Ucona River - Upper

Contributed by Scott McBride
What It's Like
Technical waterfalls through coastal rainforest
IV with optional V
Scouting / Portaging
You'll be scouting almost everything.
2-3 hours
When to Go
During or after rainfall October-March, snowmelt April-June
519.0cms↓ (Dec 5 05:15)
A nice way to access the classic Ucona River double waterfall, if Pamela Creek is too low or too hard for your group. While you're in the area, make sure to check out some of the 5 sections on the Gold River, as well as the other local creeks: Pamela, Quatchka, Heber and Upana. Look for these runs and others to be described in an upcoming guidebook produced by the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society.

As with many of the creeks in Gold River, a good starting point is 100cms on GOLD RIVER BELOW UCONA RIVER (08HC001), a bit less in the spring. The Ucona River can handle a wider range of flows than many of the creeks in the area. Also, the brown tannin water at the put in is a clue that this river may hold onto its flow for longer than clear water streams in the area.

2020 hydrograph and median for GOLD RIVER BELOW UCONA RIVER (08HC001). A good starting point is ~100cms on this gauge, less in the spring.

Access to the Ucona River is on gravel logging roads outside of Gold River, which itself is just over an hour west of Campbell River on Highway 28. From the main junction in the town of Gold River, bear left onto Muchalat Drive, and turn left onto Ucona Main before crossing the bridge over the Gold River. Follow the Ucona Main past Star Lake for ~9km to a bridge over the Ucona River at the put in. To get to the take out, drive a further ~9km along the Ucona Main, passing over both Pamela and Quatchka Creeks, to a nondescript pullout. From here, a very rough trail leads down to a takeout on river left, and it's recommended to scout this takeout ahead of time before putting on. The trail may be hard to find without a local or a guidebook. A previously used take out on river right is no longer favoured due to deteriorating roads.

From the put in, the river will look low and a bit unappetizing with the shallowness and the amount of wood. The initial section is unique as it consists of bedrock rapids, but is not in a canyon. These drops are almost all worth scouting, and while they look strange and have pin potential there is often a line. Most people will portage something in this section. After the Pamela Creek confluence, the geology changes to a clean granite read and run class IV canyon. Below this canyon is a classic double waterfall that can be scouted and portaged on the left. Once Quatchka Creek confluences just below the double drop, paddle some boogie and one more class IV pinch rapid before looking for the take out on river left. This nondescript take out needs to be scouted ahead of time, as the Lower Ucona downstream has only seen a few portage-filled descents.

The Ucona River at a medium level doesn't look like much at the put in, but it canyons up downstream.

Scouting a random drop in the technical section above the Pamela confluence.

Another random drop above the Pamela confluence.

The first waterfall in the classic Ucona double drop.

The second waterfall in the classic Ucona double drop.

Looking back up the Ucona, Pamela, and Quatchka valleys.