Vancouver Island - Part One - Gold River Area

Written By Tim Shaw

Vancouver Island is well known for its great paddling especially in the Fall and Winter months. However, it is always hit and miss with the rain and getting the right flows. Having three weeks up our sleeves and after a lot weather forecast watching we decided to start our trip in Gold River.

Chasing photos while waiting for rain

Water falls, marsh and lakes of the area

The beta on rivers and runs for this area is messy and very out dated. It is an area often not visited, with paddlers tending to stick more to the South of the Island. This is unfortunate but also great. The concentration of paddling in the area is remarkable and adventurous with the minimal beta.

Anne and I headed out a day before the rain was due to scope the area and some of the rivers we were keen to run. The night the rain was meant to come it only drizzled. A little disappointed we drove out to Tahsis to try and find some narrows in the ocean that were on our back road map book. 80km of logging road driving latter we couldn’t find them. So we drove back haha. On the bright side it was meant to rain that night.

Scraping down a very low Upper Upana, often not in the boat haha

After a day of scraping on the Upana, the following day the rain finally arrived. What followed was 6 days of some of the best paddling I have done in a long time! Maybe ever but that’s a big statement. There is so many quality sections in such a small area.

We started with a nice warm up on the Lower Gold at 60 cms. This is an awesome higher volume river run. All class three, with one sweet class 4 rapid which is fairly straight forward. The Heber was our next target and finishing right in town it makes for a great afternoon run. Anne and I made it down having never done in in one hour twenty and stoked on life. Consisting of two spectacular canyons this was one of my favorites.

Heather and Garret Sending the super boof on the Upper Upper Gold

Garret in the mini canyon

Anne and Heather chilling after good lines on the Upper upper mini canyon

The following day, Garret and Heather arrived, and with them a whole bunch of local beta. We headed for the Upper Upper, into Monkey canyon on the Gold.  Over the next 4 more days we paddled the Upper Gold, Heber, Pamula/Ucona, Upana and checked out a too low McCurdy Creek. To go into too much detail on all these runs would have me typing for a very long time. I will let our few photos and Benny Clark's footage to speak for these world class sections.

First Drop - Pamula Double Drop

Benny Dropping into a canyon Section on the Pamula

Looking down into the Canyon from the same spot as above

Benny - First Drop Ucona Double Photo: Garret Quin

Me on the second Drop of the Ucona Double. Photo: Garret Quin

What I haven’t noted is the camping in the Gold river area is the best I have ever come across in terms of beauty and accessibility. Camping in the Gold River area is possibly the best vehicle camping I have found anywhere, ever! I will certainly be back to this area, and keep an eye on paddlingmaps.com for some updated beta on the Rivers we paddled.

Camping and Driving

More paddling :)