Upper Callaghan

Contributed by David Wortley
What It's Like
Scenic mostly Class III+ with two bits of Class IV
III+ with 2 @ IV
Scouting / Portaging
Main falls can be inspected
1-1.5 hours depending on your put-in choice
When to Go
Note - at time of writing (Summer 2021) there is some wood blocking the river below the falls which means the river has significant hazard and should be approached with caution for now.  There are also a lot of bears in this area, Grizzlies have been seen so be bear aware, be loud and stick with your friends. 

The Upper Callaghan can be a nice warm-up before hitting up the main famous Callaghan run or extended into an adventure of itself by putting on further up.


Use the gauge at the Cal-Cheak Rec site used for the Main Callaghan. The Upper can be run from 0.1-0.5m on the gauge for a friendly level above 0.5m it gets tricky to stop and inspect the falls.  Wood is always a hazard on this river, and often gets caught up at the waterfall.


Put-On Option A - Park at the bridge over the Callaghan, climb down the tricky steep slope and put on under the bridge.

Put-On Option B - Park at Alexander Falls viewpoint carpark. Hike down an easy old logging road (10-15min walk) and put on at the confluence of the Callaghan and Madeley Creek.

Put-On Option C - Same as above, but climb down and put on Madeley Creek, run the two drops into the Callaghan. Fun, but only if Madeley Creek has water.

Put-On Option D - Drive up towards Callaghan lake and walk down to the river for the Upper Upper Callaghan -- this is more of a class IV-V adventure with a big double drop. See this trip report for more info.

On the River

Putting in on Madeley Creek, there is a river-wide 10ft drop, followed by a small drop best run either center off a little boof or hard river left, then run hard left on the 3rd down some boulder-mank into the Upper Callaghan.

Benjy Ben finding some water on a low-water Alexander Creek.

If it's too low, put on at the confluence and enjoy some nice boogie boulder garden run, the river canyons up a bit just before the road bridge, where the next put-on option is.

After the bridge there are a few small boulder rapids, then after a short distance you approach the main event of this run, a horizon line with a few options and a danger to be aware of. You can get out on river right and inspect the falls, but you can't see the left line.

The falls is fairly simple point and shoot right of center, a fun intro to running waterfalls for many. The far left side (almost under the bushes) is a very fun off-angle boof into a slightly enclosed pool. It's almost impossible to scout so you'll be relying on previous beta. Something to be aware of is the just of center-left line feeds into a rather nasty sieve/siphon, in the photo below you can see wood in it. A whole paddler and boat has disappeared through this and reappeared behind the curtain of the falls. If you're running the right channel you are well away from it, but if you're going for the left channel don't eddy out in the middle, it's impossible to see from above.

Main Falls of the Upper Callaghan, spot the wood in the Siv, the left line is out of sight further river left.

Wood often gets caught up above, on and directly below this falls, so it's worth inspecting on river right. 

The rest of the run is mostly read and run fun boulder garden, with one rapid with a larger hole which has a green tongue on the center-right side. 

The take out is down the right channel at a large island, (or go left if running the class IV-V section below). There is sometimes a large wood-jam blocking this channel, as of July 2022 it is clear and you can paddle down the right channel but be cautious, if it's blocked it's safer to take out just to the left of the wood-jam climb over and put back on the other side.  A short paddle down and there's a small beach/ creek that comes in from river right which signals the take-out. There will be some flagging tape to lead you back up to the road. If you rejoin the main flow you've gone too far and you're into the main Callaghan -- eddy out and bush-whack back up.