DAY 0 – WELCOME TO WILLIAMS LAKE
This is the first date listed for your trip.
Williams Lake is a small city in the interior of British Columbia. It was founded in the 1860’s during the Cariboo gold rush. This is timber and ranching country. We will meet at the Ramada Hotel at 8:00pm for our pre trip meeting. Please note that you’ll need to make a hotel reservation for this night (not included).
DAY 1 – NEMIAH VALLEY AND TASEKO RIVER
After breakfast we will load up for a scenic 3 hour drive, low in the Fraser River Valley and high on the Chilcotin plateau. We drive through several of the First Nations communities who are part of the Tsilhqot’in – meaning “People of the Blue Water”. We will make our way up the Nemiah Valley to our put-in on the Taseko River, which roughly divides the Xeni Gwet’in and Yunesit’in First Nations traditional territories. Throughout history and to the present day, this area has been very important to the Tsilhqot’in for sustenance fishing, hunting, and collection of medicinal plants. The area on the west side of the Taseko River was the subject of the 2014 land title decision which established land title for the Tsilhqot’in.
After lunch our rafting journey will begin as we push off from shore into the milky white waters of the Taseko River. After a few hours of a relaxing float into the beautiful wilderness, we will make our first camp. The cares of the road will have drifted away and a great meal and evening mark your first of many memorable nights.
DAY 2 – TASEKO CANYONS AND CHILKO-TASEKO JUNCTION
After a tasty breakfast we will pack up for a stunning day on the water including some beautiful deep canyons and exciting rapids including Taseko Falls. In the afternoon we come to the Chilko-Taseko junction where the blue waters of the Chilko River flow in from the west and mix with the glacial white waters of the Taseko, and our rafts will ride the contrast of the waters at the confluence. Now the Taseko River terminates and we are on the Chilko River.
DAY 3 – THE CHILCOTIN RIVER – B.C.’S GRASSLANDS
Today begins with some excitement as we thread the “Gap”– a very narrow bedrock chute in the Chilko River. A few miles later the tiny Chilcotin River sneaks into the Chilko and the river now takes the name Chilcotin because of that river’s longer headwaters.
Floating past the huge rock bluffs and caves of Bull Canyon and into the traditional territory of the Tl’etinqox First Nation, we watch for mule deer and black bear. With luck you might spot a moose that has wandered down from its typical summer range, or even American White Pelicans, preparing for their migration south. There are a few species that show their adaptability by also inhabiting the dry semi-deserts of the interior along the Chilcotin and Fraser Rivers. Some of these versatile creatures include bald eagles, black and grizzly bear, cougar and deer. As we row downstream, the speed of the river enables us to cover a lot of territory in a short time.
We will make camp in the heartland of the Chilcotin ranching community. While the plains appear to be simple grasslands, this area is part of the most bio-diverse region of British Columbia.
DAY 4 & 5 – PIONEER RANCHING COUNTRY
After breakfast, back on the river, we pass an old trading post named Hanceville. Just downstream we descend into Hanceville canyon, with its towering rock faces. As we negotiate the canyon, we’ll pass a traditional fishing site – we may have the chance to give a passing wave to First Nation fishers working their dip nets as they have for millennia. Afterwards we challenge some fun roller coaster rapids named “the Goosenecks”. We’ll see bald and golden eagles, and if we’re lucky, we might spot a black bear and some California bighorn sheep .
In the afternoon we’ll camp at the confluence of the Chilcotin River and Big Creek in the Big Creek Ecological Preserve. After some delicious appetizers, we’ll have another fantastic dinner and fall asleep serenaded by the creek.
The camp is so beautiful, you won’t want to leave. Good news: we’ll enjoy a layover at Big Creek for two nights. It’s set in an open forest of young firs across from a high basalt cliff that echoes the sound of the rushing water. Big Creek itself is a small trout stream, its warmer waters forming a gentle succession of quiet pools and rounded boulders – perfect for bathing.
This is a sleep-in day and while we put out coffee, fruit and cereal for the early risers, you can enjoy brunch midmorning. Afterwards you can fish in the many pools in Big Creek, go for a hike rewarded with panoramic views of both the surrounding canyons, explore a pioneer homestead, or relax with a book back at camp.
DAY 6 – FARWELL CANYON
Immediately after shoving off, we enter the exciting standing waves of mile-long Big Creek Rapid. The scenery changes again: desert hoodoos, fewer trees and more open sagebrush and cactus country. The air is noticeably drier and warmer here, and the enchanting aromas of the sagebrush and sweetgrass please the senses. An hour’s float takes us through Deux Teton Rapids.
Before lunch we pass the intricately dovetailed log buildings of an abandoned pioneer ranch. Prepare to have your breath taken away as we enter the iconic Farwell Canyon, with its towering hoodoos and beautiful sand dunes, the largest in BC. Farwell was the site of a Chilcotin village and is the location of an annual First Nations salmon fishery. Pictographs are still visible on the rocks. The old, faint rock paintings are still preserved in the dry, desert-like climate. There are images of salmon, bighorn sheep and deer – others take a little more creativity to identify. After lunch we will have a chance to walk amongst the hoodoos or relax on a riverside beach. Camp tonight is across from Sheep Range Provincial Park, an area established to protect California bighorn sheep in their natural habitat and known to naturalists across the province as, “The Junction.”
