The Chilliwack River Valley: An Outdoor Enthusiast’s Paradise
About one and a half hours east from Vancouver International Airport is one of the Lower Mainland’s best kept secrets, one which is an outdoor adventurers’ dream. Want world class fishing for steelhead trout and a variety of salmon? Got it. Rapids ranging from class 2 to 5 for the whitewater rafting rookie or experienced kayaking enthusiast? Check. A range of hikes from family-friendly afternoon jaunts to technically challenging overnighters? Affirmative. Camping destinations for relaxed RVers, summer long-weekend tenters, and backcountry machete-wielders? Absolutely. When it comes to outdoor destinations, the Chilliwack River Valley has it all. But don’t tell anyone…the locals are trying hard to keep it a secret!
With its origins in the mountains of Washington State’s North Cascades National Park, the Chilliwack River makes its way north into Canada and eventually the Chilliwack Lake. From the lake’s northern end, the river snakes mostly west for many kilometers before it meets up with the Sweltzer River and then the Sumas River before flowing into the mighty Fraser River. On a technical note, shortly after joining forces with the Sweltzer, the Chilliwack passes under the Vedder Bridge and its’ name changes to the Vedder River.
Regardless of its name, the Chilliwack/Vedder River is well known to anglers from around the Lower Mainland, the province, and even internationally. A veritable rainbow of salmon species – coho, chum, pink, white chinook, and sockeye can be caught here between the months of July and early December. The river is also home to various types of trout, including rainbow, coastal cutthroat, and steelhead, which is renowned as one of the most difficult-to-catch freshwater sportfish. Those hungry for the challenge of steelhead can put their angling skills to the test between January and April or July to early September. Be sure to obtain a proper license for the type of fish you’re hoping to hook! If you are going to camp in the area too there are a good selection of private campgrounds, provincial parks and recreation sites. More information at Where to Camp.
If the idea of landing a 30-lb chinook salmon doesn’t thrill you, perhaps racing down the Chilliwack River in a raft or kayak would be enough to take your breath away. Local companies offer a range of trips for anyone from the rafting rookie to the whitewater junkie (from class 2 to 4+ on the whitewater scale). Perhaps you’d rather challenge the river on your own – try kayaking. There are appropriate sections for newbies, while experienced kayakers can test their skills at the famous Tamihi Rapids, Canada’s only class 5 training course and a common site for the training of our national Olympic kayaking team. By the way, the official whitewater classification system maxes out at Class 6, which is the type of water you don’t want to even attempt to navigate in a floating object (i.e. Hell’s Gate).
For those who feel more comfortable on “terra firma”, the Chilliwack River Valley still has plenty to offer. Easier, flat walks can be found west of the Vedder Bridge at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve (several hikes ranging up to 5 km return) or the Vedder River Trails (the Vedder Rotary Trail is 8 km one way). At the east end of the valley from Vedder Bridge is access to more moderate hikes. The Lindeman Lake Hike is a well maintained trail that winds through forest for 3.4 km (return) with a modest 215m elevation gain before terminating at a peaceful alpine lake where wooden camping platforms are available for those who want to stay overnight. The longer-winded among us may want to carry on a further 3.5 km and gain another 150m in elevation to visit Greendrop Lake.
Meanwhile, the hardier, more adventurous trekker can put their legs and lungs to the test on the way up Mount MacFarlane. This trail will have you climbing 2,016 m over the course of 17 km out and back, but the inspiring scenery includes massive Douglas Firs, a couple of pristine lakes, and a summit with a panoramic view of snow-capped peaks that is incomparable.
Once you’ve conquered Mount MacFarlane, there are many other challenging hikes and illustrious summits to reach in the Chilliwack River Valley area. Did I mention there’s a lot to do here? If you love the outdoors, this is a place you must visit. But be careful…you might just decide you never want to leave!
For information on camping and RVing in British Columbia go to https://www.campingrvbc.com/
Published: October 10th, 2017
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