It’s official—Sproat Lake is the best lake in the province.
That’s according to a recent CBC competition, which saw online voters spend two weeks whittling down a list of B.C. lakes to determine the best in the province. After more than 100,000 votes were cast, the final came down to Sproat Lake against Shuswap Lake in the province’s southern interior.
Sproat Lake emerged the winner, by just 120 votes.
Sproat Lake is a 37-square-kilometre lake just west of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. It is made up of four “arms” and has three provincial parks on its shores (Sproat Lake Provincial Park, Taylor Arm Provincial Park and Fossli Provincial Park), along with a number of lakeside residences. It is also the current home of the Martin Mars water bombers, known around the province for their firefighting capabilities.
Formerly known by its Nuu-chah-nulth name of “Kleecoot” (meaning “wide open”) Sproat Lake was re-named in 1864 after Gilbert Sproat, a government agent who helped to establish the first sawmill in Port Alberni. The lake is located on the territories of the Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations.
Justin McElroy, a municipal affairs reporter for CBC Vancouver, organized the bracket for B.C.’s best lake. He has put together a number of other brackets for CBC, including “B.C.’s Best Roadside Attraction” (the winner was Goats on the Roof in Coombs) and “B.C.’s Best Small Town” (the winner was Kimberley, B.C.)
For McElroy, the brackets started out as a personal project, bolstered by his Twitter account. His first bracket, back in 2017, determined that Mr. Dressup was Canada’s most memorable TV show.
“People got excited about that,” McElroy recalls. “It went massively viral, and [the brackets] became a thing.”
For the “Best B.C. Lake” bracket, McElroy started out with a list of around 90-100 lakes, which was then narrowed down to a 48-lake shortlist, including Sproat Lake.
“It’s a lake on Vancouver Island that everyone on the Island knows about, from Port Hardy to Victoria,” said McElroy. “It’s known as a destination on the Island itself. There’s lots to do on the lake for many different people, and lots of different ways to enjoy it.”
But McElroy says the community support might have been the ultimate winning factor for Sproat Lake. In the final round of the bracket, people of Port Alberni put their support behind Sproat Lake, with everyone from politicians to the Port Alberni Fire Department telling people to “Vote Sproat!”
“It was super cool to see how Port Alberni got behind this,” said McElroy. “The number of votes coming from the area in the final round was massive.
Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, took to social media after the final result was announced to say that it’s no surprise Sproat Lake was voted best lake in B.C.
“We always knew it, but now we get to celebrate it with everyone,” she said. “We love this gem of a lake, with so many nooks and crannies for swimming, boating and camping.”
She acknowledged that it does “take a little extra effort” to get to Sproat Lake right now, due to the ongoing Highway 4 closures as a result of the Cameron Bluffs wildfire.
”But like so many great things in life, it’s worth it,” she added.