Benson River - Upper

Contributed by Scott McBride
What It's Like
A short low volume canyon in the middle of nowhere
IV+ at low water
Scouting / Portaging
Mostly possible but not always
1-2 hours
When to Go
October to April with moderate rain. Spring snowmelt possible
Sure, every river has a triple drop. But what if there was a river with three triple drops, and that was the whole run? Welcome to the Upper Benson, an aesthetically pleasing canyon that is too short to be worth the drive unless you happen to be taking the back road to Port Alice.


There are no gauges in this area, but the Upper Benson is a tight low volume creek, and low winter flows are probably best for a safe descent. At the put in, it should look like just enough flow to kayak. Any sort of big rain spike or high flows is going to be class V. This portion of the Benson River is above all the lakes, so flows may be flashy as is typical for the island. Furthermore, the Vanishing River is subtracted through a cave above the Upper Benson, and transferred to the Reappearing River into the Raging River. None of that water flows through this reach.


To get to the put in, drive north on the island highway to just beyond Port McNeill, and turn left on the Keogh FSR to a bridge at 35.5km. The takeout is ~2km downstream on river left along another FSR near Merry Widow Mountain.

On the water

Most, but not all of the rapids can be scouted at river level; those that cannot can be scouted and presumably portaged on river left above the low canyon walls. There are a few points that feel committing, and although the road is close to the left a hike out will probably involve a healthy bushwhack. If this run is full of wood it will be a lot of work to scout, but in 2022 it was totally clean. Although the rock is mostly limestone, the cave factor does not appear to be in play, but there is some pin/piton factor. The character is somewhat reminiscent of the in between boogie rapids on the Cameron River. Take out once the road reappears on river left, or a bit further downstream at a bridge to the Raging River IPP.

The first set from the air.

Looking down into the first set.

Looking down into the second set.

The crux of the run in the middle of the second set.

Looking back up the second set.

The third set is the easiest.