No fear on BC white-water rafting trip


White-water rafting in the Cheakamus River of British Columbia is actually tamer than it looks.

Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Columnist

Cheakamus River - White-Water-Rafting Guides

Guides must learn to master the rapids solo before they can be responsible for groups of tourists. (Canadian Outback Adventures photos)

SQUAMISH, BRITISH COLUMBIA — The guide tells our group, “You are going to fall in the water. Every one of you.” He does it with certainty and in a dead-serious tone of voice that sets me shaking. I don’t like being in water, unless it’s warm, contained, and with a bar I’m able to swim up to. Dropping into cold water that’s racing for Mexico and dotted with jagged rocks whose purpose appears to be to crack the bones of anyone unfortunate or foolish enough to splash into the rapids isn’t my thing and never will be.

As the guide details how he plans to retrieve each of us when we do fall into the chilly Cheakamus River — which he repeats again we are sure to do — I am thinking about hanging up my oar and making for higher ground. But a big part of a travel writer’s job description is attempting things not in one’s comfort zone, so readers like you can know what it’s really like before you set out for the adventure yourself. It’s kind of like the work a proxy would perform for medieval noblemen, tasting their food just to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.

So, for you, I undertook my first white-water rafting trip, a two-hour thrill ride that was far safer than anything I expected and gave me a new appreciation for the soft-core adventures Canada offers.

White-Water Rafting Turns Out to Be a Breeze

The family-friendly Cheakamus River trip is tame, with just enough passes through white-water rapids to give you a sense of the exhilaration serious rafters encounter. The tour was expertly handled by Canadian Outback Adventures, which in Squamish is based out of Executive Suites Hotel & Resort at Garibalidi Springs, a luxury property that’s a highlight in this city halfway between Vancouver and Whistler.

Squamish calls itself the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Besides the rafting, visitors can enjoy hikes through the temperate rainforest of the British Columbia coastline, including a challenging one-hour hike up the rockface called the Cheakamus Chief. Rock climbers take the more difficult route up the peak while scuba divers dip into the waters of the Howe Sound. On the river, there are passages that can test elite rafters and Canadian Outback Adventures offers a five-hour trek that will take you through those more difficult stretches of the Cheakamus.

If you’re like me, though, and are intimidated by water and white-water rafting, the shorter, more tame trip is one you have to try. Once I realized the guide was only toying with us and that no one was actually going to fall into the water, the anxiety swept away and the trip became another reason to adore British Columbia.

The scenery, from the foliage to the eagles flying overhead to the snowy Coastal Mountains in the distance, is awesome. The rafting takes some endurance but not much. The guides are not only fit and knowledgeable, they’ve got a wicked sense of humour, making sure they manoeuvre the raft through the rapids so everyone gets the experience of a big splash right in the face.

That was the most threatening thing about this trip. When it happened to me, I laughed, feeling foolish that I was nervous at all.



Where to Book: Canadian Outback Adventures offers several tours. The Family-Friendly Cheakamus Splash Tour costs $89 per adult and $60 for kids (5-16 years of age).
Reservations: Telephone 1-800-565-8735 (toll free) or visit the tour operator’s website.
Executive Suites at Garibaldi Springs: This excellent hotel was home to the filming of the “Twilight” trilogy and there is a tour where fans of the movie series can see the locales used in shooting. It’s also home to a very good restaurant, the Living Room, and features spacious suites offering mountain views.
Location: 40900 Tantalus Road, Squamish, BC (see map below)
Reservations: 1-888-388-3932 or visit the hotel’s website.


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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016.

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