There are many ways to see the Canadian Rockies. You can ride a bike, fly over them in a helicopter, drive the scenic highways, go for a hike, take a gondola ride, ski down them or sit on a patio drinking a beer with the mountains as your backdrop. I’ve done all of them. But another great way to see the jaw-dropping scenery with a dose of adrenaline is to go whitewater rafting. There are a number of rivers one could raft but the most popular is no doubt the Kicking Horse. As you can imagine from the rivers name, it packs a punch or well, a kick. Though I probably should have been resting after a 6-day horseback riding trip in the backcountry, we decided to add a rafting trip with Alpine rafting in Golden, British Columbia.
We woke early in Canmore, Alberta to make the two-hour drive to the Golden, BC head office where we got fitted up with a wetsuit, helmet and a GoPro camera, which I added on separately. The day was looking beautiful, with blue skies, a hot sun and a freezing silty-blue river just waiting to douse us with its rapids.
The rafting trip began with an easy part of the river called the Upper Canyon. This part of the river is mostly calm and unexciting but the views were as always, breathtaking. It’s also a great way to get a feel for the raft and to practice the commands, which the guide would be giving us when the rapids got a little more dangerous.
After this 30-60 minute “cruise”, we stopped for a delicious BBQ lunch and got ready for the extreme parts of the river. We started with the Middle Canyon, which provided enough enough class-3 and 4 rapids to make the day exciting. Our guide would shout paddle forward, paddle back, hang on and get down as we crashed into the white water waves, getting drenched by the glacier-fed river. It’s hard to believe that just 12-hours before hitting us in the face, this water was part of a glacier. As the sun warmed us up and we awaited the next shock of ice-cold water, a cargo train chugged by us on the track next to the river, blowing its horn and passing through the mountain tunnels next to us.
For many, these two sections of the river are they will see. However, for those looking for a little more adventure and when lucky enough to be there on a day its open, the Lower Canyon is the ultimate thrill. From the moment we entered the water, the adrenaline was surging through all of us. We had just one minute to go over the commands before we would hit rapid after rapid after rapid. The girls would scream and the water would splash over the boat, engulfing us in its fury. Just as the water cleared in front of my face and I could finally see the views in front of me, another one would come and I would put the paddle into the water and plow right through it.
That is the job after all, of the people who choose the front. Actually, it’s the job of everyone in the boat. Whether you’re approaching a rapid or going through it, if the guide is yelling paddle, you paddle! That’s part of the fun. Enjoying the intense power of the river while still having the responsibility of keeping the boat upright.
After dozens of rapids smashed into us, we eventually hit calm water again and glided softly into the town of Golden. The sun was shining brightly as we passed campgrounds, houses and kids waving hello to us. As I sat there in awe at the scenery surrounding us, I couldn’t help but wish we had another rapid coming up. The adrenaline was now fading as the trip reached its end.
Want to do this trip? Head on over to www.AlpineRafting.com and book the Ultimate WhiteWater Rafting package. If you’d like to skip the first part, book yourself in on the Kicking Horse challenge. Both trips offer the Lower Canyon. Beware though, the Lower Canyon is often closed, especially in early July. However, if it is closed the day you arrive, you’ll simply do the Middle Canyon twice, which is also a heck of a lot of fun.
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Have you been rafting before? Where? Let us know in the comments!