Hurley River Trip Report- Beatdown right off the bat
After making our 18-hour southbound mission from the takeout to Williams Lake, BC, we had some options of what to paddle. The ever-elusive Mosley Creek (see ‘03 mission post below) was nearing a state of run ability, but we balked at the exorbitant amount of coin that we would be required to drop on helicopters and seaplanes to run shuttle.
During the high water summer season of ’00, Jed Weingarten, Willie Kern and myself took a scouting tour of the mountains to the East and North of Pemberton, BC. Once on the leeward slope of the Coast Range the conditions become much more arid. The rock has a more shaley consistency and scree dominates most of the river corridors.
One of the most intriguing drainages we came across was the Hurley/Cadwalader River. A brief scout verified that the river was steep, way too high and in a Butt Crack gorge. Then we left.
Last year, just prior to our Homathko trip, Jed and Willie went back and ran the lower gorge. They reported awesome class IV+ with a few class Vs. They also scouted the upper waterfall section. There they found five falls, with two of them being a bit marginal.
We headed out to Gold Bridge from Williams Lake, cruising through some big, beautiful country. We stopped at the Frasier River to check out a big water feature.
The Frasier River Canyon.
Next stop was a pretty little creek draining into the Bridge River.
There we discovered a real big spider guarding the bridge.
Several hours later we arrived at the base of the Hurley Gorge.
That evening we were eating in the local pub (this place is WAY out there, nothing in town but one bar, no gas, no beer store, no nothing) and one of Freddy’s friends from Middlebury College dropped in to say hello. Spencer Lawley and his dad (idahoians) were taking their annual father/son BC biking trip and saw our rigs. Never ceases to amaze me how small the world we live in is.
We camped at the put-in of the Waterfalls section with the Lawleys, and set shuttle to drop all the way down to Gold Bridge.
We talked to a classic local gentleman and he informed us that access that Jed and Willie had used was now blocked off due to the reopening of the open pit gold mine near the confluence of the Hurley and Cadwalader. The mine has produced over 100 million in gold bullion during its lifetime and was back in action. The short of the long of it is that we would not be able to scout the section prior to dropping in.
If you’ve never been to BC before, a review of Tommy’s Top Ten Rules of Survival in BC is in order before you go. Rule #2, “Beware the unscoutable, unportagable, unrunable gorges, they are everywhere”. So here we went, dropping on in to a gorge we knew nothing about.
The crew warming up in the cold fall morning, just prior to dropping into the ‘Waterfalls Gorge’.
photo by Nikki Kelly
…and there we were. 1st drop, bad pocket, two channels, with a couple of drops in a canyon and then off a nice 18 footer. Grace went 1st, dropped into said bad pocket and got beat down (please see quicktime video above for full effect).
Here is Tommy coming to the rescue.
Here are some sweet shots of the 2nd falls of the Hurley.
After Toby and Justin ran down the canyon and rescued Grace’s kayak, Tommy, Nikki and myself had had an opportunity to scout the drop that exploded John’s kayak, and we didn’t want any. Too much flow for that one.
By the time we all regrouped, the day was getting old, the air was cold, and thoughts of dropping into the formidable butt crack gorge below was not high on everyone’s priority list. So we did what one does nearly every trip to BC, we hiked out. The road we found led to the Gold Mine and a potential $5,000 fine, so we had to backtrack and find a mushroom pickers trail back up the car. Big workout.
After retrieving car from bottom, we headed up and over the mountains and into Pemberton, BC (potato seed capital of the world for those who didn’t know).
A view from the top of the hill, looking down into the upper Lilloet Valley.