LIFE BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 'COMFORT ZONE'
THE WHISTLER AREA, SOUTHWEST B.C. - THE RIVERS
First published in Canoe Kayak UK
NOTE: Treat these notes with huge caution. In October 2003, the Coast Range rivers had a 100 year flood, washing away bridges and diverting river courses...assume that much will have changed.
Information is sketchy. Stuart Smith's promised third guidebook, covering southwest B.C., is still 'coming soon'. This leaves three obvious information sources: the guidebook 'Whitewater in B.C.'s Southwest' and the 'kayakwest' web site at www.figment-seadog.com/kayakwest. However, these will NOT give you a run down on all good rivers in the area. The following will give you an idea of the surprisingly wide range of rivers that are available in the area. BUT be warned- we have only paddled a few of these ourselves- don't even think about getting on any of these rivers without obtaining further up to date, detailed, reliable information.
Grade 4+/5+. If this is your bag, you shouldn't need advice from me. Obtain detailed information from local boaters who have actually paddled it. Get a second opinion. Get a third one. Better still, find local paddlers to run this with, but only if they have run it before. There are two classic sections. The tougher lower section is 'Commitment' or 'Box Canyon', running from the second bridge, where the forestry track, heading upstream, crosses the river from river right to river left (and where the gauge is), down to a landslide. The 'easier' tough upper section is the 'Mine Run', finishing at the same bridge and starting 4-5 kms upstream via a trail marked with tape.
A 4-5 kms grade 4/5 section of this creek located about 10 kms north of Pemberton, that finishes just before the confluence with Gates River. Find local boaters who have run this to obtain accurate information.
The lower Grade 4/5 section just west of Lillooet is excellent, where the river drops away from the road. Check out kayakwest for details. There are further easier sections upstream, which are featured in the guidebook and are visible from the road.
This is a highly rated grade 4/5 run, featuring a couple of 25ft waterfalls, located 10 kms south west of Whistler. The section runs for about 8 kms down to Highway 99 and access is via the river left forestry road. Obtain further up to date information from local boaters.
The Upper Cheakamus, located 5 kms southwest of Whistler, is a classic paddle and locals' favourite, offering 4 kms of continuous grade 4/4+ (depending on water levels). There are easier sections further downstream. Check out both the guidebook and kayakwest for further details.
A low volume steep grade 5 in a gorge, running down to Highway 99, located a few kms north of Squamish. Find local boaters who have run this to obtain detailed information.
This is a larger volume river, featuring grade 3 and 5 sections, although the harder section tends to be too high until late in the season. It is located north west of Squamish, close to the Ashlu and Squamish. The harder section consists of a grade 5, 6 kms gorge and you must obtain information from local boaters before even thinking about running it. The easier section is featured in the guidebook.
This features a grade 2/3 section, located between Whistler and Pemberton. Check out the guidebook for further details.
As a regular at Hurley Weir, I couldn't resist including this one! Hurley Creek is reputedly a good grade 4/5 creek, located about 30 kms north of Pemberton, north of the Ryan and Lillooet. Supposedly it tends to be too high before September. Talk to local boaters.
This is a larger volume river featuring grade 2/3+ sections about 50 kms north west of Pemberton. Check out the guidebook.
A short grade 3 section, located just to the north of Squamish, close to the kayak shop. Check out the guidebook for further details.
A classic grade 4/5 run, featuring a very photogenic big triple drop, located about 60 kms south east of Pemberton. Check out kayakwest for further details. Talk to locals to find out the latest news concerning the troublesome local landowner- be careful.
This is another classic grade 4/5 run, located just to the south of Pemberton. Much of the run consists of continuous white water, including a couple of portages. An American drowned on this run in low water in 2003, so be careful. The section runs for about 12 kms down to Highway 99. Sadly, the run may not be available by the Summer of 2004 due to a hydro scheme that is currently under construction. The plus side is that the scheme will feature a new white water artificial course where the river meets Highway 99.
A large steep grade 4/5 run, located 15 kms north west of Pemberton. Getting to the river is difficult however. Immediately after passing a rafting centre on the left of the road, you will see a private drive on the left and a sign saying 'Valleau'. Ask the family permission at the first house you come to. Ask very nicely. Beforehand however, you will have to obtain accurate up to date information on the river from locals. Good luck.
A very popular short section of grade 4+ located just to the south of Pemberton and easily accessible from Highway 99. Check out the guidebook and kayakwest for further details.
A tough pool drop run (grade 5?) that includes a compulsory 60 footer, located about 5 kms west of Squamish (that flows into the Mamquam). Canada's 'Rapid' magazine features an epic account of this that will put you off. Ask local boaters.