Two-day Kumsheen rafting adventure on the Thompson River

Thompson River – Ashcroft to Spences Bridge

I have just returned from a two-day rafting adventure on the Thompson River and I just have to share the memories of this great trip.

I was with a group of others who will act as on-board guides for some learning-adventure trips with Kumsheen Rafting happening this summer. I will be the pontoon-riding naturalist leader on the June 21-22 trip as will Jim Ginns on a trip later in July. Acclaimed writer/naturalist/photographer Murphy Shewchuck will be a leader on a trip focused on geology, gold panning and history and professional photographer Don MacGregor and nature photographer Mike Woodworth will lead another trip specializing in photography.

These will be exciting and fun journeys through a spectacular part of our region and I can’t recommend them enough. Visit the Kumsheen site for details.

Our trip started in Ashcroft below the massive gravel and clay banks just upstream of town.

Bernie Fandrich is the owner of Kumsheen Rafting and he accompanied us to add his enormous depth of knowledge to the trip. Forty-plus years of rafting has taught him just a few things about the river and its history.

White-throated Swifts entertained us at the clay banks across from the launch site and a Lewis’s Woodpecker flew in at the mouth of the Bonaparte river as we panned for gold. The first of a dozen Osprey for the day soared overhead – a raptor whose population along the river has risen dramatically over the past few decades. Drifting is peaceful along the early stages of the trip with the dry hills passing in the distance but it was hard to gaze at them long as swallows buzzed over the river, kingbirds flashed from the treetops and everyone struggled to decide whether to put up binoculars or capture photos.

We carried on over calm waters as Common Mergansers hunted salmon fry in the quiet waters and Bald Eagles gazed from nearby tree tops and Spotted Sandpipers fluttered from the cobbly shores. All too soon we bounced into spectacular Black Canyon with carbon-coloured walls soaring straight up for 100 metres or more. A Golden Eagle soared overhead, keeping an eye on one of the 4 nests on the cliff face. I am sure one of them held his mate.

Above is Murphy Shewchuck gazing thoughtfully at the massive rock faces surrounding us.

We put ashore for some exploration and were quickly regaled with the energetic song of a Rock Wren at home in the appropriately rocky habitat. Here, photographer Don MacGregor looks for just the right composition.


Looking downstream from Black Canyon allows some anticipation of the route to follow.

We were fortunate that a train came along to add some scale to the landscape. I am a train buff so you will see a few more shots of these sinuous mechanical snakes as you read along.

With some reluctance but with much anticipation, we left this magical place to continue our journey.

Magical landscapes drifted past us as if from some far country unrelated to the typical perceptions of BC.

We seemed to have Ospreys as regular companions on every stretch of water as we drifted downstream in a world removed from the typical views of the valley that we get from the highway.

We enjoyed a delightful shore lunch at Epson where we scoured the area for fresh Asparagus to supplement the delicious salads, pickles and meats provided. Jim regaled us with stories of fungal spores before we shoved off for more downstream adventures.

We again put ashore at a small lush valley below the sprawling Basque Ranch upstream of Spences Bridge. After some brief exploration for photo opportunities, 5 Long-billed Curlews flew overhead and downstream above the Thompson River. It was a most unexpected location to have these birds appear, but a little thought about the extensive hayfields on the bench above us explained the reason for the birds to be in the area. Where they were headed for the afternoon remained a mystery.

Not far below, we put ashore at Pukhaist to explore a pre-1900 church and some upland birding. A Lewis’s Woodpecker was a nice surprise and the brilliance of a male Western Tanager flying across the blue river water was indeed spectacular. It was late in the afternoon so birds were quiet but a few sparrows flitted in the distance. Everyone felt too warm to chase them and besides, we were engaged in the Native history of the site and the old church which made one wonder who the parishioners once were given that there was only one house in the area now.

 The massive flows of talus rock here are some of the most extensive I have seen.

All too soon it was time to leave the church and return to the river.

It was not long before we beached at Spences Bridge at the end of our first day on the river. A flock of 6-8 Bonaparte’s Gulls were hunting salmon fry over the river as we landed. Back in camp, Spotted Towhees and Pine Siskins were common around the green pine forests and brilliant sunflowers.

Hot showers and a gourmet meal back at the Kumsheen Resort was a spectacular finish to a wonderful day.

Following a sumptuous breakfast at the Kumsheen Resort, we were back on the river just after 9:30 for the second leg of our journey to Lytton. This would prove to be the steeper section of the route as the river picks up some speed and the rapids increase in size and frequency. But natural wonders keep your attention as much as the anticipation of the bouncy water ahead. Not far below town, one of many trains rumbled and squealed past one of the few waterfalls enroute.

More in Outdoors

Amazing photos of September in Vancouver

Take a look back at September captured through the lenses of our VO Flickr Pool contributors.
Markers on the ski run at Kicking Horse Mountain resort in Golden (2009)

Several injured in avalanche near area where fatal slide happened Saturday

GOLDEN, B.C. — An avalanche seriously hurt two people and sent several others to hospital near a British Columbia community, not far from where a snowmobiler died in another slide this weekend. RCMP...

Avalanche warning issued for southeastern B.C., as dangerous conditions develop

VANCOUVER — Avalanche Canada has issued an immediate warning as potentially deadly snow conditions develop on slopes across parts of eastern and southeastern British Columbia. The warning is in...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.