View topic - Gataga-Kechika Rivers

Canadian Canoe Routes

Gataga-Kechika Rivers
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Author:  erich [ March 18th, 2003, 12:26 am ]
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I know that most of you are way east of the Rockies, but I thought someone may have done this run, or know someone who has. Its in the Rocky Mountain Trench, and apparently gets only a couple of parties a year in canoes. A few jet boats of hunters in the fall, but that's about it.

Author:  ddb [ April 15th, 2003, 9:27 am ]
Post subject:  Gataga-Kechika Rivers

A couple of friends of ours did this trip two years ago. They are presently out of the country, so I can't put you in touch with them. From what I remember, they enjoyed the trip. I know the area and it is beautiful country. It seems to me that there were a few longer portages and I think they said that the the water was a bit silty later in the trip. This required getting drinking water put of feeder streams.

My friends will be back up north later in May - I might be able to put you in touch with them next month.

Author:  McCue [ April 15th, 2003, 10:52 am ]
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I'd love to hear about this one too, if you guys are willing to share :D

Author:  ddb [ April 15th, 2003, 11:00 am ]
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I would be happy to post any information that I can get. As I mentioned, my friends will not be back until sometime in May - I'm not sure of the exact date. If I can get any info from them then, I will let you know.

Author:  erich [ April 16th, 2003, 1:01 am ]
Post subject:  Gataga-Kechika

I just got an e-mail from Soloman up in Prince George. He queried his club members. One's response was that it was a great trip. Up to Class II, about 7 days. I also called a fellow who has rafted and canoed it. He runs a guide service and they've done it for clients in rafts. He says its great. Lots of wildlife. Great hiking and scenery especially on the Gataga. The lodge part way down is now a lot fancier, not just an outfitter's camp. Richard Wright's book on BC Canoe Routes has the put-in at a lake that is much further up than you have to go, especially since something like 9 out of the first 12 km can't be run. Another lake lower down on the Gataga is the usual put-in with about a 1.5 mile portage to the river. I'd love to hear more from ddb's friends when they get back in town. I would love to find another tandem team or solo to do this in August. Any takers?

Author:  ddb [ June 9th, 2003, 12:04 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi folks,

Sorry about the wait, but I have cut and pasted a route description from friends of mine that have done this trip. I hope the following is helpful.



Ah yes the Gattaga-Kechika trip. We couldn't find any river descriptions other than what little is written on the Muncho Lake/Liard Air website - got lucky and ran into the trapper at the start and he clued us in about the portages. I didn't take river notes, just a few marks on the map where portages, rapids and are camps here's some more 'local knowledge'. We used 1:250,000 maps and a GPS for navigating.

Best timing would be early/mid-July, although water clarity is probably better in August. Hunters in jetboats hit the river the last weekend in July for Aug.1 sheep opening and it gets busier as moose season approaches. Jetboats are mostly on the Kechika, though they can make it part way up the Gattaga at least as far as the big ledge.

Easiest logistics of any wilderness trip ever! Drive to Skook's landing (just east of Fireside) and leave the pick-up vehicle. There is no access sign on the hwy, you have to drive down the dirt track a bit before you see the sign confirming it is Skook's landing. This is on the Liard river about 1 km or so downstream of the Kechika - so when you hit the Liard cross immediately! If somehow one was to miss the take-out (not likely).....Whirlpool Canyon awaits just downstream!

Put-in is a short drive south to Muncho Lake float plane base and a short flight due south over the northern rockies to Mayfield Lake, a small pothole of a lake on the south side of the Gataga, about 5 km or so downstream of the South Gataga River junction (the one with the island). They were flying both a Beaver and a Cessna - as we were solo we just managed to squeeze onto the Cessna which saved a few bucks. Note - they offer a pickup service (by truck) if needed.

We took 9 paddle days for the trip, could easily have done it in 7 or 8, we usually made camp by 1 or 2 at the latest, 'cause we were moving to fast.

I would recommend staying on Mayfield Lk for a day and soak up the peaceful calm, fishing and swimming 'cause there is none of that once on the river!

The first portage is by far the longest - from Mayfield Lake down to the Gataga - about 3 kms. On the upside it is mostly downhill on an excellent old horse trail through open forest (the trapper/outfitter uses the trail to access his cabin on Mayfield). The portage starts on the north side of the lake just past (west) of the island. The start is not well marked, we had to hunt around to find the shortest spot to start.

River Notes

The Gataga was relentlessly fast, and flowing mud - water visibility was non-existent (if we'd had a plow and some seeds we could have planted a crop!). River reading skills were put to the test. We paddled it in late July, after a six week monsoon had ended only days before, so perhaps it was faster and muddier than normal, but the trapper said it is usually that way until later in the summer - we just had it more so.

Despite the constant descent of the Gataga there are few rapids. The biggest hazard are the continuous log jams. At one spot the entire river was being sieved except for a small few meter spot on the inside bend that we couldn't see until we were almost on it - usually though we could see a way through the piles while approaching.

On the Gataga - there are only two rapids that have to be portaged - two river wide ledges. All others on the Gataga were boat scoutable open class 2 runs.

The first ledge (utm coordinates - 655e 6477n) was just upstream of an unnamed creek entering from the northeast - or 1 to 2 kms downstream of Through Creek. It was an easy 100 meter portage along a low bank - on river right. A relatively small drop that is split by a small rock island in the middle. Note - the first rapid is about 6 km downstream of the Mayfield Lk portage and is very similar - river split by a rock island with some standing waves, boils, etc.

The second ledge (648e 6480n) approximately 6 or 7 kms downstream of ledge 1, is a massive sloping ledge at the start of a short canyon. We portaged a 500+ meter carry up and along the cliff. The portage trail is on river left at the mouth of a small unnamed creek. The trapper actually drags his boat and stuff over the floating logjam/sieve on river right, we scouted it, and even attempted approaching it but a fresh tangle of logs and heavy currents made it somewhat suicidal.

Both of these ledges are audible from a long way off and have excellent approaches.

The only other whitewater of note on the Gataga was a high unstable clay-cliff canyon that lies between the two ledges (yup all the excitement in one day). It was a class 2+ with big roaring water and nasty boat wrapping rocks, we pulled off a sneak along the right bank that was pretty straightforward. Probably a pussycat at lower flows.

The Kechika was more fast water, although less murky and plenty of channels to choose from and log jams to avoid. Eventually it all comes together about the Turnagain River ainto a big single channel river. There is a series of about 9 rapids - all easy open class 2, or skirtable - that begin 3 to 4 km downstream of Kitza Ck and run for about 10 to 12 km.

The final rapid is right at the mouth of the Kechika as it enters the Liard. It a short class 3, quite runnable. We scouted from the left bank.

Other Notes:

Saw several black bears (one little runt even charged us!), no griz or wolves but many tracks of. We saw several moose, mostly up high in the Gataga. Two goat herds on cliffs along the river. Elk tracks in several locations.

Good open campsites everywhere. Somewhat farther apart on the Kechika but still easily found.

Access to ridges for hiking was poor for the most part, even up high at Mayfield - mountains a long way away. Did take some excellent walks along grassy ridges above the Kechika. Scenery was excellent and varied, all the way out.

All in all an excellent wilderness adventure!

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