Thompson River

Section of river: Thompson River (Spences Bridge BC to Lytton BC)
Difficulty: Class 5 sections at high water; Class 3-4 at moderate and low water levels
(Class V swim, but Class IV technical difficulty)
Length: 40 KM (25 miles)
Season: April to October; prime season is July to September

The large, warm, rolling rapids of the Thompson River are legendary. The Thompson snakes through hot, desert-like country (300 blue-sky days every year), mixing calm stretches with huge whitewater action. Lurking in the last 16 km above Lytton BC are 18 heart-thumping rapids with chilling names like Jaws of Death, Devil’s Kitchen, Witch’s Cauldron and Washing Machine.

Thompson_RiverAs the biggest tributary of the Fraser River, the Thompson carries about one-third the flow of the mighty Fraser River and is a large-volume river by rafting standards. Flows range from an average peak of 100,000 cfs in June to a low of 12,000 cfs in October.

Each water level displays different features and characteristics of the river and its rapids. The rapids are always huge but are not technical at high water levels. As the river drops the runs become increasingly more technical and challenging. Sometimes the 15-foot waves tower above you before crashing down like a frothing, green locomotive, especially in the Jaws of Death rapid, the most famous on the river.

44Motorized rafts are the preferred type of raft during high water in May in June. As a general rule, motors rafts are recommended for first-time river runners on the Thompson in May, June and July. Seniors, children, non-swimmers and anyone who has a “fear” of water may find the motor rafts ideal. Rafters hang onto a hand line as the raft bucks wildly in the big rapids. A guide controls the raft using an outboard motor. Motorized rafts are up to 22 feet in length and can take up to 22 passengers. From July until the end of September, self-bailing paddle rafts and oar rafts are used on the river. These rafts will vary in length from 16 to 20 feet and will take 12-16 rafters per boat.