Lillooet River Bikeraft
On a gray, fall Saturday afternoon, we parked on the far side of the Lillooet River Road bridge and started biking up the Lillooet valley. The road itself was well graded, maintained for active logging and work on a hydro-electric project further up the river, and an easy ride with a few moderate climbs and descents.
The ride took a little over three hours, covering 35 kilometers from the bridge to the Upper Lillooet Recreation Site, an unserviced campground near the confluence of Meager Creek and the Lillooet River.
The next morning we woke up late and had a lazy breakfast around the fire waiting for the sun to fill the Lillooet Valley. Just before noon, we inflated our boats, packed dry sacks and started hike-a-biking down to the river's edge.
We put in just below the confluence, above some Class II+ rapids. Hiking further up-river would add some fun Class III water.
Below the first rapid, the river keeps up a constant Class II/II+ grade, winding through and over a series of gravel bed drops. It's mostly fun wave trains, but the silty blue-gray Star Wars milk coloured water conceals some nasty rocks so you have to keep your head up.
The river continues at a consistent Class II/II+ for most of the run, the upper section having mostly rocks as hazards, with more and more wood lower down. Three times on the run we ducked underneath river-wide sweepers, most in challenging scenarios with sharp bends or Class II rapids on either side. Twice we had to get out of our boats and line rafts over gravel bars.
The float was long, the 35 kilometers of biking stretching in more than 50 kilometers of winding river, and our late start meant much of it was in the shade, creating some dangerous cold conditions. But, the views were stunning, snow-capped peaks towering a golden, orange and red flecked valley. Even so, the entire float took more than 6 hours, included one near flip near the end of the run and I arrived back at the bridge after dark, running the last five kilometers of easy Class II water by moonlight.
Next time, we'll start earlier...