Coquihalla River

Contributed by Claudia Schwab
What It's Like
Continuous boulder gardens, pool-drop, gravel bed, short bedrock canyon, some floating sections, medium volume.
Scouting / Portaging
Easy to scout
3-4 hours
When to Go
Spring snow-melt (May and early June)
28.7cms↑ (Jun 21 02:05)
Gauge and Levels: Online. Environment Canada, Coquihalla above Alexander Creek. This gauge seems prone to malfunctioning. If it works: Medium: 2.5 m. High: 3.0 m.

Scenery: Good, great mountain views, but next to highway. We have seen more moose than other groups of paddlers (so far 2 moose).

Length of Run: 17 km and shorter options.

Length of Shuttle (one way): same.

Special Considerations: Watch for wood especially from Carolina Mines down to Sowaqua. Rapids become continuous at high levels. Make sure to take out above the canyon. 

Directions: Take Hwy 1 from Vancouver to Hope. From Hope take the Coquihalla Hwy (Hwy 5) north to exit 183 (Kawkawa/Othello Road). The pullout under the highway bridge is the upper take-out. For a longer run drive 3 km downstream on Othello Road to a convenient pullout on the river opposite some houses (N49 22.873 W121 21.710). This is the lower take-out. There are also two choices for put-ins. The lower is at Exit 192 (Sowaqua) in the large open area near the river (N49 26.946 W121 15.993). To get to the upper put-in, continue north on Hwy 5 to Exit 195 (Carolina Mines). Follow the logging road upstream for about 150 m and put in at the small bridge (N49 28.711 W121 15.134).

Description: Much of the river can be seen from the road. The first 4 km from Caroline Mine to Sowaqua are mostly gravel bars with easy drops. Watch for wood especially in this section. After Sowaqua the pace picks up with a nice boulder garden. What you see below Sowaqua put-in is pretty much indicative of the rest of the run. At medium levels there are many one-shot waves to catch, boulders to boof and holes to play in. The last couple of kilometers before the upper take-out are quite mellow. Between the upper and lower take-out there are some good rapids particularly the first drop after the bridge. In case you are curious what you may find above the described runs, there are reports of epics involving lots of logs, boat dragging and waterfalls.

Camping and Food: There are lots of restaurants in Hope. Try the Home Restaurant if you feel really hungry, but leave some space for the pie. Paid camping is available in Hope, free camping along the river off Pipeline Road (the logging road heading upstream from the Kawkawa exit).

Non-paddling Activities: It is well worth visiting Othello Tunnels (part of the historic Kettle Valley Railway) and Coquihalla Canyon. It’s a short 30 minute walk. You will see why Coquihalla means "greedy or hungry waters".