Experiencing River Rafting During COVID-19: Guest Blog

This blog was written by one of our recent guests on the Elaho Exhilarator river rafting daytrip.

As businesses reopen, my partner and I have done what we can to have fun safely. For the
most part that’s meant heading outdoors and taking on new adventures, surrounded by BC’s
natural beauty.

Squamish is a place unlike anywhere else in the province. At about an hour’s drive outside of
Vancouver, it’s home to surreal sights of mountaintops, waterfalls, and glacier peaks at every
turn. I’ve been through Squamish many times, and I’ve had an awesome time exploring the
mountains and hiking the trails, but rafting was an altogether new experience for me.

Getting planned and set up for the trip was a breeze. Nicole Dresler, in charge of reservations
and bookings, provided us with all the information we needed. That included a detailed list of
what to bring rafting
, how to get there, when to get there, and what to expect.

Simply put, they’ve got you covered and will ensure you’re prepared for a day out on the water.

Given that my partner and I are more into land-dwelling than sea-faring, we were kitted out
entirely by Canadian Outback Rafting. We geared up as a group, each person maintaining
social distancing and using masks indoors. It took about 20 minutes for us to find our wetsuit
sizes and get dressed. Then it was time for our trip up to the top of the river.

River Rafting Adventures During COVID-19

Our team lead, Evan, took the time to ensure everyone understood the safety precautions and
emergency situations ahead of time. It relieves any anxieties you may have to know about
anything that could possibly go wrong, although we had no issues in our group. Safety
equipment was also fitted and checked by the guides.

In regard to COVID-19, we were well taken care of. All attendees were required to have a face
buff or bandana before heading out onto the water. Additionally, the guides took great care to
clean all the equipment after it was used and made sure everyone was well informed of the
precautionary measures being taken.

The BC Rivers Outfitters Association produced a “Best Practices” manual for commercial river
rafting operators to follow during the coronavirus pandemic
. This manual was produced, in part,
by the managerial team of Canadian Outback Rafting (COR), and the requirements therein were
taken seriously by all members of the COR team
. The best part was that it never felt obtrusive to
the experience of rafting itself.

Finding ways to have fun without putting yourself at great risk can be challenging right now.
While there is always risk in leaving the house, I never felt at significant risk during our trip.
Overall, I’d describe the entire experience as being fun and exciting without any real fear of
getting sick or injured.

In total, we had about 20 people on our trip. We were matched up with two more couples to fill
our raft. We waddled over the rocky shore together and hopped into our raft as our guide
explained the three or four commands we’ll need to know to steer ourselves down the river.

The Unreal Experience of Whitewater Rafting

Once you’re out there the sights and sounds are breathtaking. Waves are crashing as the river
water piles down the channel of Squamish Valley. Our trip took place in late July with the water
level of the Elaho River at around 220 cm/s. That meant we were able to head through some
sections of the river that would not be passable if the rapids were running any faster, including
the iconic “Devil’s Elbow” – a narrow 110-degree turn in the channel.

There is something about having someone yell commands at you over the sounds of whitewater
rapids that really gets your heart going. The first thirty minutes of the experience are intense as
you come to terms with the speed, stability, and motions of the raft. It’s all quite safe but trying
to quiet your mind as your boat slides down into a 3-foot wave isn’t always the easiest.

You’ll quickly overcome the feeling of shock as water that’s barely above freezing smashes into
you, which is an excellent time to get more accustomed to paddling. Everyone needs to paddle
in sync so that the raft can follow the guide’s directions. That’s often easier said than done, but
by the end of the first set of rapids you’ll start finding your stride.

What to Expect When Rafting in Squamish

Regardless of if you’re a masterful paddler or a fledgling flailer like myself, rafting is more about
the excitement and action of it all than the skill level of an individual. Surely it wouldn’t be any
fun if you felt perfectly secure the entire time.

Without a doubt having a good guide can make all the difference in how much fun you have on
any outdoor excursion. From our experience, I can attest that all six of the guides that came
along (photographer/driver Greg included) were friendly, helpful, and just genuinely good
people. Our personal guide, Erin, had much to tell about the area, the sights, and her colourful
experiences as a guide. It was more than enough to keep our group laughing along throughout
the brief reprieves between rapids.

Unique to rafting – or riding rapids in general – is that the waterways are always changing.
Constant erosion from the powerful waves leads to new features and paths down the river each
season. On top of that, the time of year changes how the rapids ride and appear too.

I’m BC born and raised, and so I’ve had the good fortune of seeing a lot of the majestic beauty
this land has to offer. If there is one trip that could encapsulate all of that, I’d be hard pressed to
find a better daytrip than rafting down the Elaho River. The river is mostly powered by glacier
runoff. That’s why the water is so cold. As you near the flatter ends of the river, you might get
the chance to spot where the river water meets up with one of the glacier runoffs. In that area
you can actually see the separation of water – two distinct shades of blue lined up next to one

Even though the water is cold, your wetsuit and thermal layer (provided by COR) will keep you
warm if you want to hop in for a dip at one of the eddies along the way. The guides made about
three or four stops along the way to let us catch our breath and hop in the water if we wanted to.

Another beautiful feature towards the end of the tour is the “Weeping Wall” Falls. The towering
rock face leading up to the glaciers has cracks in it, pouring out countless liters of water in
several spots. The mountains of Squamish are unlike anywhere else in the world and they line
the valley wonderfully.

COVID-19 has changed most people’s Summer plans, but it doesn’t have to stop you from
experiencing the great outdoors. Canadian Outback Rafting is offering special pricing for private
rafts with 4-8 participants. On top of that, they’ve demonstrated their commitment to practicing the highest standard of caution possible during coronavirus to ensure everyone has a fun and safe time out on the waters.

So get out there and try it for yourself!