After getting back to Whistler and cleaning the dust off ourselves from ATV’ing we met up with our guide Gavin to go Canoe the River of Golden Dreams. We joined a group of others that were stoked to have this experience also.
Truth be told we’ve been meaning to do this river for quite a while after first hearing about it years ago. We’ve just never had the equipment or knowledge to go for it.
In late Summer, when the water level is pretty low, it’s common for a lot of people to just float this river in inflatable dingys and inner tubes. Even though we’d be tackling it earlier in the year I expected a similar experience.
Will Lightning strike the lake?
We started this adventure by getting geared up on the shores of Alta Lake. After a quick tutorial we hopped into the canoes and paddled out. Once out on the water Gavin got us to run through some drills practicing some paddling techniques to turn and control our canoe. The weather also looked to be changing for the worst so Gavin made us aware that if thunder and lightning did start we’d be ending our tour early. The prospect of being caught out in a thunderstorm definitely added to the adventurous feel of this trip.
We paddled in a tight knit group, chatting amongst ourselves and getting to know each other. At the far end of the lake we began our journey down into and along the River of Golden Dreams.
The Best Thing To Do in Whistler!
It’s exceptionally picturesque. I now understand why this outing is considered the #1 thing to do in Whistler by locals and tourists alike. We floated by lilies, under bridges, through narrow sections were we could see grass growing along the bottom of the river through the crystal clear water.
After a section of paddling along a narrow stream we entered 21-Mile Creek, a wider, faster flowing river. The flow rate was surprising at first as I wasn’t expecting it. During the Spring and early Summer snow melt the river level is higher and flowing quicker.
We began to move quicker and the paddling drills we had practiced earlier at Alta Lake came into use. Not only did we need to avoid low hanging trees, sand bars and sharp bends in the river but there was also loads of people floating in the river in small, cheap, inflatable dingys.
It was exciting and our guides did an excellent job of instructing us as to how to handle the upcoming challenges and obstacles.
We Fell Out of our Canoe!
As we came around one bend the river quickly pushed us towards the side and into some low hanging branches. There was already another two canoes pushed into the banks here. The people from those canoes had jumped out into the branches to stay out of the river. By doing this the branches they were standing on came down on us and our canoe and pushed us over.
We tipped! Spring fell out into the current and I grabbed the branch above me to stay upright.
Within seconds our guides were beside us. Thankfully the river was shallow enough that I could stand on the bottom.
Our guides quickly gave us instructions as to how to get the water out of our canoe so that we could get back into it. We pushed it up on top of the guides canoe, flipped it over and then jumped back in.
It was pretty exciting! All in all it was just a chance accident. If those other people weren’t already stuck on the banks and in the tree branches we would have been able to get around the corner fine. We were thankful to the quick response of our guides who had us back in our canoes in a matter of moments.
But did we have fun?
From there we continued our paddle down 21-Mile Creek. The speed of the river eased and we settled back in to paddling slowly again, paying a little extra attention to the corners and where the water was pushing us.
The last few kilometres of river were amazing, with the mountains ahead of us rising up from the horizon and the greenery of all the trees and bushes around.
By the time we reached our take out point at the end our clothes had dried and everyone was smiling ear to ear. It definitely lived up to its reputation.
Overall we were glad we’d gone with a guide for our first time down this river. Had we tipped by ourselves I don’t know what we would have done. It would likely have been a much greater ordeal trying to retrieve our paddles and empty the water out of our canoe. This river is mostly a float but there are a few challenging sections were guidance was needed and appreciated.
If you’re in Whistler consider contacting “Canadian Wilderness Adventures” to take a tour down the River of Golden Dreams. It should be on everyones Whistler Bucket List.
Have you ever tipped a canoe? Or floated the River of Golden Dreams? Let us know about in the comments below.