Greater Vancouver and Lower Mainland Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting sports information, listings and links
Background of the Sport
These are the human-powered versions of water sports. Kayaking is popular on both whitewater and lakes, and in coastal areas, sea kayaking is popular. Canoeing is popular on lakes, rivers, even on whitewater. Whitewater slalom kayaking and canoeing have been Olympic sports for several years. Rafting is usually reserved for fast-flowing rivers and whitewater experiences, where the raft provides an extra measure of safety and control, expecially for beginning watersport enthusiasts.
With a kayak, uou move using a double-bladed paddle. You reach forward with each blade and pull, twist your torso to reach and pull with the opposite blade, to balance the forces and keep your kayak moving forward. Kayaking is an excellent sport for building leg, abdominal, chest and back muscles. Rookies need to learn to moves: the "eskimo roll" to right the craft when you are inverted and submerged, and a "wet exit" to get out of the skirt while inverted.
Canoeing has evolved from the main means of transportation for Indians and early explorers and fur traders. Canoeing is a low-noise way to explore the area's beautiful and rugged geography, letting you get surprisingly close to wildlife on land, water or in the air. Canoeing is a great form of exercise, whether canoeing on a lake or canoeing downstream.
Your propel a canoe in the sitting position, either sitting on the seats, or kneeling and resting your buttocks against it (lower centre of gravity and lower wind profile). You hold the paddle with two hands, one at the end of the handle, the other gripping the shaft just above the blade, and pulling toward you. The person at the front of the boat sets the pace (it works best when every body paddles in unison), while the person at the back does the steering, by paddling with a "J" stroke.
Kayaking has evolved dramatically from the sealskin-covered shells that Eskimos used for hunting seals in the Arctic. Kayaks today are durable and lightweight fibreglass or plastic shells with built-in flotation, and provide a waterproof spray skirt to keep you and your pack dry during in a roll-over. Whitewater kayaks tend to shorter, and can turn on a dime. Sea kayaks and longer, with a sleek v-shaped body for stability in rough seas. You sit in a moulded seat, and your feet sit on footrests (which control the rudder, to help with steering). Most kayaks have two bulkheads fore and aft for storage, and have deck lines and bungee cords to keep key items handy. Things like a spare paddle, map, munchies, water bottle, and camera. Kayaks can cost $3000, with paddles costing $50 to $200 (you should always carry a spare). You will also need to wear a lifejacket, which are required by law.
Canoes come in a number of materials: aluminium, cedar-strip, fiberglas and even Kevlar, all with different benefits and a range of costs. There are many places you can rent canoes and other equipment, especially around the popular canoeing areas, which is handy when you do not canoe often. Canoes all have built in flotation, so in case of a capsize, stay with the canoe.
When rafting or kayaking, you will need a bathing suit, shorts, T-shirt, and a Polar fleece, acrylic or wool top (warm when wet), a wind-proof rain jacket and pants, running shoes and wool socks, sun screen, a brimmed hat and sunglasses (with retainer or string), and a complete change of clothes for end of the trip (in a waterproof plastic bag). If you are paddling on open water, dress colourfully so large boats can see you. For overnight trips, you'll need a sleeping bag and tent, and a warm jacket.
Canoeing is popular on False Creek (put-ins by Granville Island and at Vanier Park) and on Deer Lake in Burnaby (boat launch at the south end), which is also hoe to the Beaver Canoe Club (294-7450). Good wilderness canoeing can be found at Alouette Lake, a BC Hydro reservoir in Golden Ears Provincial Park, near maple Ridge about 40 km east of Vancouver. You can rent canoes at the south end, or launch your own at the north end. Mid-level canoeing can be found at Buntzen Lake by Port Moody (469-9-28), Pitt Lake and nearby Widgeon Creeek (941-2822). For the adventurous, a canoe trip from Hope to Vancouver on the Fraser River takes about 3 days.
Whitewater kayaking is popular onteh Capilano River (North Vancouver ), Kanaka Creek (Fort Langley), Chilliwack River (Chilliwack), Cheakamus River (Squamish), Fraser River (between Cache Creek and Lytton) offer great river runs. Skookunchuck Narrows (Sunshine Coast) offers fast-running tidal currents, the fastest in the world. There is flatwater kayaking at Cultus Lake
Rafting is popular on the Chilliwack River, including the Chilliwack Canyon, the Fraser River, the Thompson River above Lytton, the Nahatlatch River (above Nahatlatch Lake) , Nicola River, and the Coquihalla River (above Hope). Some rafting companies include: Chilliwack River Rafting, Chilliwack (1-800-410-7238), Hyak Wilderness Adventures, Burnaby (1-800-663-7238), Reo River Rafting, Anmore (604 461-7238). Fraser River Raft Expeditions in Yale (604 863-2336).
Sea Kayaking has a number of great venues. False Creek and English Bay right downtown, Indian Arm is very rustic and is best accessed from Deep Cove in North Vancouver or from Belcarra (stop off at Racoon Island or Twin Islands). Howe Sound between Horseshoe Bay and Squamish offers deepwater and majestic mountain vistas. There is a seal colony at Pam Rocks, about 25 km north of Horseshoe Bay (closest water access is Porteau Cove). Avoid the heavily trafficked Queen Charlotte Channel to Bowen Island. Gibsons is a popular launch spot for trips to Keats Island, Pasley Islands, or Gambier Island. A little further way is Sechelt Inlet and Porpoise Bay Park, Jervis Inlet, Princess Louisa Inlet, and the Gulf Islands. Contact the Sea Kayaking Association of BC in Surrey (604 597-1122)