The Magic of the Clearwater River

"The noise begins as a low and gentle rumble, before it explodes into a seething roar, sending thundering torrents of white water churning downriver".

A wet-suited group of rafters with helmets securely fastened and oars battling the swirling pools grin from ear to ear, hollering in adrenaline-fuelled squeals of delight as they swoosh past on their way to Sabretooth Canyon, at Class IV, arguably the largest commercially run rapid using oar boats in British Columbia.

Photo : Interior Whitewater Expeditions
This heart-pumping, thrill-a-minute ride is what Interior Whitewater Expeditions  refers to as ‘Guaranteed Addiction,’   just one of eight rafting trips they run on the Clearwater River , through the heart of Wells Gray Provincial Park (link Our Story). Whether you sign up for this tour, or ‘Ready Set Go!,’  or their multi-day ‘Do You Believe in Magic?’  expedition, chances are you’ll be addicted to the thrills and chills of the Clearwater River, becoming an avid fan of IWE in the process.

Hand-Selected by the Canadian Tourism Commission

IWE’s experiences are so well orchestrated and expertly executed they have been hand-selected by the Canadian Tourism Commission as a Signature Experience for their ‘Do You Believe in Magic’ multi-day expedition – one of only two rafting outfitters in the entire country to make it into the elite collection of unique, truly Canadian experiences. The Clearwater River, with its churning Class I - IV rapids, lush mountain backdrop, gaping volcanic canyons and wildlife seen roaming its shores, is always the star of the show.

The Clearwater River

Photo : Interior Whitewater ExpeditionsBorn of glaciers and the lake that bears the same name, the Clearwater River winds 201 km through the heart of Wells Gray Country – at 5,250 sq km, a vast wilderness in BC’s North Thompson Valley. Doug Trotter, owner of IWE, says the Clearwater – with its protected watershed – is pure magic. He should know – he’s been guiding families and thrill-seekers down its fast flowing rapids for over 30 years.

“It’s the last big volume, free-flowing river of its kind along the west coast of North America,” smiles Trotter, noting, “There’s no other river anywhere like this that’s completely protected from its source in Wells Gray Park – that has world-class whitewater on it. Not in British Columbia. Not in Washington. Not in Oregon, and not in California!”

Building a Rafting Business one Road at a Time

Beginning with one boat, a van and a trailer, Trotter literally cleared the path to the Clearwater River before most had even heard of it – he had to – access to the river then, as now, is via fire service and former logging roads. Until BC Parks assumed maintenance responsibilities for the 37 km stretch to the Clearwater in 1995, it was up to Trotter and his crew to make sure the road was passable.

“Back then, I don’t know how many times we arrived only to find the road blocked by a landslide,” remembers Trotter. “If it wasn’t too big, we would simply get everybody to start hand bombing rocks off the road so we could get by. If it was too big, we would drive back to (the town of) Clearwater and find a back hoe to drive up and clear it for us – those days were especially long!”

It took a lot of mud, sweat, and according to Trotter, “a few tears” to put rafting in Wells Gray on the map, but once he was able to forge a partnership with BC Parks to take over the road, Trotter was able to focus exclusively on building a world-class rafting business. Achieving the CTC Signature Experience designation is proof positive he’s done something right.

 From Family Floats to Frothing White Water

Photo :Interior Whitewater Expeditions“There was a time I just said to myself, I’m just going to concentrate on getting good,” reflects Trotter whose business has grown well beyond one raft. Trotter, a natural-born entrepreneur, identified early on that he’d need a variety of experiences to appeal to adventure seekers, young families, or those just looking to cool off on a hot summer day. Today IWE offers a variety of rafting adventures – from family-friendly floating trips like ‘Take it Easy’ and ‘Catch a Wave,’ to the heart-pumping ride of ‘Guaranteed Addiction’s’ full-day excursion, to the overnight camping and rafting ‘Ticket to Ride’ expedition.

Captivated by the Clearwater

You’ll find Trotter and his crew of seasoned guides out on the river as soon as spring run-off starts gushing and rushing in June. But ask him when he most enjoys paddling the Clearwater and his answer is simple:

“August,” says Trotter. “The Clearwater is warm, super clean, the salmon are running, and vast beaches because the water is low…”

Trotter’s voice begins to trail off. Clearly, the magic of the Clearwater has captured his attention again.

Doug Trotter is the owner and operator of Interior Whitewater Expeditions , a whitewater rafting outfitter based in Clearwater, BC offering guided half, full, and multi-day rafting trips geared to families and thrill seekers alike. A member of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Signature Experiences Collection, IWE has been providing thrills and chills to their guests for over 30 years.