Experiencing Canada via its wild rivers

  • 42 protected Canadian Heritage Rivers to raft
  • 70 wild rivers in the Yukon alone
  • 1738 kilometre Mackenzie River is Canada’s longest

With rivers flowing from sea to sea to sea, Canada offers a rafting smorgasbord. Hit high-octane white-water on epic waterways, paddling madly through seething rapids, shooting through narrow canyons, dodging rocks and veering around bends. Or choose mellow flat-water for fishing and lazy family floats with friendly rapids en route. It’s a fun way to experience nature and wildlife in pristine landscapes, scanning the riverbanks for elk, caribou and bears. Rivers were the highways that opened this vast country to explorers, fur traders, settlers and adventurers. Follow in their wakes and get to know locals and First Nations along the way for whom rivers are still a lifeline. Slip on a life-jacket and raft for an afternoon, or set off on a multi-day or multi-week expedition camping under the stars in the wilderness beneath the light of the Midnight Sun or the eerie glow of the Northern Lights.

Alberta

  • Drift along the Athabasca River, a Canadian Heritage River, in a 10-passenger, oar-powered raft.
  • Heli-Raft in the Rocky Mountains starting with a heart-stopping ride through the bucking Bow River Horseshoe Canyon, then hop a helicopter for a scenic flight back to Canmore.

British Columbia

  • Raft the wild white-waters of Wells Gray Provincial Park’s Clearwater River, on a multi-day/ multi-sport adventure that also includes hiking pristine forests and canoeing.
  • Climb inside a Hydro Bronc - an 8-foot-high water craft made from seven inflatable white-water raft tubes - and roll down the rapids of Fitzsimmon’s Creek at Whistler.
  • Set off from Radium Hot Springs on a white-water rafting adventure down the Kootenay River.

Northwest Territories

  • Drift with leisure down the remote frontier Mackenzie River towards the Arctic Ocean enjoying the swift float through the Ramparts, high limestone rock faces stretching for ten kilometres along both shores near Fort Good Hope.
  • The South Nahanni River is the North’s legendary roller-coaster rafting trip through a UNESCO World Heritage Site with huge canyons and giant waterfalls like 90 metre Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara Falls.

Nova Scotia

  • Hang on tight aboard a motorized zodiac that tackles the crazy waves of a tidal bore on the Bay of Fundy, as the world’s highest tides surge in and out with power.

Nunavut

  • Float along the Burnside River watching waves of migrating caribou surge across the Arctic Barrenlands. Then camp out under the Midnight Sun.
  • Go river rafting 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle on Somerset Island before watching hundreds of beluga whales from the shore.
  • Raft down the Soper Heritage River flowing through Katannalik Territorial Park on Baffin Island and finish up in the Inuit community of Kimmirut to experience Nunavut culture, arts and crafts.

Ontario

  • Feel the adrenaline rush of churning through the giant white-water rapids of the mighty Ottawa River, a short drive from the national capital.

Yukon

  • Spend two weeks rafting down Glacier Alley - the icy glacial flows of the Alsek River - floating through three wilderness parks, spotting northern wildlife and camping beneath soaring peaks and glaciers.
  • Thrilling white-water through canyons, pristine wilderness and glacial lakes make the Tatshenshini River a classic rafting adventure amid the peaks of the Coast Mountains.

Weather

  • Mid-summer - July and August - when temperatures across the country are at their highest, is the best time for rafting.
  • Summer temperatures range from daytime highs in the 20°C's and low 30°C's in the south to 15°C degrees in Nunavut and the north of the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
  • In the far North, mid-summer is the time for rafting.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
When to go
  • The rafting season in southern Canada is generally from April to October with the best river levels during June and July.
  • In the North – Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut – the season generally runs from June through August, depending on the latitude.
  • Spring – May and June – is warm, days are long and rivers can run at higher levels due to melting mountain snow.
  • Fall – mid- August through September depending on the latitude – is cooler and generally bug-free, but rivers are at a lower level and nighttime can be chilly, even in the south. But autumn colours are brilliant and dark nights mean a better chance of spotting Northern Lights shimmering across the sky.
Need to know
  • Bring warm layers of clothing, even in summer as temperatures are lower on the water where it is also often windier than on land.
  • Outfitters will supply lifejackets and waterproof suits when needed.
  • A small dry bag is handy for keeping cameras, watches and wallets dry on the water.
  • During summer, sunscreen is essential as are good sunglasses; Polaroids allow you to see down into the water. Binoculars are handy for close-up wildlife viewing.
  • Bring insect repellant and, especially in the North, bug nets or bug-jackets which might come in handy depending on the season.