White-Water Rafting in British Columbia: much more than an adrenaline rush
Amongst the adrenaline rushes available to humans, white-water rafting is one of the most popular, most wide-spread and most exhilarating. Combine that with the breath-taking scenery observed from a river bed, and the excitement of viewing wildlife up close, and you’ll get a combination that becomes a lifetime memory.
While you’ll find white-water rafting opportunities on every continent (sans Antarctica), British Columbia boasts some of the best and most abundant white-water rafting on the planet. And with a short season on many rivers, demand for available trips is huge!
What are the different types of Rafting?
Rafting comes in several styles and is offered in various packages:
Let’s differentiate, first, between two kinds of rafting: paddle rafting and motorized rafting. Paddle rafting is human powered, dependent upon the efforts of the group. You work together as a team under the direction of a guide. Although the ride is usually somewhat smoother than the gyrations experienced in motorized rafting, it can provide a greater sense of accomplishment.
In motorized rafting, the clients are along only for the ride. A guide, operating an outboard motor navigates the roaring river. Motorized rafting is typically done in two circumstances: the clients are not strong enough paddlers or are non-swimmers; and water flows are too great or too turbulent to navigate safely with paddles. In both cases, the recipients get their most thrilling adrenaline rushes. A motorized trip will probably cover greater distances and navigate more rapids in the same time-frame.
Which is better?
Neither, they are just different. It all depends on one’s interests, abilities and “stomach” for the experience.
Where in British Columbia should you raft? British Columbia is filled with ideal rafting rivers—more than a hundred. The three most acclaimed rivers are the Tatshenshini, the Lower Thompson, and the Kicking Horse. The Tatshenshini, rated one of the top rafting rivers in the world, actually starts in Canada’s Yukon Territory, flows through BC and ends up in Alaska. Single-day trips, right up to 11-day expeditions are offered on the Tatshenshini. The route is through extreme wilderness beauty.
Where can I go rafting?
The Thompson/Fraser rafting route provides possibly the best day-trip option in the region. In spring and early summer the Lower Thompson swells to a flow of up to 115,000 cfs (average North American river: 1200 – 5000 cfs), serving up monstrous Class 4 and 5 rapids, before discharging into the larger Fraser River (up to 350,000 cfs). The result is an unparalleled adrenaline rush. Commercially, motorized rafting is offered at the highest water levels, for the safety of clients; paddle rafting is offered later in the season when water flow diminishes. The route is through incredibly scenic rolling hills, alluvial terraces, and eroded columns, with long colourful trains on both banks adding to the diversity.
The Kicking Horse River carves its path down from the high Rocky Mountain Pass of the same name. Tumultuous class 3 to 5 rapids carry paddlers through a deep river canyon to a destination near the community of Golden. The route is extremely popular because of its accessibility from the Rocky mountain resort towns of Banff and Lake Louise.
Most people enjoy the day-trip, or half-day trips offered up by many companies, but, as already noted regarding the Tatshenshini, multi-day wilderness excursions are also popular. These trips cover much greater distances, but also allow for a lazier float, a greater appreciation of the natural surroundings, and a higher likelihood of spotting wildlife.
Is white-water rafting dangerous?
It certainly would be for the novice who takes it on themselves to navigate one of these torrents. But, guided by experts, the risks are strongly mitigated. British Columbia is renowned for having amongst the most comprehensive river rafting regulations on the planet. Guides are trained and licensed, and there are river-specific operating guidelines for over 100 rivers in BC.
Ultimately, though, good judgement and risk management by experienced guides is the key to safety, and it should be up to the client to research and select from the most renowned operators, with good safety records. Companies that are members of the BC River Outfitters Association commit themselves to operating above the standards required by provincial and federal regulations
West Adventures provides white-water rafting options on many of its trips, and includes a half-day white-water rafting trip on either the Chilliwack or the Lower Thompson River on its BC and Rocky Mountains Spectacular itinerary.