Western Canada Trip Notes - August 2003

by Mark Rainsley

See all Mark's trip photos.

Full Report on the First Week of the trip.

Kicking Horse River - grade 3-4
This big glacial river has various gnarly sections, but we chose the rafting run down to the town of Golden to warm up. Quite good, but don't believe the guidebook which says you can portage stuff you don't likeit's continuous, and it's in a deep canyon.

Bobbie Burns Creek
- Grade 3+
Big volume river, very 'wild' feel to it - we saw bears twice on the epic shuttle, as well as moose on the river. Builds up to big grade 3 before a portage of an impressive waterfall. The guidebook says it is grade 4 after the portage. It isn't.

Toby Creek (7 canyons run) - grade 4-5+
Absolute classic. Fantastic grade 4 and 5 creek boating with loads of variation (there are, erm, seven different canyons), only spoilt by a crappy dangerous cliffhanger portage. The locals we met said we'd need seven hours for a first run down. This was red rag to a bull for Chris W, who flogged us through the run in about three hours, finishing only twenty minutes behind them.

Findlay Creek (middle canyon) - grade 3-4
Good technical paddling in a tight blind gorge, with a tree block to portage.

Findlay Creek (lower canyon) - grade 4- 6
Hard creek paddling and just as much portaging. A pretty strenuous run, not helped by my dropping my boat in the river during one climb. Not an especially recommended section.

Bugaboo Creek (middle section) - grade 4-5+
Very good, a small steep ditch with lots of variation and interesting falls. Some portages needed, but they don't hurt for once.

Yoho River - grade 4-5
Absolute classic, one of a kind. A sizeable glacial river in a very deep box canyon, only paddleable early in the morning. We launched at 7 am and got a perfect level of 2 metres. The Yoho gave pushy continuous and surprisingly steep (for the volume) paddling, along with cold water and absolute commitment - but amazingly, it is all paddleable down in there. Don't swim, for heaven's sake! Andy L done good, paddling well outside his comfort zone but in control.

Astoria River (upper section) - grade 4-5+
Weird. You make a strenuous trek in through dense bear-filled woods for an hour to access this. It looked low when we got on, and was indeed a bit bony for a while. The river steadily increases in gradient until it is steep beyond belief, yet with no real falls (or eddies!). It then enters a gnarly gorge with portages which is really rather good, but would likely be unrunnable in anything other than low water. Great scenery.

Astoria River (lower section) - grade 4
Truly terrible. It was too low, but this only became clear when the river braided out across a wide delta and we ran aground. Flows into the Athabasca River, a grade 2 float to Jasper.

Fraser River (upper canyon) - grade 4 (5+)
Lovely, big blue water in a canyon with a portage around Overlander Falls. However, this felt VERY easy after prior trips and took under an hour.

Clearwater River - grade 3 (5)
We stayed with Dr Chris Sladden in the town of Clearwater and lo and behold, this flows through his back yard. We paddled the 'Kettle', an entertaining and BIG grade 5 rapid, and then enjoyed the grade 3 float down to the backyard takeout. There are numerous natural ledges which make good playspots, although apparently the level was a bit low for really classic surfing. My wife loved it. Cheers Chris.

Cayoosh Creek - grade 4-5+
Superb trip, warm blue water and steep but (mostly) boat scoutable creeking. We each made portages in various places, and we each also had unplanned 'comedy' moments. Kevin was fall-guy of the day, first swimming in a pourover (the trip's only swim, perhaps my boofing over his boat didn't help) and later running the nasty final portage - by missing an eddy.

Gorgeous Cayoosh Creek

Soo River - grade 4-4+
A short cold run near the highway, we did this a few times at different levels. Quite good, there are enough blind drops to keep you awake.

Cheakamus River (upper section) - grade 4
Fantastic, possibly the best short (4 km) grade 4 section I've paddled. We did this endless times, getting the run down to under 20 minutes. The locals in Whistler do daily runs down this after work, lucky folk. Lots and lots and lots of stoppers, but seemingly all flushy and friendly. Even so, one hole gave Chris W 60 seconds of throwing ends in his creek boat! We walked in a few extra km first time, pleasant but not really worth it - added some grade 3.

Ashlu River (Mine section) - grade 5+
We had sketchy info on this and didn't like what we found - blind walled-in drops and very hard paddling in a canyon. We climbed out, no mean feat. We (I'm not ashamed to admit) needed a local to 'interpret' this river for us, although certainly not the one who'd directed us there in the first place, saying it WASN'T pushy or committing. Chris and I returned later but the valley was closed due to forest fire risk.

Skookumchuck Wave
Awesome tidal playspot. It's a biggish wave, but it's friendly, fun andwell, get there and take a look. Our sole trip concession to playboating and we didn't feel it was a wasted day.

Other rivers checked out in the Coastal ranges, but too low/ high/ access problems/ couldn't find the put-in/ valley closed, etcCallaghan, Ryan, Birkenhead, Rutherford, Elaho, Rogers, Squamish, etc. - we wasted a lot of time checking these out with sketchy info from localsthis area desperately needs a decent guidebook!

Mark Rainsley.