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PostPosted: August 6th, 2008, 11:40 am 

Joined: July 4th, 2007, 6:41 pm
Posts: 13
Anyone done any canoeing on the Fraser River?

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PostPosted: August 7th, 2008, 12:10 am 

Joined: January 21st, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 46
Location: Prince George, British Columbia Canada
The Fraser is a river of significant dimension. Near it's origin you will find many kms. of Class 1, blue steel waters with riffles and many turns. Unfortunately, you will encounter Hwy. 16 with amazing frequency, so the feeling of wilderneness is dimished by the din of highway traffic. Below this birth of "the greatest salmon river in the world", the Upper Fraser contains sections owned by the short plastic boats which sport floatation and little else. On-line research will confirm their location and portaging obstacles, which are significant.
Below the Rockies, the Fraser becomes a wide bodied cruiser, travelling between mammoth mountain ranges, darkening in its colour between McBride and Prince George, with only the Grand Canyon of the Fraser as a significant obstacle. Below that Grand obstruction to Quesnel, even to Williams Lake and below, she becomes a monster, absorbing creeks, streams, and large rivers in their own right to become a wide bodied, powerful mistress. Subsequent to the appearance of the Thompsons, the river is just too powerful in every meaninful way. Hell's Gate bars access to all refusing professional assistance in rafts.
Frankly, unless you are chasing history, the Fraser below the Rockies is not an enjoyable trip. Camping is limited. Highway 16 chases you every step of the way. There are fabulous alternatives in British Columbia, and even Alberta, to this storied course.

PostPosted: August 7th, 2008, 11:02 am 
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Joined: November 14th, 2003, 10:47 pm
Posts: 72
dannefrancis wrote:
Anyone done any canoeing on the Fraser River?

I haven't paddled the upper reaches, only from near Prince George and onwards from there. It's a mighty fine river, and contrary to some advice you'll get, much of it is eminently canoeable, but you can't afford to ignore the caveats such as those in Soloman's reply.

For detailed advice, the best guide book I know of is "British Columbia Canoe Routes", compiled by Canoe Sport British Columbia from the mid 1970s.


It's only available second hand, though I've seen it in many BC second-hand bookshops.

First caveat:
Water levels change the river significantly. I've only paddled it once, late in the season (though the water levels were a bit elevated for the time of year). I saw the Fraser this spring when the water levels were very high and it looked much, much fiercer.

The guide book above will take you through from the upper reaches all the way to Vancouver.

Second Caveat:
There are far more obstacles than the those listed in the guide book. For example it makes virtually nothing of Cottonwood Canyon (between Prince George and Quesnel) whereas we encountered very, very big rollers and little scope for an easy portage. And Alkali Rapids, which the book plays down, were raging class 4 haystacks.

Third Caveat:
Scout everything. This is what the book recommends and it's the best piece of advice you'll get. Be a complete coward and scout everything: every swift corner that you can't see around; every bridge under which there appears to be a riffle; every canyon that may not look 'too bad'.

My experience of the Fraser is that a successful descent is about managing stress---don't let the river get on top of you (in any sense!) or you'll find yourself 'rushing' to get down. Stay calm---try to enjoy drifting between the shear, towering canyon walls of Portage du Baril and China Gulch, savouring the thrill but accepting that you might line around a bezillion simple grade 2 corners because you're not too sure what's coming next and unless you're a big-volume whitewater nut, most of the canyons are a line or portage.

Though the Moran (aka Pavillion) canyon above Lillooet and the Hell's gate region below Boston Bar aren't really suitable for canoes, the stretch through the ranching country between Soda Creek and the Big Bar ferry is something special, and surprisingly remote and isolated (bear that in mind when scouting the river!)

It's a gorgeous river, but your nerves will pay a price. But better your nerves than your health.

 Post subject: fraser
PostPosted: August 10th, 2008, 9:50 pm 

Joined: November 24th, 2004, 1:28 am
Posts: 13
I would disagree with the post saying the river is not worth doing. I did a trip last year from Tete Jaune Cache to Crescent Spur (incidentally a bad place to stop as the carry to the road or nearest house is epic).

