A less often run creek in the whitewater hot spot of Gold River, the Upana River is a quickie canyon with one standout blind 20 foot waterfall. 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: Heber, Ucona, Pamela, and Quatchka. Look for these runs and others to be described in an upcoming guidebook produced by the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society. Also, the Upana Caves are also just a short drive further up the road beyond the put in.
For the Upana to be runnable, the levels on the Gold River need to be a bit higher than for the other creeks in the area. For the other creeks, a good starting point level is 100cms on the Gold River, while a springtime reading of 130cms meant a low runnable flow on the Upana. Snowmelt is rarely enough to bring the Upana in, a little rain bump will probably be necessary.
Access to the Upana is just outside of Gold River, a small town located just over an hour west of Campbell River on Highway 28. From Gold River, follow signs towards Tahsis along the Gold River Road, over a bridge over the Gold River, and turn left to reach a nearby bridge over the Upana River at the takeout. To get to the put in, continue towards Tahsis, stay right at the Y, and drive up the hill along the Head Bay Road (Tree to Sea Drive) for ~4km. Once the river is again visible from the road, just pick a good put in depending on how much of the roadside section you want to run.
If the river is at a low runnable level, the roadside boulder garden section is going to involve some narrow lines and rock bashing. If this roadside section looks padded, the canyon downstream is going to be spicy. After the river leaves the road, you'll eventually get to a canyon section which can feel uncomfortably blind at times, although it could probably be scouted with a lot of effort. The horizon line for the waterfall is obvious, and while it can be scouted from a distance, the easiest way out is to paddle off the lip. After the waterfall there is one more big drop and then the takeout shortly afterwards. Or, continue downstream into the Middle (II) and Lower (IV) Gold River sections.