A Whitewater Guide to the Gold River Area

Whitewater Kayaking Gold River


There will always be the land versus water rivalry in the adventure sports world but our Vancouver Island fall sets the stage for water appreciation.  The runs are melt and rain dependent so keep an eye on the weather this fall and welcome the rain! Whether you’re just beginning to run whitewater or are a veteran paddler, Gold River will have something to offer.

The town of Gold River

The town of Gold River now has cell service so you can call friends to meet up, check river levels and post sweet edits of your run. The town has a gas station with awesome pizza and up the hill there’s a great pub. There is no grocery store so buy before arriving or enjoy eating out.

The Gold River

The Gold has several amazing sections from Class 1 – 5, all of which are accessible with 2WD and a backcountry roads map. Paddlers will often see eagles and plenty of salmon spawning in the fall in addition to the occasional bear or seal. You can check the river level here. The river is predominantly pool drop river running but the upper sections have more of a creeking feel. Here’s the quick overview of the sections from easiest to most challenging. There are some suggested minimum flows below but the river can get extremely high and become much more challenging. Please stay safe and paddle with folks who are familiar with the sections and flows.

Kayaking on the Gold River

Whitewater Kayaking a Grade 1 section of the Gold River


Lower Lower Gold (I-II) is an easy run with a few riffle rapids that gets you out to the ocean. It’s an awesome experience for folks to see the transition and ride the river out to its final destination.

Middle Gold (II-III) is a great run through town with a variety of put-ins and take-outs to adjust your run to levels and abilities. You’ll find it can run as low as 20cms.

surfing a wave on the Gold River

Former National Team Member Annie Boulding whitewater kayaking

Lower Gold (III-IV) is the next step up in difficulty as the river enters a beautiful canyon. This section has 3 class III rapids in the first kilometre which offers a warm up/test before entering the committing canyon section. BFR (IV) is the main rapid for its beauty and challenge. This is best scouted from river right and is also a great place to take photos of the river or people’s lines. This can be run as low as 13cms – a good option for the desperate paddler!

Upper Gold (III-IV) is north of town and features more bedrock and some higher volume rapids. Tombstone (IV) and Guillotine (IV) are worth the look on the way down before entering a gorgeous slot canyon of deep, calm water. This is typically run above 45cms.

Upper Upper Gold (IV) is even further up the logging roads still and gives you that creek feel with boofs abound. 60cms is a great level

Jackson Whitewater Kayaks

Friendly Surf Competition between brothers


Other rivers nearby:

In the area there is also the Heber River (IV), Ucona River (V), Upana River (IV+), Quatchka Creek (IV) and Pamela Creek (V). All are beautiful creeking options with waterfalls and drops. These are less frequented runs so always keep an eye out for wood or river hazards!

Where To Stay

In Gold River there’s the municipal campground that backs onto the river. It’s complete with fire rings, picnic tables and pit toilets.

If folks are looking to be warm and dry after a day on the river Strathcona Park Lodge is a great place to use as a base. We have 9 waterfront cabins that can sleep 2 – 13 people depending on which one you book.  Each has its own kitchen, a variety of sleeping options and cozy wood burning stove.  After especially long, cold wet days on the rivers, book our wood fired sauna on the beach that can be stoked and ready for your return.  Just under 40 minutes away from Gold River, Strathcona Park Lodge is a great option for folks coming up island for a paddling trip or paddlers just excited to put all their energy on the river and not making camp or staying warm!

Dan Mously whitewater kayaking

Dan Mously whitewater kayaking on the Gold River


See you on the river,

-Dan Mously, Former Co-Chief Instructor