Whitewater and cliff jumping in the canyon

Canyon Raft Company offer whitewater and float trips on the Bull River and Elk River and promise an unforgettable day out for all ages.

  • Aug. 2, 2013 3:00 p.m.

Rafting through the canyon.

Canyon Raft Company offer whitewater and float trips on the Bull River and Elk River and promise an unforgettable day out for all ages and levels of bravery.

The trips run on the Bull River in early season, then from July the boats head down the Elk River, where my trip was.

I joined Canyon Raft Company on a very hot and sunny Thursday in late July. It was my first rafting experience, but I am a strong swimmer so I wanted to be thrown in at the deep end, so to speak.

After getting us all kitted up in wetsuits and life vests, we were given a detailed safety talk from owner, Blair Craig, to make sure we all knew what to do if the raft capsized or if we were sent flying into the canyon. Although it was a little intimidating being warned about these possibilities, it was definitely good to know what to do.

Canyon Raft try to match you up with others of similar abilities, so families with younger children were put together in one raft and those hoping for a wilder ride were bunched together in other rafts.

I ended up in a raft with a couple and two teenage boys, who were certainly looking for thrills. Connor, our enthusiastic guide, was happy to oblige.

The trip starts near Elko, on the Lower Elk, and takes rafters over a series of rapids, and also through an incredible narrow canyon where the rock cliffs come straight down into the river on either side. The guides point out interesting rock features and give lots of information about the surroundings, such as how the cedar trees on the banks ended up there, and why cars driving over the now-disused bridge had to go in reverse.

Lunch was carried along in coolers, and eaten by the side of the river in a shaded area with picnic tables and benches – a pleasant stop, but everyone was itching to get back on the water.

A highlight of the trip for me was watching an eagle hover before swooping down to pluck his dinner from the river. We also had the chance to jump off rocks, from varying heights, into the cool deep river below.

But of course, the real thrills come from the rafting. Connor made sure we had more excitement than expected, with attempts to “surf” on river waves and encouraging the two at the front of the raft to ride like bull riders, legs hanging off the front as we hit the rapids. Knowing we were all good swimmers, Connor also saw to it that a couple of us on our raft made a slightly undignified entry into the river – flying backwards off the raft. He pretended that it wasn’t intentional but I saw him smiling.

We were told the waves are even bigger earlier in the season, but the lower water levels certainly didn’t mean a boring ride. By the time we reached our destination down Highway 3 near Grasmere, everyone was exhausted from a day full of sun and excitement. Sign up for your whitewater adventure before the season ends. Call Lynn at 250-423-7226.

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