Gordon River - Middle Gordon

What It's Like
Good pool-drop whitewater with big ledges and clean rapids.
Class
IV-V
Scouting / Portaging
Usually easy - one of the longer rapids is hard to walk.
Time
2-3 hours.
When to Go
Rain fed in the fall and winter.
Gauge
0.046cms↓ (Aug 14 12:20)
The Gordon River is an extensive river system on the southern tip of Vancouver Island that contains multiple sections of high quality whitewater. The middle section of the river, usually just referred to as the Middle Gordon, is certainly the most challenging stretch of the whole river, and it is perhaps one of the most high quality class IV-V runs in the whole southern island zone. Typified by big granite ledges and clear, vibrant green water the Middle Gordon is one of the runs that makes Vancouver Island such a good kayak destination.

The Gordon is a rain-fed river that runs in the fall and winter, when Vancouver Island is continuously pounded by rainstorms. Like all other runs in the area, it tends to flash up quickly after rain, but unlike other runs in the area the Middle Gordon often holds water for a week after a good sized rain event. Generally speaking the Gordon is a lower-water run and while the true level is visual only, look for 2-6 cms on the Harris Creek gauge as a rough guide for whether it is running. Higher is possible, but not recommended for your first time. The Gordon usually doesn't have a snowmelt season.

Use a Backroads Mapbook to find your way around the Middle Gordon. The river is paralleled by the Gordon River FSR that is accessible from both Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan. It's usually quicker to come in from Lake Cowichan. The Middle Gordon starts at the confluence with Loup Creek, where you can access the river about 100 meters downstream from the bridge. Unless the water is very low, it's recommended to put in at the Upper Gordon. The take out is at Bugaboo Creek. There is a trail cut on the river left side of Bugaboo Creek that leads to the Gordon, and is marked from the water by Bugaboo Creek pouring into the Gordon over a 30 foot waterfall and by a large fixed rope on the shore to help paddlers climb out of the canyon. It's almost as fast to quickly paddle the Lower Gordon (class III+), which has easy take out access and makes for a nice long paddle trip.

On the water, the Middle Gordon presents itself as pool-drop whitewater with reasonable scouting opportunities and almost always the possibility of portaging. The first rapid is a waterfall run down the middle with a tricky entrance and serious consequences on both sides. Good boulder rapids interspersed with big bedrock ledges follow. One rapid called Minefield is not really walkable, but it is not the hardest rapid on the run. It is unusual for the run to be completed with no portages - amongst the classic ledges are some sieves and one monster rapid. Enjoy visiting the Middle Gordon, it's a true Vancouver Island classic.

The entrance drop to the Middle Gordon. The water really is as green as it looks.

Scouting a random drop.

Minefield. One of the longest rapids, this one can't really be portaged.

One of the final rapids - a cool ramp.