The Spences Bridge-Merritt-Ashcroft Loop

The Spences Bridge-Merritt-Ashcroft Loop
Photos courtesy of Jan Lee and John Lee-Thiem

Widow Smith's burial site, Spences Bridge.

To Spences Bridge

Picking a scenic travel route in BC is a bit like gambling with perfect odds. No matter what you do, you can't lose.

Even when the weather seems to conspire against you, and you lose the hot sun and clear skies you were hoping for, great experiences still seem possible. So do breathtaking vistas, which are special attractions BC's coastal and mountain areas. As I recently discovered while travelling through the Merritt-Logan Lake and Ashcroft areas, there is actually a benefit to travelling during inclement weather. You experience things that you would have missed under sunny skies. The vista of clouds cradling snowy mountain tops, the fragrance of country spring rain, the wind filling the Fraser Canyon - all are familiar trademarks for this area at this time of year.

Determined to investigate sights we had not seen, my husband and I started off from Lytton early one Sunday morning. We were heading north on Highway 1 to Spences Bridge, 36 km (23 miles) away, where we would take Highway 8 to Merritt (65 km, or 41miles).

Nicola River

We had not gone far when we spied river rafters coming down the Thompson River. Even the inclement weather had not deterred these hardy voyagers.

Spences Bridge is frequently known for its great steelhead fishing. But it is also known for its unusual collection of historical characters - It is also known for its unusual collection of characters, including a pioneer by the name of Widow Smith. Her grave site marks a small park in the middle of town.

Merritt & Logan lake

Turning east, we followed Highway 8 along the Nicola River. Farm and ranch lands dot either side of the river which is high this time of year with spring runoff. Its muddy rapids mix with the Thompson river at Spences Bridge, only to be swallowed by the Fraser River further south at Lytton.

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N'kwala Recreation Site on the Nicola River.

There are a number of small camping sites on this road, including the N'kwala Recreation Site, which is run by the BC Forest Service. It is located about two thirds of the way to Merritt from Spences Bridge. The campground provides a perfect location for observing the river and is often fairly empty at this time of the year. One camper we met comes to this area each year to paint and "get away". He said that one of the redeeming qualities of the park is its unspoiled nature and almost primitive setting.


We enjoyed lunch at the Quilchena Hotel, 20 km (13 miles) north of Merritt on Highway 5A. It is a bit out of the way if you are heading to Logan Lake, but worth the jaunt. Follow the signs in Merritt that lead you to Hwy. 5A. The Coquihalla (Hwy. 5) parallels 5A and is easily accessible when you return from Quilchena Hotel. The hotel also offers rooms and has formal dining facilities as well as a golf course on site. The Nicola Ranch is also located on Highway 5A and there is a petting zoo on site for the little ones.

Nicola Ranch

After lunch, we headed to Logan Lake via the Coquihalla (70 km, or 44 miles) north. The Logan Lake area is well known for its fishing opportunities. There are dozens of lakes and parks to explore in this region, some of which offer lodging and tour services.

Each lake may differ according to its stock and terrain. If you are looking for a location for a good family outing, Chataway Lake has a variety of facilities and offers good fishing for small rainbows (take the Logan Lake-

Merritt Connector, then follow Aberdeen road). The other lakes on this road require a 4WD to access.



Sunset on Tunkwa Lake.

Tunkwa Lake is an extremely popular trophy lake 16 km (10 miles) north of Logan Lake. It also offers camping and lodging facilities. Follow the signs just west of the town centre on the Logan Lake - Ashcroft connector. Leighton Lake (next door to Tunkwa Lake) has been found to have good fishing as well.

The town of Savona, 25 km. (16 miles) north of Tunkwa will be hosting its annual fishing derby in mid July. Contestants will be fishing for Kamloops or rainbow trout and there will be more than $16,000 in prizes to be won. The registration fee is $25 and the derby is open to all ages. If you do decide to visit Kamloops lake, be aware that the road between Tunkwa and Savona is unpaved.

Leaving Tunkwa Park, we journeyed west towards Ashcroft on Highway 97C. The weather had cleared, leaving a silver hue to the sunset over Tunkwa. The air was cool, but not uncomfortable, and it was easy driving to Ashcroft (approximately 60 km, or 38 miles). On the way we passed the Highland Copper Mine, the largest mining operation of its kind in North America.

Highland Copper Mine

The descent to Ashcroft began quickly and we soon found ourselves on a steep hill that wound gracefully through sagebrush and high desert landscapes. The forest had disappeared, and before us stretched a unending vista of hills and mountain ranges.

Ashcroft sits at the base of a valley, nestled up against the Thompson River. Camping and lodging facilities can be found both in Ashcroft and Cache Creek, 5 minutes north of Ashcroft on Highway 1.

A number of activities will be taking place in Ashcroft and Cache Creek during the months of June and July. The Ashcroft and District Stampede takes place on mid June. Cache Creek's Barbecue and Barn Dance is scheduled for early July and a music festival takes place in late July.

From Cache Creek, there are any number of travel routes and sites to see. Highway 1 east takes you to Kamloops, while 97 north takes you to Clinton and Williams Lake. Of course, if you are interested in taking part in Canada Day celebrations, Highway 99 to Whistler will connect you with some excellent events. See Travellin' News for a list of upcoming festivals.

Copyright Jan Lee

Jan Lee

Be sure to read other articles by Jan Lee in the BC Adventure Network

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The Spences Bridge-Merritt-Ashcroft Loop