Gold Creek Low Water
The Trip: The BC lower mainland is full of rivers and creeks that don't make sense to paddle in a traditional whitewater kayak, mostly because the approach would be too grueling to hauling a massive plastic boat up. Enter the packraft. It was with this in mind that I headed up to Golden Ears Provincial Park to explore Gold Creek, a popular day hike destination that feeds Alouette Lake.
Starting from the Gold Creek Day Use Area, I headed up the East Canyon trail, climbing an old logging road through hemlock forests. You could also hike up the Lower Falls trail, which would be shorter, with less elevation and a lot more people.
After a little less than an hour, I turned left down a narrow spur trail at the sign marked Lower Falls and descended a steep trail to the canyon bottom to scout below the falls. The falls were crowded on Saturday afternoon, and the water level was too low to put in until the creek leveled out into a wide pool about 500 meters below the falls. Originally, I had planned to scout above the falls, but after arriving and seeing the extremely low water, I decided to just try my luck with running the creek down from the falls.
From the put-in, the creek is mostly flat water with short, gravel bed rapids for about a kilometer. At the extremely low mid-August water level, these were just barely passable in a packraft, provided you choose the exact right line. I misread the river a couple times and had to do some serious scooting.
Lower down, the creek becomes a series of boulder gardens with shallow pools in between. At the water level I paddled Gold Creek at, they were barely run-able, but required a lot of quick technical movements and finding the right spots to just squeeze through the rocks. Twice, at shallow gravel bars, I had to get out and line the packraft across.
Close to the bottom of the run, about 1 river mile from the takeout, the boulders became impassable. I tried to line the boat through, but gave up 1/4 of the way into a continuous boulder garden. After a short bushwack from the bank to the Lower Falls Trail it was twenty minutes walk back to the car.
The Verdict: At a higher water level, like spring flood or after some serious rain, Gold Creek could be a fun packraft run with some intense boulder gardens, but at the level I paddled it, I wouldn't go back for the lower creek. For now, I'm going to shelve this idea until the wet season comes back or go back and explore the creek above the falls, putting in somewhere like Viewpoint Beach or higher.