Willow River - Lower (Gr. 2+)
Written by Spencer Cox Thursday, 08 February 2007 20:34
The Willow River Paddle Fest is super relaxed and tonnes of fun. The river is pretty good and the Prince George crew is a super nice bunch of paddlers. Take Bug Spray.
To Get There: This run is located about 60km east of Prince George on highway 16. The road to the put in is about 500m east of the highway bridge over the Willow River. If you cross the bridge and were coming from the east, turn around and back track, if you cross the bridge and are coming from the west, watch for a small gravel road on the right hand side. Then drive a few hundred metres to the river (keep going downhill).
The takeout, is on the river left, or west side of the 16 bridge. Get across to the west side of the bridge and take a right. You will get to a small parking area, which I think might be a picnic site or trail head.
Description: The river starts as class 1, and continues that way for a while. After a km or so, there are a few boulder garden class 2 rapids. You will see the beginning of the "canyon" part of this run, when the walls pinch in a bit and there are some large pieces of bedrock in the river bed. This section is actually an interesting bit of river. There are some cool eddies to play in, and at higher flows, it has a boily, sort of big water feel to it. There is one play spot, called surf city, but certainly don't go for the play. At higher water, the wave I would say is a little better, even though you can't do much for play moves, at least there is some good soul surfing on a fairly fast smooth green wave. The river calms briefly before entering the final rapid, which if I'm not mistaking is called, "Freak my Beak" and is a class 3+-4 drop. I remember it as a fast chute one time I was there, and a fairly good sized pour over hole the next. I would imagine water level plays quite a roll, because the canyon is fairly pinched. The river calms, below here, and within a few hundred metres there are some takeouts on the left, heading up the bank.
MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT MISS YOUR TAKEOUT! This river cruises into a canyon, rightfully named Killer Canyon. I've looked at it a few times, and I think its certainly runnable, at least partially, but the rock is rotten, filled with siphons, undercuts, and sieves, and it lacks appeal, especially since the river left bank is so steep, scouting is difficult, unless you’re in there. Rumor has it that it has been run. The crux from my memory looked like a spot where basically the whole river crashes into and under a giant midstream boulder.
The Lower Lower
A really nice canyon section of class 4 whitewater! If it wasn't such a long hike for such a short run, it would be one of BC's finest rivers.
To put in - you better find yourself a local, from the website at the top of the page. Basically you head down a logging road, which turns off to the right, about 1km west of the bridge over the willow. Then drive in maybe 1km-2km tell there is a quasi-pullout on the right, with a small trail escaping through the dense undergrowth. There is one trail before which also leaves to the right, but heads to the Killer Canyon viewpoint. If you’re on the right trail, it descends very steeply, for about 10 minutes to the river, which should be about 100-200m below the end of Killer Canyon.
Takeout: Further down the logging road. This is where you are more likely to need a local. There is an overgrown logging road which leaves to the right. This is where you will pop out after hiking up.
Description: The river is best at the start, and fades a bit by the takeout. It is essentially ledgy and bedrock grade 4. There is a fair amount of volume, and levels can really change vertically. None of the rapids are especially bad, although logs can change that, so scout where appropriate. Towards the end of the run, it mellows out to class 1 flowing over a flat boulder bed. I would say you paddle about 500m-1km before you see a faint trail leaving up the bank on the left. There isn't much of a trail, but after about 20 minutes of head high vegetation, mosquitos, and a couple of swampy sections, you should reach the logging road. The head high vegetation, is why you might want to go with a local, because if you didn't hit this trail, the 20m unpleasant hike, would turn into a very shitty, multiple hour ordeal...its extra thick BC bush.
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