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BC Trip Report '06

Our second voyage to research for "The River Gypsies' Guide to North America" took us back to one of our favorite paddling destinations - British Columbia. After spending a week boating with us out there, Brushy Mountain team paddler John Pilson said that it was his best week of paddling ever. We think the same thing every time we spend a week up there - which is why we keep going back. Here's the report:

Mostly Shut Down in the Kootenays
We crossed into Canada with high hopes of finding some water, and headed to the Elk River near Fernie, BC. We had some sorta ok beta about it - there was supposed to be a 40 footer, a hard put-in, and some class IV/V rapids in a gorge. We managed to find the putin and the waterfall (which would require some serious trespassing to run), and the gorge. We talked to a local who said it was still higher than he liked to go. Based on the epic putin (400 foot climb down a near vertical railroad track with your boat tied to your waist), the possibly high-ish water level, the inescapable gorge, and the fact that there were just two of us, we decided to bag it and try to find water elsewhere.

We headed over to the Kaslo/Nelson area, where we found everything to be just a little bit too low. Up to Nakusp and Kuskanax Creek - same deal, we should have been there a couple weeks earlier. We finally made our way to Revelstoke, where there was not quite enough water for a huck on Sutherland Falls (a 60 footer that I had been wanting to check out).

Leland scouting Sutherland - just a little bit too low to be a "go".

There was enough water to have a go on the Jordan, though - a site of much frustration for us in 2003.

The Jordan valley from our campsite with Revelstoke, Mt. MacKenzie and Mt. Cartier in the background.

We had some questionable beta in 2003 when we headed to the Jordan, and ended up not really getting on the river at all. In trying to get to the "put-in", we drove through a pretty substantial cross ditch in the old '83 Ford Van. Upon reaching the next cross ditch, we decided it wasn't good to go in the van and made a 27 point turn on the logging road to start our retreat. When we got back to the first cross ditch, we didn't make it back through. After several hours of jack work in a swarm of mosquitoes, unloading everything we owned from the van, and a couple of borrowed and broken tow straps that Austin bummed from someone back in Revelstoke, we had to call AAA with our one bar of cell service and get a tow out of the ditch. The tow truck didn't make it there until about midnight, and had to back the last 1/2 mile or so to the ditch since the road was so narrow. That was about when he informed us that AAA stopped where the pavement did, and that the tow was going to cost us. Unable to get to the put-in, we never got on the Jordan.

Fast forward to this year, and we are back at the Jordan looking for the run. Turns out the beta on the put-in wasn't quite right, and we found that it was about 150 yards past where we had gotten stuck in 2003. We parked just short of the cross ditch this time, and unloaded boats. Andria did a quick bike shuttle and we hit the river.

Andria making her way across the cobble bar to the Jordan put in.

We had heard the Jordan was mostly class IV and light V, so we were pretty pumped up as we made our way down the beautiful II/III stretch for the first mile or so. Upon reaching the first rapid of note, we found a really cool drop with a slight horizon line behind it. Upon closer examination, the horizon line turned out to be an almost invisible 18-20 foot class V drop into a gorge - typical BC action.

The almost invisible first big drop.

Thus began the portaging - with only 2 people, dropping into boxed in class V gorges is not a good idea. All in all, the portaging was not too bad on the Jordan - for BC.

This would be typical BC portaging if the brush was thicker.

After portaging that little gorge with the 20 footer and another big log-choked drop, we put back in and ran a short section of class III before hitting the next huge horizon line. This portage was longer but less brushy - around a class V+ double drop with a really nasty corner pocket that you would have to run right next to. The portage put us back in right above what we thought was the last drop - a sliding falls in a clearcut that we had seen from the campsite the night before.

Andria runs the Clearcut Falls on the Jordan.

After the Clearcut Falls, we expected a short paddle out to the bridge at the takeout. Imagine our surprise when the river dropped into another boxed in gorge for a final hoorah! It worked out well, with some fun rapids, one of which was a long fast class IV lead-in to a super sweet 6 foot boof along a wall. All in all, I think the Jordan would be a fun run if you had a strong group of 4-5 people who were ready to set some good safety for the bigger drops. It was an amazingly beautiful paddle - which I was all the more glad to get on after the fiasco in 2003.