Scenery around McBride is spectacular and the camping on gravel bars is superb, some of the best I've ever been on. The highway does not intrude whatsoever. The big negative is the train, which you hear and see occasionally. This would be a good first moving water trip for an experienced lake paddler. The only tricky sections is right at the beginning, where choosing a route is difficult because of braiding and at Goat River rapids. Those rapids are straightforward and could easily be lined, but they snuck up on us and provided a scare because we weren't mentally prepared.

We saw only a single boat in late September, hunters in a motorboat. The scenery at this time is sublime, with snow on the peaks and aspen trees blazing yellow.

PostPosted: December 26th, 2008, 4:16 pm 

Joined: April 26th, 2006, 12:14 am
Posts: 575
Location: Surrey, BC
Depending on the level of the river, the tidal pulse from the sea reaches inland almost as far as Mission, or as short as Barnston Island. The lower the river level, the further inland the pulse reaches. Here is a link to an excellent website showing graphs of the river levels at various locations:

I've paddled around Barnston Island and found slogging upstream to be difficult but do-able. There are many take-outs along the lower reaches of the Fraser.

I have a friend who skippers a tugboat on the Fraser and he has repeatedly cautioned me to avoid paddling downstream of the Patullo bridge (near New West) because of the very heavy commercial traffic there.

I've often mulled the idea of paddling from Harrison Lake to Barnston Island but have always found better places to paddle (in my opinion).

The Barnston Island ferry landing is a good place to access the river because there is a free, 24-hour parking lot for a nearby sawmill and people taking the ferry. It's located at the extreme eastern end of 104th Avenue.

That stretch of the river is somewhat industrialized. "Sawmill Alley." But it's an ok place to paddle especially if you're in Surrey and don't want to travel very far afield.

If you want to see photos I took when I paddled there, here's a link to a slideshow of them:

aka Cyberhun, callsign VA7FAB

Mariners must navigate these waters the same way a mouse negotiates a kitchen patrolled by cats: by darting furtively from one hiding place to the next.
"The Golden Spruce", John Vaillant

PostPosted: November 28th, 2009, 5:00 am 

Joined: November 27th, 2009, 12:55 pm
Posts: 10
Hi all, I am an 18 year old from Hertfordshire in England currently on a gap year before I head off to University. I am, with a friend, planning, and very much hoping it is possible, to canoe/journey the length of the River Fraser from just north of Valemount all the way to Vancouver in the spring of 2010.

I've been having a read of this topic and see that, the non-skeptics, reckon it is possible!!! my biggest problem is that my trip is following a european ski-season but prior to harvesting on a british farm... that means may, June and early July. the worst time for paddling the fraser.

We have canoeing experience but only here in the UK and we are no rapid-experts. Could it be done? Are there effective ways of getting canoe transport over high risk sections like ‘hells gate’? I want to follow the whole route, so if some sections aren’t paddleable I’d love to get canoe transport and spend a few days hiking before meeting back up with the canoe on the safe side. If its not all paddleable I still want that wilderness experience with hiking and the likes.

My mum’s a newfie but spent a lot of her life living in Vancouver and skiing BC, I have visited twice in the summer and fell in love with the place when I was hiking in Jasper and Banff.

Anyway any advice anyone could give on literally anything would be hugely helpful. Even if you think the idea is never possible feel free to suggest a whole other expidetion as long as it is a good months lengthy and adventurous! what I've read here has been really helpful!


PostPosted: November 29th, 2009, 1:13 pm 

Joined: November 27th, 2009, 12:55 pm
Posts: 10
which sections of the fraser are navigable by canoe... I know in the south through the canyons it is not. but I am travelling in May-June time and want to know whether it is possible (portaging falls and short rapids) to canoe between:

Jasper - Prince George
Prince George - Quesnel
Quesnel - Williams lake

Thanks again for any help you can give.

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