DAY 7 – BIG JOHN CANYON
Before we make the Fraser River confluence, there is Big John Canyon – the deepest canyon on the Chilcotin. It’s a fun roller coaster ride. We stop at a quiet pool above Railroad Rapid below which the river seems to disappear. Often it’s possible to see salmon bunched up in the surging eddies along the cliff walls resting before spurting up the next part of the rapids. Then it’s through the big clean waves of Freight Train and finally Caboose – the last rapid on the Chilcotin.
The turquoise waters of the Chilcotin are quickly swallowed by the massive flow of the silty Fraser River which commonly runs 10 times the maximum flow of the Colorado. After a short float on the Fraser we pull into a beautiful desert place the guides call Viking Camp. We arrive at this camp in our oar powered rafts, but will depart the next morning aboard the large, motor driven pontoon rafts called “J Rigs”, that are best suited to the big river and rapids downstream.
Here in the dry, clear interior of B.C., the nights are particularly resplendent. The starry skies are often made more wonderful by the appearance of the northern lights. It’s a great spot to wander away from the glow of the campfire and identify the constellations and see the full glory of the Milky Way. Nighthawks, bats and short-eared owls flit across the night sky.
DAY 8 & 9 – FRASER RIVER, GANG RANCH & THE CATHEDRALS
The land on the west side of the river is the Gang Ranch, once the largest ranch by area in North America, surpassing even the King Ranch in Texas. Here and there are the out-cabins of cowboys, and we’ll stop at the remains of miners’ shacks, dating back to the 1858 gold rush. In the afternoon we will make our way deeper into canyons on the Fraser River and past unique rock formations; before long we’re at our sandy beach camp among the willows that we call Cathedral. Once again, we are setting up our tents for a two night stay, our second layover of the trip. Cathedrals offers the option of relaxing beach living, a full day of hiking and exploring, or maybe a combination of the two. As the sun sets on the eastern rim of the canyon it illuminates the beautiful, “cathedral” formations, for which the camp was named.
DAY 10 – THE HEART OF THE FRASER CANYON
Our day will start on the river passing Lone Cabin Creek. Downriver we run French Bar Canyon, the first of the Fraser’s big rapids. Next it’s down through the boiling waters of Black and Chisolm Canyons. Petroglyphs are carved into the shiny black boulders. Just before camp at Leon Creek we float past the old homesteads at Watson Bar. We make camp at Leon Creek – a place of historical significance during the days of Simon Fraser. It was here that he was advised by local First Nations to continue his journey overland and cache his canoes, due to the significance of the rapids downstream.
DAY 11 – THE FRASER RIVER’S GREATEST RAPIDS
Our day begins with a two-hour run through Moran Canyon and some of the Fraser’s great rapids: Sluice Box, Split Rock, Powerline and Hole in the Wall. After lunch we will walk around the impressive, Xwisten (Bridge River ) Fishing Grounds, the past and current fishing area of the St’át’imc People. The traditional wind-dried method of preserving the salmon is still used by the St’át’imc People today.
At Bridge River, we take to the trail while the guides run the lightened rafts through a short stretch of rapids that are best viewed from the shore. After boarding the rafts at the bottom we continue downriver past the community of Lillooet before we make camp for the night.
DAY 12 – TEMPERATE RAIN FOREST
The river has now carried us through three different First Nation traditional territories. The Tsilhqot’in, Secwepemc and St’at’imc and today we have entered into Nlaka’pamux traditional territory. Along the way we will visit unique and impressive Chinese mining sites from the mid 1800’s. We will pass by two significant tributaries; the Stein River, the only completely protected watershed on the Fraser system, and the Thompson River, the largest tributary. Canada’s two Trans-Continental Railways CN and CP picturesquely crisscross above the river in the narrow canyon corridor. Our overnight camp will be on one of the sandy beaches above the tiny town of Boston Bar.
DAY 13 – SAVING THE BIGGEST ‘TILL LAST
This is the last day of your trip.
Our last day brings us a fun filled day of white water which includes world famous Hell’s Gate and other big rapids like Sailor Bar and Saddle Rock. With the sizable tributaries that have fed the Fraser by the time you reach Boston Bar you are rafting the largest commercially rafted white-water in North America. Both Stolo and Yale First Nations fish this corridor, the racks and camps are perched along the canyon, Gold Rush remnants, huge piles of cobbles and disrupted land forms still evident from the 1858 rush. Huge granite boulders carved by the river or covered in moss line the banks. The trip ends in Historic Yale, a scenic tiny town of 180 nestled between the Cascade and Coastal mountains (but only two hours from Vancouver). We will shuttle you to the airport. You can book flights to leave Vancouver that evening or plan to spend the night in Vancouver and depart the following day.
Please note: The above is a tentative itinerary and has been designed with much thought to capitalize on the most scenic and exciting parts of the river, while making time on other sections. Your guides will adjust the schedule to make the best use of river and weather conditions. Meals and pre- and post-trip accommodation in Williams Lake and Vancouver are your responsibility – the cost is not included in the trip fee. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are included from the Day 1 lunch until the final river meal. Any other meals off the river are your responsibility.