For a couple days at the beginning of September 2018, strange looking colorful inflatable boats invaded the rivers around Mount Robson provincial park I British Columbia.
“You’re going to run this section of river in inflatable boats?” a lady asked us at a boat ramp at the beginning of a class 3 section on the Fraser river. “You know there are rapids?” she said, concerned that we didn’t know what we were getting into. She had not seen our rafts, all she knew was that they were inflatables. Luckily, these 7-pound bundles of plastic can handle much more than most people think.
Packrafting has seen an exponential growth in North America over the last years. Nevertheless, packrafts are still a rare sight on most whitewater rivers in Canada and packrafters get their share of incredulous looks from “hardshellers”, paddlers with more traditional whitewater kayaks. Inspired by similar gatherings of packrafters around the world, three Canadian paddlers decided over the winter of 2018 that they wanted their very own roundup, including post- paddle snack time at Tim Hortons, moose sightings from the river and pot luck dinners consisting mostly of maple syrup flavored meals.
Thirty-five packrafters registered for the first edition of the Canadian roundup. At the end of each day the campsite was full of colorful boats and gear drying all around. Day trips were organized on the Canoe, Holmes (Beaver), Fraser and Athabasca river. The great variety of rivers in the area allowed trips that suited many different ability levels. An iconic section of the Fraser river, the canyon, was accessible just from our campsite. Paddlers challenged themselves on the local runs and waterfalls, with many attendees running Beaver Falls on the Holmes River and proudly showing the videos of their exploit.
The roundup was a great opportunity to connect with other paddlers, both during outings and social evenings. A fund-raising raffle was also organized with the grand prize being a Kokopelli Rogue packraft with T-Zip storage donated by Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Kokopelli, a prize that many had their sights on. The lucky winner was thrilled as he really needed a new boat, his current packraft being covered in repair tape! We are excited to have such a great Canadian packrafting opportunity and planning and location scouting has already started for the 2019 event. To receive updates, please check this blog or the event’s website at www.packraftcanada.ca.
Written by: Marilyne Marchand
Photos by: Ben, Sara, Marilyne and Megan