We wanted to share our experience on the Fraser for future paddlers NOT to repeat our mistakes. Here is a trip report that describes how we ended up capsizing twice in the same trip.
We set out to do the paddling trip from Hope to Maple Ridge on Oct 13 2021, intending to do it over 3 days. River discharge at Hope was about 1800 m3/s (source: https://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/search/real_time_e.html
), so pretty standard for the fall season outside of heavy rainfall events. A person in our crew did the same route last year and took note of the tricky spots they encountered. Also, we were aware of the whirlpools at the confluence of Fraser and Harrison rivers, a spot known as Calamity Point (49.22574° N, 121.94605° W https://goo.gl/maps/WhHB3KZ51Dax7e4f8
The first capsizing incident of the trip happened on the 1st day, a bit before Herrling Island (49.27297° N, 121.67686° W https://goo.gl/maps/42X7HTpkmZa3EzCc6
). The kayaker in a single kayak got caught in the eddy line where some whirlpools were forming due to a fallen tree (clearly visible from the satellite view in GoogleMaps): capsized, swam to shore, all gear magically came back from the eddy and the person could get changed into dry clothes. Trip continues!
The second and most critical capsizing incident happened on the 2nd day, a bit after Carey Island (49.221163° N, 121.898962° W https://goo.gl/maps/u2eGLfMsfgNt7WiC8
), with the canoe and its 2 paddlers getting caught in a massive whirlpool that opened just in front of the canoe. These whirlpools were also observable from satellite imagery (they have a diameter of 10m and come and go in 20 to 30 second intervals) and it is clear that we navigated the eddy line again, with all its turbulences. We were aiming to stay on the left-hand side of the river to avoid the branch heading towards the confluence with the Harrison. Life jackets lived up to their names here, as the force of the water would have swallowed a "naked" swimmer. With the help of an amazing group of fishermen fishing nearby with their motorboat, the 2 and all the gear (including the canoe) were rescued and brought to shore. Trip over!
Lots of mistakes were made on our part regarding route choice and danger avoidance (staying too close to shore in presence of obstacles and getting caught in eddy lines/whirlpools).
Yes, that was the mighty Fraser and it showed us its many unknown dangerous spots (not on our radar when we planned).
We recommend this trip to experienced paddlers only that can read the complexity of the river and its changing course.