the land beyond Victoria is owned or managed by forestry companies, which often prevent access to reduce vandalism, liability, or the risk of forest fires.

In many European countries the “right to roam” is a generally accepted, legally mandated principle, but it does not exist in British Columbia.

If you would like more access to the outdoors, you need to influence government and get involved with local advocacy groups. Write to your member of parliament and join a community group working towards preservation and access.

Learn more in the full Lakes of Victoria, BC guidebook.