Kicking Horse River (Lower)
|Stretch:||Highway Bridge to Golden BC|
|Flows:||30 to 100 cumecs. (accordingly to paddling maps, but I find it hard to believe that the Middle can be run higher than this).. Check out the water office's gauge.|
|Gradient:||49 fpm average (78 fpm for the first 1.7 miles)|
|Put-in:||Highway bridge access (not recommended due to legality issues, most paddling the Middle too).|
|Take-out:||College of the Rockies Golden Campus Parking area access|
|Shuttle:||15.9 km (20 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Spring and Summer off of snowmelt, wide range of boatable flows|
Jobless Summer 2019 Roadtrip - Day 27c:
This section has been a bit of a fight. It used to get rafted regularly, but the powers that be made it so the companies couldn’t cross the train tracks which is required to access the river. This still goes for private boaters, though private boaters are less obvious than raft companies for sure. So most people who want to run this section run the middle as well apparently.
The section is pretty user friendly, despite having large features. There are only a couple of holes to avoid, while the surf is plentiful and the rapids entertaining. The canyon by this time has risen tall around you so the scenery is quite nice too. Speaking of surf, one wave near the bottom is a true classic, so save energy for that. And I should also say, if you put in at the base of the Bridge Rapid then the section immediately downstream packs some IV+ punch so take a look to ensure you miss the holes in that one. I think if the access issues were taken care of this section would be a regional classic as the whitewater is good and super consistent. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed that the issues get resolved! Overall I give this run a class IV rating, not because of a bunch of class IV rapids, but because it is very continuous, big water, and a swim would be terrible. At our flow (~85 cumecs), I would say the rapids were mostly class III+, but it felt like a class IV section as you would want to have a dependable roll for sure. Also, I know that these rapids have real names, but I can’t find what they are, so these are all generic names.
That afternoon after a massive lunch at the Wolf’s Den in Golden, we headed south towards Radium Springs where I had arranged via facebook for a guy to boat with us on the Horsethief River the following day. As it turned out, Isaac was also game to join us.
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- Runout (III to III+). The runout of the Exit Rapid of the Bridge section is continuous class III boogie with a few holes to avoid.
- Narrows (III-). A long section in a narrow canyon with nice wavetrains and eddies. It leads to the next rapid…
- The Wall (III+). The river runs right to left into a shear wall. It is good to go, there are eddies to catch along the wall, or for the timid, avoid the wall all together.
- House Hole (III). This had a name something like that, hose rock maybe? It is similar to the wall rapid though easier and leads to a big hole in the middle of the river. Go right or left around it.
Overhang (III to III+). A nice busy rapid that ends in a tight constriction and has an overhang off the left wall. There is a bit of a pocket eddy on the left under the overhang, so it might be good to swing wide.
- Last Hurrah (III to III+). The last bigger rapid is long and goes with a bend left. It is all go with the flow, but on the left turn, just after a rock outcropping on the shear left wall, avoid the hole in the middle.
- Below here, it winds down and the river gets to be boogie class II from here out, with one exception.
- 4th Railroad Bridge Surf Wave (III). This is a fantastic surf wave. Eddy service on either side.
Below, it mellows completely out down to town
Take-out: In the town of Golden, from downtown, turn south onto BC95. After crossing the river, take the second left onto 9th St South. Follow this for 600 m and park on the left in the big parking area near the College of the Rockies.
Put-in: Go back out of Golden, cross the river and get out to Highway 1. Take it East for 15.9 km. Just before the bridge over the river you can park and walk down to the river. Note, you have to cross the railroad lines which is technically illegal so you do risk fine. Since the powers that be made that rule, most put in on the Middle and paddle down both. Maybe in the future this will change again. The rafting companies certainly are working to make it legal to access here as it has shut down their ability to commercially raft this run.
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