Lining a raft through a tight spot on the river. (Tom Roper photo)

Lining a raft through a tight spot on the river. (Tom Roper photo)

Running the Babine and Skeena rivers to Hazelton: Part 1

Tom recounts his adventure floating the Babine and Skeena rivers

Finally, we pulled it off and it only took 25 years. A six-day float trip on the Babine and Skeena rivers from the fish fence to Hazelton. This excursion could rank up there as one of the greatest attractions in the Northwest. It is actually spiritual as you float through this wilderness corridor. Back in the day, there were weekly trips run and somehow I could never find the time to join. Nevertheless, it has finally happened and it did not disappoint.

Our guides, Len and his brother Ron treated us to a spectacular adventure. Our first couple of days were actually preparing us for the wilder river ahead. We had some nice class 2 or 3 rapids along the way. Rivers are classified from 1 to 5 with 5 being impassable. The Bulkley would be class 1 and Tatlow falls could make class 2. The Babine and Skeena has a lot of class 2 with some class 3 and the occasional class 4 to scare the pants off you.

The brothers had pre-planned camp stops where we could get a somewhat level site for our tents. They would set up the kitchen tarp and each nite a culinary delight would fill our bellies as we recalled the day’s progress. It was simply a sweet experience to be on the river.

LAST WEEK:

Day 3 was designed to slow us down and camp early to really appreciate where we are. Len put in on an island estuary site in Shelagyote Creek. The “Shel” is glacial feed coming from its mountain namesake in the Sicintine Range. This water is cold and milky and, of course, we had to swim in the confluence.

While setting out tents a very special moment arose as my wife spotted an Elk cow and bull 120 metres or so downriver. We watched as they studied us and then swam the Babine to the other side. I did say it was sweet, didn’t I?

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we were off to the famous Grizzly Drop. Oddly enough there was not a bear available to view.

This is a special place for bears to fish and there was no shortage of fish. The sockeye were thick in places and we were disappointed to miss the bear action. Oh well, lets check the line through this class 3 drop and move on.

While doing so to our surprise several rafts appeared. They had four inflated corner posts and a viewing roof built on them. We struck up a conversation when they landed and met this interesting character from San Diego who was running several rivers testing his version of All Right rafts.

These rafts are designed to right themselves if they flip. Wow, who you don’t meet out in the middle of nowhere? After some talk we got back in the raft to shoot the drop. I’ll admit there was something in my stomach, like a knot as we went through, but we made it and it felt great.

Next adventure, Sphincter 1 and 2. That name did not conjure up a very good experience. Seems all the exciting moments have a name designated from the fraternity of rafters over the years. My favourite is “River Right or Die.” The sphincters did not disappoint, 1 had a tree jammed in it and 2 was very narrow with the present water levels.

Ron, our pickup man in the kayak, led the way as we ripped through 1 brushing the tree and then lining up the boat through 2 as it was just too tight. Wow, this is quite the float and we were very happy to have an experienced guide keeping our raft in the right position on the water.

To be continued.

 

An elk cow and bull were among the wildlife seen while floating the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

An elk cow and bull were among the wildlife seen while floating the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

A grizzly bear was among the wildlife seen while floating the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

A grizzly bear was among the wildlife seen while floating the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

Floating the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

Floating the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

Sara Tomlinson under the kitchen tarp during a float trip on the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

Sara Tomlinson under the kitchen tarp during a float trip on the Babine and Skeena rivers. (Tom Roper photo)

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