Heinz's Report - September 09, 2003

White Water Kayaking in the Elk River Canyon

It was our 34th wedding anniversary this weekend. Some guys give their wives flowers, some give them chocolates. I gave my wife a white water dunking on our amazing Elk River. Our adventure took place on September 5, 2003

The back country was still under a southern province-wide travel restriction, so the only place that was still somewhat open was the Elk River. So far this summer we had traveled from Sparwood to Fernie and from Fernie to the tunnel. On Thursday we got the call from Dave Richards at Mountain High River Adventures that he had received his travel exemption from the Ministry and that he was a go for tomorrow for the Elk River Canyon. We had been planning to do this section soon and going with a guide was a must, even with the lower water levels this time of year. I knew we were going to get dumped this time so I couldn�t risk losing my camera. The pictures of this trip have been provided by Dave Richards.

We were picked up in Fernie by Dave in his bus and we drove about 20 minutes south to the Hwy. 93 intersection where we picked up another group from the Top of the World Ranch, and then went east on a lumber road to the Tembec saw mill just south of Elko. This spot was just across the river where the Wigwam Flats biking adventure earlier this year had started from. The day was remarkably clear of smoke and the view down into the canyon was stupendous. After getting outfitted in our wet suits, helmets, splash jackets and life vests it was down the 300 steps and the steep embankment to the river. Dave gave us a detailed instruction on how to fall into the river safely and get back into the ducky boats properly. We knew then that this was going to be a wet affair!

The fun began at the first turn with the first set of rapids, called Pocket full of Marbles I think. Some of us were overturned and were quickly acclimatized to the cold rushing water and learned how to deal with paddles, boats, rocks, etc. From then on the rapids came on fast and furious. Learning on the job is the best teacher, but it certainly helped to have Dave around to warn us of upcoming difficult areas, the proper lines to take and as Nancy put it � �having him around to pull her up onto the boat was well worth the investment for the day�. There were seven of us in the ducky boats that we have been using for the previous trips and the rest of the group was in the larger inflatable boats with at least four paddlers. In the sporadic lulls between rapids, the ducky boats would surround the bigger boats and water fights would quickly develop. One of the guys in the big boats likened us to ants swarming. Duckies rule!

About a third of the way down the river we were treated to a superb lunch and were visited by a huge bald eagle that stood guard over our picnic ground. During lunch we learned that this 13 km. trip would be mainly Category II rapids with a few Category III rapids coming up. We also learned that our two previous sections only had Category I rapids � well at least it was a good training exercise! After quick pit stops to help out with the extreme dry conditions in the woods, we headed out into Phillips Gorge where the real fun began.

The Gorge was unbelievable with 300 ft high cliffs towering over a 20 ft. narrow foaming river. It also contained the Horizon Line rapids. Dave lined his ducky boats up with about a 30 ft. spacing and told us to keep hard right. And then it was down into the hole! After conquering this section, we stopped about 100 ft. past this rapid to take in some cliff jumping. By this time the group had built up their confidence sufficiently to take on this challenge in stride. The final surprise came a short distance later in a rapid called Mother ______ (According to Dave, you get to fill in the appropriate expletive after your passage).

Unlike previous rapids, Dave was strangely uncommunicative this time. What ensued was the biggest yard sale I�ve ever seen. There were boats floating upside down, bodies and paddles everywhere! The problem had been that we hadn�t lined up single file as before and a traffic jam ensued with the inevitable crashes. Nancy and I were the only ones to make it through and she told me that she had learned that the best way to get through was to simply paddle OVER the carnage! I think the reason this occurred was because Dave wanted to see some crashes��

We pulled out around 4:30 pm at the big bridge on Hwy 93. On the way back Dave entertained the group in the bus with the pictures. It had been a red letter day for all of us. I would give it a 20 out of 10 and oh yes, it does work as an anniversary gift to your wife. Trust me.

Heinz - heinzr@far.redtree.com

Dave, our leader, instructor and guide getting a wet face shot.

The 300 steps down into the gorge. Dave and his crew actually run down this track on the right with the boats on a skid!

The sandstone cliffs of the Elk River Canyon.

Phillips Canyon, just after Horizon Line rapids. The cliff diving jump in the distance on the left.

Little John and his crew in Horizon Line.

Nicola visiting from Germany gets a taste of Fernie adventure.

Mike fighting to stay in control.

Nancy makes it through�again

Kathy enjoying her anniversary present.

Kathy losing her voice on the cliff jump.

Duncan taking air above the river.

Coming up to Mother ________. Let the games begin.

Our happy adventurers today.