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Hurley River V-V+

Just 100 kilometers north of the well known Whistler whitewater scene is the Bridge River watershed. A series of dams constructed between 1927 and current day inundate what could be some of the finest big water paddling in the world. We'll never know though. From time to time the Hurley River is referred to as the South Fork of the Bridge River. This major tributary flows next to the road with minimal gradient for some time before dropping into a deep canyon forcing the road to go up and around through the mining town of Balore.

Having spent a week in Whistler paddling the classics, our group was looking for something different. Thanks to Steve Arn's page our curiosity was caught by the Hurley River and we headed out of Whistler none too early in the morning. The dirt road was rougher than we expected, landing us in Gold Bridge at three in the afternoon. Thankfully the edge had been taking off by all our prior kayaking and we didn't feel the burning need to put on. Plus flows were a touch on the high side and should be lower in the morning. On the shuttle we'd seen a sign for Kingdom Lakes and decided to give them a try. Good thing we did, it has drive in lakeside camping for free.

Good Morning Kingdom Lake

I don't think any in our group committed beta to memory, wanting to experience adventure. We rise in the morning with a vague idea about where put-in is. We look at the Cadwallader River and remember something about stout waterfalls upstream, but it looks too low to be much fun. We take the easy path and drive past Bralorne, heading upstream until the river is close to the road. If we didn't mind the brush we could drive all the way to the water. As it is we decide to walk twenty meters to the river.

Rok Sribar takes a short walk to the Hurley River.

Manuel Koehler starts an adventure.

Minutes into the run we've paddled a few easy rapids and suddenly there is a horizon line and we wonder "isn't this run all boulder gardens?" A quick scout reveals an...interesting looking falls. Manu gives it a thumbs up and signals Rok Sribar through. It goes better than it looks and we all follow.

Marco Guidi lines up the first falls.

Rok Sribar leading the charge into the Hurley River Canyon.

We grin ear to ear in the pool below and paddle around the corner. Whoah another horizon line, looks like we should have paid more attention to Steve's beta. What's happened now seems obvious, we've put in above the waterfalls "that are reported to be stout." and are in for a real adventure. So far so good, and we're happy to see this horizon looks better than the last, in fact super classic.

Manuel Koehler

Rok Sribar enjoys the same.

We are not surprised by the next horizon line now that we realize our mistake. This one forces us out earlier as the river goes through a wide rapid then narrows up as it plunges out of view. It's hard to see what is happening, but there appear to be two drops and the first is undercut with no place to set safety. You know what they say, it's not a real adventure until something goes wrong. We brace ourselves for a long portage and head up game trails on the left.

Marco Guidi scouts the third falls.

Thirty minutes later and we take a break in the dense forest. We're not sure how far to go downstream before trying to drop back in. Rok pulls out his GPS and it looks pretty good near where we are, so Manu and I head downhill to see the lay of the land.

We get a nice view of our portage rapid, which I believe has been run at least once in the past. Perhaps lower flows would be nicer.

The very definition of V+

Looking downstream there is another falls but it looks like we can figure out this puzzle piece at river level.

A steep scree field leads to the river but requires roping for the kayaks.

Just as we're wrapping up the portage a log crumbles under a team member resulting in a knee injury. Now we are truly in the adventure realm. Thankfully the next set of falls is good as getting around them would have been worse than assumed.

Marco Guidi probes.

The Hurley transitions into boulder gardens and we make quick time boat scouting through, happy to see the bizarre confluence with the Cadwallader River. At one point in time there was an impressive powerhouse here, thankfully there is not too much garbage strewn in the river. While we've made good time on the upper section, but we all realize that this is just the start of the normal run and portaging anything with an injury will take time. We buckle down and prepare for aggressive boat scouting.

Miles of boulder gardens fly by before we're finally forced to scout.

Koehler probes.

Marco Guidi follows in good style.

It's a steep section and we're forced out of our boats to find clean routes through the bolder piles.

It's an interesting section of river with clean lines between others that would be terrible to wander into. It's not low stress kayaking, especially late in the day. Still we enjoy the quality and challenge of the section, which continues longer than we expect. Finally a long scout reveals a good route through the last significant rapid, and we're cruising down to take out. We're all glad to have completed the run, yet none of us would be in a hurry to return the next day. The Hurley is a challenging river with many hazards. It took us about five hours with no knowledge.

As we dry our gear in Gold Bridge a local pulls up and we chat about our adventure. Apparently a hydro project on Hurley River is almost completed and is 70% operational, diverting water into Downton Lake. 

Take Out:  50°51'5.21"N / 122°50'50.10"W

Put In:  50°46'56.76"N / 122°51'8.68"W

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