Sproat Lake, the “hidden gem” of Port Alberni, has been voted B.C.’s best lake.
More than 100,000 people voted for their favourite B.C. lakes in a bracket poll hosted by CBC reporter Justin McElroy from July 24 to August 2. Port Alberni residents banded together to ensure Vancouver Island’s Sproat Lake got the top spot, edging out 120 more votes than Shuswap Lake in the final round.
“We’re the best kept secret that’s been let out of the bag in the last five years,” says Port Alberni city councillor Cindy Solda. “We have great views: the sunrise and sunset, the clean water, and the mountains and trees. You can just lay in the lake and look at the clear sky.”
The lake is adjacent to the Snow Creek forestry recreation site, as well as three provincial parks, including the 37 sq. km. Sproat Lake Park. Its public beaches are perfect for swimmers, boaters, and fishers who want warm, crystal clear water, Solda says. Many waterfront cabins also have their own private beaches along the 90 km shoreline.
“I’ve gone into lakes where you go, ‘Yuck, I need a shower’ after going in the water. You don’t feel that way here,” Solda says.
Sproat Lake has a deep historical connection to its adjacent communities. The CEO for Port Alberni’s Chamber of Commerce, Jolleen Dick, says the lake was an important sawmill location for early settlers. It also features an archaeological site called K’ak’awin, which is home to a collection of nine prehistoric petroglyphs.
“There’s a spiritual connection to the First Nations of the Alberni Valley, and it really demonstrates that they have been here since time immemorial,” Dick says. “The lake is special to everybody.”
The lake community has since transitioned from forestry to tourism—many bed and breakfasts, windsurfing shops, and hiking trails have been established in the valley. Dick says the media attention could help these businesses financially recover after June wildfires pushed away vacationers.
“Everyone drives by when visiting west coast villages,” she says. “The vote highlights what we already knew—that Sproat Lake is a hidden gem. Now, it’s out there in the world for people to come visit and enjoy.”
Port Alberni community members are proud that Sproat Lake has finally been recognized.
“We want the tourists,” Solda says. “The lake life is where it’s at.”