Grand canyon of Stikine

Our crew was set pretty much from beginning of the summer while training on the North Fork of Payette. Plan was quite simple, watch the flow and if it drops below 500 cumecs it’s time to head up north. We have finally left Cascade Raft & Kayaks and headquarters of ZET Kayaks USA on August 3rd. Drive all the way to Stikine River took us some time since we have stopped in BC for little bit and also since 2800km isn’t the drive you make over one day. Anyway by August 7th we were ready at put in with sunshine and plus 20 degrees Celsius. For me, it was quite special since Stikine was my first over-night trip and it was little bit hard to decide what to bring but my Director had no problem to take extra stuff anyway. 

Since everybody has heard a lot about Stikine and Its power I must say I was concerned about heading up there. The leading to the first rapid “Entrance Falls” doesn’t help much because it’s just nice calm river that is heading in the middle of nowhere. 

Anyway the first rapid came quick and pretty much from there it was just big fun all the way down except few smaller beatdowns. It all got more interesting since Seth has decided to fire up Site Zed that lies just next first day campsite. Site Zed is a huge rapid with high consequences and big hole on the bottom. He made it look pretty easy except for few cartwheels in the last hole which were pretty scary. We kept going quite fast downstream and reached absolutely unbelievable deep gorge with rapids named like “Always a Fucking Problem”,” Hole That Ate Team Weed” or “The Wall”. I was really surprised how continuous the whole river is but at the same time how manageable the rapids are when the flow is just perfect. 

Our second camping was on the famous spot called “Wolf Track” where we had some naked midnight surf session – what a treat. Next morning we woke up pretty late but as another 5 huge rapids were ahead of us to finish the Grand Canyon of Stikine we had to leave quickly. Rapids “Garden of the Gods I. and II.” are much different from all other rapids. River changed quickly to big boulder gardens with giant holes you need to avoid. The rest of the canyon is no longer than 3 miles. Problem is that there are 4 big rapids pretty much connected to each other with usually just one eddy in between. We all fired up the first two – “Wall II.” and “The Scissors”. Just around the corner sits famous ”Hole That Ate Chicago” which you either scout from right and you have to portage or you stop in the eddy on left and scout but there is any other option than to run it since you can’t make it back to the eddy on the right. My decision was pretty quick since we were sure to do second lap - portage on the right. All the boys decided to run it and went left and were forced to run new formed rapid in the way. Famous hole that used to be just on the left side became river wide hole. Connor went first and drop straight into the meat in the middle. Not sure how long it took but he flushed left with big smile on his face. Matt and Seth simply followed him couple minutes later with same line or with little more success.

We got to take out on Saturday and took a day rest. The day after that we decided to put in again for another lap which ended up having more water and even more fun. Our next mission was set right after that – Devils Canyon of Susitna in Alaska. So lets drive another 20+ hours and I will talk to you later about that.

Famous V-drive was our last rapid before Tanzilla slot where the canyon opens up. Matt and Connor went first and I could not believe how small they were and also how completely out of control it is. Matt got smashed all the way in the left eddy before the wall and Connor had big downtime. Matt tried to peel out of that eddy but flipped right away and rode the wall upside down. By that time me and Seth were ready to go. I had somehow pretty good line but Seth got destroyed and hurt his shoulder. Anyway, It all ended up being great and just another 15 miles of Stikine flatwater were in front of us to reach the take out.

story and photos by Matej Holub