What Are Some Major Bodies of Water in British Columbia?


There are hundreds of bodies of water in British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada. The many rivers, lakes, straits and bays provide water sports such as canoeing, fishing and swimming. Many have provided sustenance for native people for thousands of years. Some are used to provide hydroelectric power as well. These bodies of water have also been subjects for artists and photographers for many years.


The Strait of Juan de Fuca is a boundary between the United States and Canada. To the north of the strait is Vancouver Island and to the south is the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. It was named by English Capt. John Meares after a legendary Greek sailor. There’s an actual boundary dispute between the United States and Canada over the western part of the strait.

The Strait of Georgia lies between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. It’s about 150 miles long and from 11.5 to 34 miles wide. There are several inhabited islands in the strait.

Vancouver Island is north of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Vancouver Island is north of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Lakes: Harrison and Emerald

British Columbia’s lakes tend to be long and narrow, and many of them are just a wider and deeper tributaries of the Columbia River.

Harrison Lake is the largest lake in Canada’s Southern Coast Mountains. It’s about 155 square miles, about 37 miles long, about 6 miles across and about 620 feet deep.

Emerald Lake is the largest lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park, and is surrounded by the President Range, Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain. It gets its blue-green color from sediment from The President glacier.

Harrison Lake
Harrison Lake (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Windermere and the Arrows

Windermere Lake is part of Windermere Lake Provincial Park. The park has no developed areas or facilities, and overnight use is prohibited, as are open fires. Hunting is allowed, in season.

The Arrow Lakes, upper and lower, are wide sections of the Columbia River in the Kootenay Land District.


The Parsnip River flows from the Parsnip Glacier to the manmade Williston Lake. It was named after the abundance of cow parsnip that grows on its banks.

The Peace River also originates in the Rocky Mountains, but flows through Alberta as well as British Columbia. The river was named to commemorate a treaty between the Beaver and Cree people in 1781.

The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It not only flows through British Columbia, where it begins in the Rocky Mountains, but flows through Washington and into Oregon where, after a journey of 1,243 miles, it empties into the Pacific Ocean. It's been a vitally important river for millennia. Its salmon runs have fed generations of people, and its many hydroelectric dams have provided electricity to millions of people.

Houses along the Peace River
Houses along the Peace River (Image: Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

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