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River of Golden Dreams Conditions

What you Need to Know

The River of Golden Dreams is a great summer pass time. Thousands of tourists and locals take the time to float down the river every year. A day with medium water levels, calm weather, and some sun is the perfect condition to take a float down the river. Only one portage is required, and there is plenty of room under the train bridges to pass through unphased. But, what happens on days where conditions are not so ideal. The clouds are rolling in the smell of rain is in the air. Do you still go out for a river float? What should you bring? What will the river conditions be? The answer to these questions and anything to do with river conditions is below.

What to expect throughout the summer season

Water levels on the River of Golden Dreams change depending on snow pack melt and precipitation. When mid mountain temperatures rise the melting snow reaches the valley increasing water levels. The water on the River of Golden Dreams is always flat, with no rapids, but requires more adept steering around corners. When water levels are particularity high we provide portage carts to bypass the ‘Tapley’s’ section of the river and put in below the lower train bridge. In late summer, water levels are low in the Tapley’s area and we implement mandatory portage again to protect fish and wildlife habitats.

Typically, the river is between 2 and 10 meters wide (6 to 30’) and is very rare that water levels reach more than 2 Meters (6’) deep.

We monitor water levels frequently and are happy to advise what water levels are like at any given time. Expert paddlers always check water conditions before they enter the high water areas of rivers. The River of Golden Dreams access and egress points allow for this. Guests are advised to pull out at the fish weir, and walk alongside the river during times of high water to see if they are comfortable paddling it. If not, they can stay on the lake and billing can be adjusted accordingly.

Early season conditions: April - mid June

The early season can be an exciting time to float the river. River bank foliage is blossoming, the water is cold, the air is still brisk but warm with the light of the sun, and mountains are snow-capped. The spring melt gives a beautiful contrast between spring in the valley and the winter landscape high in the mountains. The water is glacier fed from the multiple rivers flowing into Alta lake and the River of Golden Dreams. Each of the rivers carries glacial water from the tops of the mountains, down the river systems, into Alta lake and the river of golden dreams

Temperatures are warming up but not usually to the point of high water, meaning clear passage the whole journey. It is not a busy time on the river meaning you likely have it all to yourself. Paddlers do need to be aware and prepared for cold water if a capsize happens.

High water season/early summer: mid June - early July

The high water season on the River of golden dream’s starts mid June and typically goes to the beginning of July. When mid mountain temperatures rise in early summer the winter snow pack melts fast resulting in higher river water. The water is highest in late afternoon or early evening as the melting snow on the mountain reaches the valley floor and river. As temperatures cool in the evening and overnight there is less snow melt and water levels drop resulting in lower water levels the next morning. As the sun warms and melts the snow pack water levels rise again in the afternoon.

This means less experienced paddlers elect to go in the morning and more experience paddlers go in the afternoon when the water is higher and faster. These conditions are fun for experienced paddlers, the water is high and the river is moving quickly. Paddlers have to use all of their skills to stay in control and safe. If conditions are like this it is best for only experienced paddlers to take on the river. If you are a beginner paddler it is best to stay on the lake where there is less of a current or hire a guide.

Hiring a guide is highly recommended during high water season.

Mid water season: Early July to early August

Mid mountain snow pack has melted and high water season is over. The snow pack in the high alpine continues to melt but water levels are consistent on the river resulting in water conditions that are attractive to most paddlers. There is little to no portaging required as paddlers can fit under the lower rail bridge. This is the perfect time of year for those that just want to float down the river without having to do much. River currents are moving quick enough paddlers don’t need to paddle hard but will still have to steer the boat to prevent getting stuck in the riverside foliage.

Gentle/Low water levels on the river (Mid August to September long weekend)

Some summers, week’s sometimes months can go by with little to no rain. The heat of summer and the lack of rain can cause water levels to drop significantly. Low water levels create the issue of watercraft getting beached. When you beach a watercraft, the bottom of the canoe or kayak grinds against the river floor, causing the vessel to stop completely. If this happens, you must get out of your boat, lift it over the shallow spot, then continue. If you are on a paddleboard, you risk popping it or breaking the fins off. However, when the river is low, it can be good for beginner paddlers, as the river is moving much slower. The current is slowed due to the lack of water, allowing paddlers to have extra control and input in the direction their watercraft is going.

ROGD in the Fall

Backroads Whistler Guided Tour

River of Golden Dreams conditions in the Fall

During the fall months, the river of golden dreams becomes a beautiful oasis with colorful leaves lining the riverbanks as the trees change color with the colder weather. However, with colder rainier weather, comes less predictable river conditions. It is best to check in at Backroads Whistler for a conditions report. If you are unsure of river conditions, river speeds, or the need to portage, Backroads Whistler offers guided trips. The guided trip will ensure a safe and fun trip down the river. The trained river guides have up-to-date knowledge of any intricacies with the river and have many tips and tricks to improve your technique down the river. In addition to their river knowledge, the guided trip comes with a shuttle from Green lake back to Whistler Village or Lakeside Park. 

High river warnings

With high river warnings comes the need for extreme caution. When there is a high water warning,  it is wise to heed the advice of professionals and or hire a guide who knows the water and can assess your skill level. There is a risk of flipping your vessel and an increased level of risk. If a recreationalist takes on the river, it is crucial to portage around the bridges as they do not have enough clearance for a vessel to pass under them. When choosing to paddle the river during these times, make sure to tell someone where you are going or, bring a partner or partners, and check the status of the river at Backroads Whistler or with the RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler) before going.

Enjoy the River of Golden Dreams

The River of Golden Dreams in Whistler, British Columbia, is a great way to spend a day as a visitor. The time spent in nature should be cherished and enjoyed every time you are on the river. With this premise, it is of the utmost importance to maintain the area and be an environmental steward. Remember to pack out what you pack in, do not litter, and if you see garbage or litter, please be a good samaritan and pick it up. Regularly, explorer 200’s are used to float the river and are popped and left to litter the river floor. The garbage puts the wildlife and ecosystem at risk. While also creating an eyesore for the rest of the river users. It is best to use reusable water vessels and enjoy the river knowing you are helping the ecosystem rather than deteriorating it.   

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