In September of this year, kayakers Bretton Beisel and Tristan Oluper embarked on a 5-day expedition through the rugged wilderness of the Kitlope Conservancy protected lands—home to the world’s largest continuous tract of coastal temperate rainforests. The goal? To descend one of British Columbia’s best kept secrets: the Gamsby River.

The Expedition

Words by Tristan Oluper:

The Gamsby river flows through the Kitlope Conservancy protected area and is home to an array of wildlife and some of the most remarkable canyons I have ever been in. My paddling partner and I spent 5-days bushwhacking–and then whitewater kayaking–from the base of the glacier out to the Ocean.

drone footage of gamsby river wilderness
The Kitlope Conservancy is home to vast wilderness and old-growth forest. Photo” Bretton Beisel

Previous groups have flown into Coles lake, paddled to the ocean, then have taken a boat ride back to Kitimat along the coast. Since we only had one vehicle and a slight time constriction, we opted for two flights. Both flights were booked through Lake District Air (LDA) and they did a fantastic job helping with logistics and setting us up for success.

At the put-in, we encountered unexpected low water. This meant we had more hiking to do with loaded boats, on top of the four kilometers we had already navigated.

The two kayakers paddled from source to sea, encountering native wildlife–grizzly bears, black bears and wild salmon–along the way. Photo: Tristan Oluper

Once on the water, there were various micro canyons and two notable canyon sections which posed challenges and risks. In one canyon section (after a short portage and upon re-entering the river), my paddling partner broke his paddle and slightly altered his boat during a seal launch (launching into the river off the rocks). It was a tense moment during our trip but level heads and preparedness won the moment.

After the canyons had tapered off the excitement continued with various visits to camp from grizzly and black bears in the area. Fortunately, these bears had seen few or no humans before. Therefore, they did not associate us with food remaining cautious rather than too curious.

We managed to catch a few salmon and had our minds blown around each corner. A truly remarkable place.


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A post shared by Tristan Oluper (@tristy023)


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