Thrills aplenty on Nahatlatch River

Big Bob, A-hole, Meatgrinder part of nature's rollercoaster

Before seeking his own river frontage in the B.C. wilderness, Bryan Fogelman worked as a whitewater guide with rafting companies on the American River in California, the Merced near Yosemite and finally his favourite rapids on the Nahatlatch River in the Fraser Canyon.

Experienced with one of the premier rafting companies in the U.S., Fogelman witnessed the best possible practices, he said during conversation at his Nahatlatch River resort, REO, earlier this summer.

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Along the way, he also witnessed appalling disregard for safety that crossed the threshold of reckless and verged, he said, on the criminal. A tour company on the Thompson River allowed a group of 200 people to down several kegs of beer during their bus ride road trip before rafting the rapids. As a young guide, he was told to skip the safety lessons and a number of his passengers tossed aside their lifejackets.

That was B.C. in the late 70s, he said. The disregard for personal safety was not one hed adopt for his own adventure company.

In 1983, Fogelman was introduced to the Nahatlatch and six years later he purchased 10 acres with roughly an entire kilometre of river frontage and world-class rapids in the steep mountain valley that feeds the Fraser River.

A member of the B.C. River Outfitters Association, REO is part of a provincial cohort or whitewater outfits that prizes and priorities their safety record. The BCROA boasts that it adheres to the highest safety standards in Canadaeven though it eschews the 2008 federal regulations governing water safety. Rather, the association in 2006 committed to a guide certificate program that exceeds the provincial and federal requirements, according to information on its own website.

At REO, the scene is rustic, but this is wilderness camping with a touch of comfort.

Rafters can set up their own tents or they can sleep in relative luxury in canvas tents with cots or double- and queen-sized beds. Or, urban escapists not looking to stray too far from the ease of their city bedroom can seek refuge from the surging river under a quilt in the Moroccan or Country cabin. These themed, six-by-four metre canvas tents are prettified army barracks. Both suites flirt with the designation glampingglamour campingbut the washrooms remain communal and the tap water still frigid. The other tents are communal, making them ideal for groups and slumber parties.

A night beside the river didnt offer a restful repose; instead of a lullaby, it was like sleeping beside a humming turbine or a congested highway. A few hours back in Vancouver and my ears still hummed from the shuddering vibrations of the surging Nahatlatch.

But those rapids were worth it. Big Bob, A-hole, Meatgrinder, Lose Yer Lunch and Pinball, my favourite because it tossed the boat around as if we were one, are the names of a few of natures rollercoaster. It was a thrilling ride that didnt let up, especially Headwall, a 90-degree watery turn that teased my sense of mortality as we stared down a steep rock face.

REO hosts day trips as well as over-night stays and group retreats, including a songwriters workshop and a ladies getaway for girlfriends. Rafters are fed ample amounts of fresh-cooked fare and dine together in an open-air hall.

There is also a fire pit, scenically located high above a bend in the river.

I disliked the 11 a.m. morning check-out time, particularly considering wed returned from an early rafting trip only to strip out of our swimsuits next to our vehicles in full view.

A far cry from comforting.

REO continues to raft the Nahatlatch through September. Day-trips cost $149 for adults and $89 for eight- to 18-year-olds accompanied by an adult. Overnight stays with one trip down the river begin at $219 for adults and the outfits adventure trips begin at $530 per adult for a three-day experience.

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