Lake Eniwa Canoeing


Posted on Aug 1, 2019
26 2

Posted on Aug 1, 2019

26 2


0.5 day(s)





Water clarity




Best season

Lake Eniwa (恵庭湖) is an artificial lake on the pristine Izari River (漁川). The lake itself is less pristine, being a classic Hokkaido reservoir lake, with variable muddy access at the river intake end. However, there are a couple of waterfalls closer to the Izari River Dam (漁川ダム) itself, which make this a worthwhile lake to potter about on for a morning. The northern shoreline also features some small sandstone cliffs, and if visiting in early spring or autumn, paddlers should get some impressive views of the volcanic organ-pipe rock formations on the higher cliffs.

We visited this route on Jul 21, 2019

Last updated Mar 23, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Lake Details

This route is on Lake Eniwa (恵庭湖).The lake is a dam lake, about 0.3km wide and 2.5km long. It has a shoreline of 6km and a maximum depth of 45m. The lake is at 162m above sea level.


This route is on Lake Eniwa, which is an artificial lake created by the Izari River Dam ,to the west of Eniwa City, about 25km south of Sapporo City. Access to the lake is less than ideal, and requires a portage of up to 500m along a gravel road which stars from the main road, here. This portage may also involve a muddy trek across the upper section of the lake, depending on where the Izari River is flowing. Old 1990’s guide books indicate a bridge and access road on the northern side of the lake, but this no longer exists. It appears the lake water level is maintained quite low, so you’ll be putting in onto the Izari River. For the first 500m or so you’ll be floating down this very clear river till you get to the lake.

General notes

Old 1990’s guidebooks had lovely looking photos of a full lake, and bare rock cliffs. Today’s reality was a little bit different. It looks like the dam hasn’t been completely full in quite a while, although it may increase with rain about 2m or so, by the looks of the high-water marks along the shoreline. That said, we’re keen to return in early spring or autumn, where a lack of foliage should give a better water-side view of the rock formations on the higher cliffs.

Route description

See the put in location notes for the relatively convoluted put in. Once on the Izari River, float down to the lake and head east towards the dam. The wind can whip around in all directions on this lake, so we recommend hugging the shoreline – you’ll get better views of the cliffs and small waterfalls this way too. Just before the driftwood fence, there’s an area where canoes can be landed, and a short walk will lead you to the main waterfall on the route. Back on the water, it is important not to cross the driftwood fence. Carry on back up the lake to the river.

Route Timing
Trip time: 2hrs 0min

This lake-circumnavigation route is hardly a marathon, and you could happily be done in an hour. But there’s the waterfall near the dam that’s worth stopping at for a short walk, so make sure to allow extra time for this sort of pottering.


Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

There’s just enough room on the side of the road on the Eniwa-bound side of Route 117 for two cars to park, right in front of the avalanche shelter entrance. Right here. There’s a very faint white line about 2m out from the guard-rail, so park inside this. If you’re in a 4WD, you’d be able to drive up onto the footpath on the opposite side.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Shimamatsu-yama (島松山) – map no. NK-54-14-11-2

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

Note that the access road is used by construction vehicles, so always give them the right of way.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Lake Eniwa


Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to the lake is probably the Eniwa Honoka (えにわ温泉ほのか, here, 750yen)  – one of a chain of full-feature onsen facilities. It’s about 17km due east from the lake, however.

Extra Resources

See the write-up on p. 20-21 of the Hokkaido Canoe Touring Book (in Japanese) by Tamata (1993).

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Route Trip Notes

Eniwa has always been rather close to our hearts, in a we-always-drive-through-it-but-never-stop-there way. It is on the way to Chitose, and it does have a nice michi-no-eki local food store and road stip. So when I saw the write-up of Lake Eniwa in one of the old canoe touring guidebooks, we figured we’d give it a go. We met Jacob at the dam, and then drove from there to the other end of the lake. We were happy to see that the lake wasn’t too low – we’d been expecting much worse considering the lack of rain we’d had of late.

A bridge indicated on the map in the guidebook is no longer there, but there’s now a gravel access road to the end of the lake, apparently used by construction personnel to extract gravel from the riverbed. We parked up just up the road from the entrance to the gravel road, and started the 500m portage down to the river. It felt a long way…

Mercifully, the river/lake-bed up this far on the lake was not too muddy. The clamber down the bank to the river bed was sketchy though, and required some careful side-stepping. Once on the riverbed we were pleasantly surprised by how pristine the Izari River was. Ultra clear and cool. Overall a pleasant start to the trip despite the tedious portage and muddy/dusty approach.

Once we were on the lake proper, we battled a strong headwind and side wind for about 15 minutes. The wind seemed very localized, whipping around the spurs and valleys along the lake. We paddled for a bit in the middle of the lake before taking relative shelter along the steep shoreline. Along this northern shoreline there’s nowhere to land for about 2km.

After about 30 minutes of paddling, we arrived at a marshy landing near the driftwood fence at the dam end of the lake. We spent about 20 minutes wandering around looking at what there was to see. Grass, waterfall, moss, lizards, and fish jumping. Not a bad wee spot, but plenty of small mosquitoes which made standing still for any amount of time not very appealing. I imagine the flat area we landed on would be submerged if the lake level was a little higher.

After the wander we got back in the boats and carried on to complete the circumnavigation, skirting along the driftwood fence as we went. The highlight of the return paddle was a small waterfall about 200m or so upstream from the driftwood fence.

The wind was whipping up and around on the return paddle also, particularly at the river end of the lake. Here it was very shallow, and we had to choose our lines carefully to avoid getting beached. When we put in, we were able to put in quite high upstream in the Izari River, but we opted to take out a little further downstream on the return. This meant traipsing through about 5cm of estuary-like mud on the surface of the gravel. Not ideal, and a little disconcerting – was I about to step into quicksand?!

The portage back to the car was longer this time too, of course. My shoulders were feeling it towards the end.

Overall, however, this was a nice enough blat on what may be the closest lake to where we life. Less than an hour’s drive. In autumn it should be stunning with all the red leaves, and in spring, the rocky hills should be more visible without the thick foliage. Of course with a little more water in the lake, there’d be less muddy portaging to be done too. I get the feeling we may be back here again at some stage for another paddle. I’ll just bring someone else along to carry the canoe!

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Lake Eniwa, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Lake Eniwa Canoeing”

  1. I am very impressed about your website and all the details you collected and shared to everyone for free here. I just arrived in Hokkaido for a short 5-days trip and I brought my pack raft with me and will do 2-3 of your trips. Thank you.

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Lake Eniwa Canoeing Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



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GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.