Kicking Horse River - Lower Canyon to Downtown Golden

Contributed by Michael Reeder
What It's Like
Classic, continuous river running. Fast, surging waves, powerful holes, satisfying eddies to play with.
Class
IV
Scouting / Portaging
Everything can be scouted from the train tracks on river right. At normal flows competent paddlers can boat scout everything.
Time
1 hour
When to Go
Any time the river isn't frozen.
Gauge
74.1cms↓ (Jul 30 13:40)
The bread and butter for locals. Great river running that remains high quality from flood to low water and finishes up in downtown Golden.

Although the put in has become less convenient since CP installed a gate where the access road meets the highway, this remains the best bang for your buck run for anyone in Golden.

Normal flows serve up 4 km of non-stop class 4. This is followed by a few km of class 2-3 before an access point where people who are not up to running the Lower Canyon can join for the "Lower-Lower". The last class 3 rapid on the run is known as The Playwave, a great surf wave with eddy service on both sides of the river that playboats and longboats can both have fun on. After this the river flattens out for the last couple of km's of floating into town.

Although local raft guides have a name for every wave and rock in this section, it can be summed up by "when in doubt, go right". The largest rapids are all on right hand corners with large headwalls on river left.

Like all of the Kicking Horse, the water in here is fast, cold and milky-grey, which can make it both difficult to read, and consequential to misread.
 
As the water drops from flood stage it progressively turns from waves to holes to eddies. High water has people staying right down the middle except for a few huge holes to dodge. Medium water reveals more holes, although most are boofable or punchable if you are feeling up to it, and low water creates a playground of eddies and jet ferries. After 10 years of paddling this section most days of the summer I can still find new places to go, eddies to catch and moves to try. The fast and dynamic nature of the whitewater, combined with the myriad or rocks that form its features make this section a true gift for anyone who wants to improve their boat control.

Flows: Anything above 180 cms is getting quite high, 120 cms feels pretty medium and below 60 cms things are starting to get low. This run has been paddled from as high to as low as the river gets. Although you will get called crazy for running it on either of the far ends of the spectrum, it still goes and is still worth it.



After work group paddle (Photo by Ben Hawthorne)
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Local rafting scene. This section provides great class 4 rafting in the late summer when most rivers have mellowed out substantially. Recent access issues with CP rail have limited commercial use to heli-access only. (Photo by Glacier Raft Company).


Continuous wave trains. This rapid is the most aptly named of all the rapids named "Wave Train" as there are a set of very busy train tracks right next to the river. Rafting customers love to wave at the train (instead of paddling) while running Wave Train. (Photo by Glacier Raft Company).



Rounding the corner before the last big rapid. (Photo by Darren Trapp).


Catching a quick surf on one of the catch on the fly waves at medium flows.


High water ~300 cms (Photo by Ben Hawthorne)
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Super low water. Super beautiful water.