Words By: Brandon Willms
As folks might be getting used to by this point, often my kayaking stories don’t involve much paddling. I like to dream bigger than I can sometimes achieve. Well here goes another one. I have had my eye on a river north of Donald BC on the Bush arm of Kinbasket lake. Flowing off of some lofty glaciers through a mind blowing canyon you will find Prattle Creek.
Prattle Creek Valley Photo Credit: Tim Shaw
Like most exploratory runs these days, I stumbled across the river while flying over it….on google earth. I spotted the likes of a major crack where the river seemed to disappear for 7 km. Promising. After a bit of analysis of the gradient, I determined the river had a very similar catchment and steepness to the nearby Yoho River (A beloved local classic). This got me rather excited, so in the summer of 2014, when I didn’t have much to do and was in the area, I drove the 70 km’s up the logging road to check it out. What I saw was nothing short of astounding. Prattle creek was situated at the bottom of a massive valley with towering peaks on both sides and canyon gates that looked like they were straight out of The Lord Of The Rings! The creek had a good size, similar to yoho and had nice character from what I could see.
Myself scoping out one of the more exciting pieces of whitewater. Photo Credit: Tim Shaw
So it was, a year later, I tried to rally a group of boaters to go further check out this place. We managed to paddle a short section of the upper while waiting for more friends to show up. We also were able to walk down to the canyon rim in a couple spots. However, the trip was cut short when my truck sprung a fuel leak and we had to book it back out of the woods and ran out of time. I couldn’t convince more folks to join me that year so the creek went onto the backburner for another year. 2016 rolled around and I knew that in order to convince people to come check out the run with me I needed to do some legwork first and get some good photos. So I went back up there and spent two days bush wacking my way along the canyon rim and getting as many shots as I could. It was only on this trip that I really began to understand the shear vastness of this place. The walls are over 100 meters straight up through much of the canyon and at its tightest points is likely only 3 meters wide. I began to doubt whether a run like this would be possible, as it would only require one unrunnable rapid to make the entire section unrunnable.
Top: Campsite on Kinbasket Lake. Photo Credit: Dale Mayell
Left: Danny Gareipy and his flying friend. Right: Dale Mayell ready for some scouting.
Regardless, I was hopeful, but knew we would have to thoroughly scout the entire canyon before we could paddle it. My photos from that season had the desired effect and this fall I was able to get a couple buddies together armed with radios, rappelling gear, and a drone to go attempt to fully scout and paddle the beast.
Danny Gareipy, Tim Shaw and Dale Mayell accompanied me up to Prattle in the waning days of September. We had four days and plenty of gusto. The boys were quickly consumed by the place and were in awe of its magnitude. As we scoped the river, piece by piece, day by day we got more and more excited. The whitewater was looking promising, everything looked to be navigable. From my earlier scouting trips, I had determined where I thought the crux was and when we finally got there, it was clear the creek wasn’t going to give itself up easily. The canyon is so tall, steep and overhung that it is impossible to look into the canyon from the rim. Tim set up a rope system and rappelled in so he could get a look into the place. To his dismay found just what we had been afraid of. A logjam in the deepest tightest part of the canyon. My initial instinct was to attempt to paddle down and try to portage on top of the logs. However, from our vantage point, the river is moving just a bit to quickly to make this a safe and predictable maneuver. So for the time being, this part of the river is unrunnable.
Left: The logs that block our passage. Photo Credit: Tim Shaw Right: Photo Credit: Tim Shaw
Left: Tim about to rap down to a ledge to get a look into the Canyon. Photo Credit: Dale Mayell Right: A look into the awesomeness of this place!
We finished our scouting mission anyways and have determined that the rest of the canyon is challenging, yet nearly 100% runnable. At the end of the day, it was one pesky log that prevented us from putting on. We now have a strong vendetta against these logs and have a plan to come back next year with more firepower and eradicate these logs from the scenario. Let’s hope that five years after I discovered it, I can finally see what it’s like to float my boat down between those walls! I’m excited to say the least!
Top: A crux move in Lower Prattle Canyon. Photo Credit: Tim Shaw
Left: Looking across Kinbasket lake into Prattle Creek Valley. Photo Credit: Tim Shaw Right: Photo Credit: Tim Shaw