One of the few places on the planet where helicopters are used to regularly access white-water rafting is in British Columbia, specifically at the Kicking Horse River, which flows 80 kilometres from Wapta Lake in Yoho National Park to the Columbia River near the small town of Golden.
It’s a unique heli-rafting experience but it’s only one of many found solely in British Columbia, which boasts more than 20,000 lakes, 25,000 kilometers of coastline and countless rivers and creeks.
B.C. is also the only province in Canada where paddling — from kayaking to white-water rafting — can be enjoyed year-round. And thanks to the new resource Paddle BC, beginner and experienced paddlers can easily discover B.C.’s top destinations and waterways for paddleboarding, kayaking, rafting, canoeing, and kayak fishing, across the six diverse regions of the province, all year long.
Here are just some of the best-loved experiences that have put B.C. on the paddling map.
Canoe the country’s best circuits
Bowron Lake Provincial Park is home to one of the most popular paddling circuits in North America. The 116-kilometre loop is accessed via Quesnel and includes four different lakes that circumnavigate Mt. Faulkner and Kaza Mountain. The portages are well-groomed, leaving visitors more time to take in the views of the surrounding highlands and snow-capped peaks as well as the vast array of local wildlife, from moose and bears to otters and eagles.
Bowron Lake is located at the northern extent of the traditional territory of the Secwépemc (or Shuswap People) and for those interested in learning more about their culture, Moccasin Trails offers guided canoe trips on the South Thompson River. The unique experience includes a local knowledge keeper who shares the history of the area as well as ancestral songs and stories, and describes the importance of the iconic Coyote Rock, a large boulder that sits balancing atop a clay hoodoo.
For those who prefer to stick closer to a large city, however, Kelowna offers a 27-kilometre-long Paddle Trail on Lake Okanagan. It passes 20 beaches and parks and two bird sanctuaries. It also meanders by the downtown core, so you can jump out and grab a latte anytime.
Paddleboard all year
The year-round mild temperatures on the coast allow paddlers to take to the water in all four seasons, even when there’s snow on the ground. You’ll find paddleboarders in bikinis in the summer and scarves in the winter, paddling some of the beautiful routes of Howe Sound and Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast, for example.
Squamish-based company Norm Hann Expeditions operates every month of the year.
“Some of the most spectacular times I have had paddling on Howe Sound have occurred in the winter months,” says Norm Hann. “Winds will shut off, allowing for beautiful afternoons paddling glassy waters.”
Kayak fish in fresh saltwater
B.C. offers some of the best fishing in the country and the maneuverability of kayaks allows anglers to get into all the places where fish love to hide. Chinook, coho and pink salmon are popular catches in the coastal waters near Nanaimo and around the Southern Gulf Islands, while inland anglers go after trout, steelhead and even white sturgeon on the Fraser River. Given that sturgeon are the largest freshwater species on earth, catching one in a kayak definitely creates an adrenaline rush!
The southern-interior region of the Kootenays is another excellent spot for freshwater kayak fishing, not only because there’s plenty to catch but because it’s relatively undiscovered. Castlegar (just a 25-minute drive from the city of Trail) is located at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers and offers easy access to world-class fishing for rainbow trout, bull trout and walleye. It’s also located near Lower Arrow Lake, where a 12-pound kokanee once was caught—the largest in the world.
Rafting…so much rafting!
British Columbia offers the highest number of rafting experiences in the country. Northern waterways such as the Babine and Skeena are world-renowned, but there are dozens of guided experiences throughout the province that are less renowned but just as fun.
For example, both the Elk and Bull rivers near Fernie offer exciting rapids and stunning scenery; while in Hope, one of the only rafting resorts in the country offers white-water day trips and nightly glamping.
Whether looking for excellent kayak fishing locations, world-class white water, sublime canoe trips, or fun paddleboarding excursions, British Columbia offers some of the best, every month of the year.
For more information, visit paddlebc.ca.
This story is reprinted by permission from SOAR Magazine, the in-flight magazine for Pacific Coastal Airlines.
Plan your adventures throughout the West Coast at westcoasttraveller.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @thewestcoasttraveller. And for the top West Coast Travel stories of the week delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Armchair Traveller newsletter!