River originates in North Cascades National Park, in Washington
state in the USA, flowing north across the border into Chilliwack
Lake in southwest British Columbia, Canada.
the northern end of Chilliwack Lake, the river flows westwards through
the Chilliwack River Valley between the towns of Chilliwack and
Abbotsford. At Vedder Crossing, the river changes its name to the
Vedder River and flows through the Vedder Canal and under Trans-Canada
Highway 1 before joining the Sumas River and emptying into the Fraser
River at the foot of Sumas Mountain.
In spring and
early summer, when water levels are at their annual high, there’s
challenging river kayaking and rafting on the Chilliwack River.
The Chilliwack River is better known for whitewater kayaking and
rafting than the nearby Chehalis River, which lies almost due north
on the opposite side of the valley. The Chehalis is a geologically
young river, prone to changing its course from one spring runoff
to the next. Be as mindful of sweepers as of boulder gardens.
section of the Chilliwack is used as a race course and training
site for Canada’s national kayak team. Watch for the metal flags
strung above the river east of the Vedder Crossing Bridge that outline
the kayak slalom course. In total, there are almost 22 miles (33
km) of the Chilliwack to run.
on the river are more demanding in some sections than others. Only
advanced kayakers should attempt to paddle the entire length when
the river is at full flow. For paddlers in search of an intermediate-level
outing, try the section between the Chilliwack River salmon and
steelhead fish hatchery and the Vedder Bridge, a distance of about
12 miles (20 km).
River is well-known for its runs of chinook, coho, chum, pink and
sockeye salmon in the fall, along with winter and spring steelhead
fishing. With the autumn rains comes the rising of water levels
in Lower Mainland rivers and creeks. Then the welcome mat is out
for schools of salmon that have been waiting for just such a seasonal
occurrence to begin the journey upstream to their spawning grounds.
As you drive the Chilliwack River Road beside the Chilliwack River
at these times, you’ll encounter riverbanks lined with expectant
fishermen waiting to intercept them. There are frequent Forest Service
recreation sites along the road where anglers can park and easily
reach the river.
The Royal Canadian
Mounted Police station themselves by the bridge at Vedder Crossing,
carefully scrutinizing the contents of cars for violations of the
catch limit. Fishing is not allowed in the river between Chilliwack
Lake and the fish hatchery located beside the river, 13 miles (21
km) east of the Vedder bridge.
Stands of western
red cedar line the banks of the Upper Chilliwack River Trail (moderate;
18 miles/30 km return) add auburn to this palette. This level riverside
trail leads to a flourishing grove of them in a provincial ecological
reserve at Chilliwack Lake’s south end and beyond into the United
States as it follows the Chilliwack River to its headwaters in Washington’s
North Cascades National Park.
A 6-mile (10-km)
portion of the trail makes a satisfying round-trip hike through
the international area and provides a good look at the ancient forest.
The Upper Chilliwack River trailhead lies 9 miles (15 km) south
of Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. The two-lane gravel Chilliwack
Lake Road is level for much of the way as it runs beside or just
above the lake, turning inland briefly to cross bridges over Paleface
and Depot Creeks. A hefty pile of boulders brings vehicles up sharply
just before the road reaches the Forest Service recreation site
on Chilliwack Lake’s south shore.
Over time, the
Upper Chilliwack River has deposited a fan of fine sand here at
one of the most undisturbed beaches in the Lower Mainland. Hikers
are rewarded with beautiful views of rugged Mount Lindeman directly
to the west, and farther north of Mount Macdonald and Mount Webb.
A well-worn track leads behind the beach towards the banks of the
Upper Chilliwack River. Watch for a large brown wooden stake on
the left side of the old road, which marks the beginning of the
Upper Chilliwack River Trail.
cedars surround you almost as soon as you begin walking the well-maintained
pathway. Groves of these giants, some of them 10–13 feet (3–4 m)
in diameter, feed on the steady supply of water from the nearby
river, which usually crests by late June. The river gurgles pleasantly
along past the ecological reserve, the boundaries of which are marked
by signs posted high on the sides of several leviathans. It's not
a large area, less than 2 miles (3 km) long, and stretches to the
Canada-US border, which is readily identified by a 40-foot-wide
(12-m-wide) clearing that runs up the slope on the west side of
To reach the
Chilliwack River, take exit 104 from Hwy 1 in Chilliwack towards
the provincial parks at Cultus and Chilliwack Lakes. Once you've
made the exit you are on No. 3 Road. South of Yarrow is the small
river settlement of Vedder Crossing. Turn east here on the Chilliwack
Lake Road. Numerous Forest Service recreation sites are sprinkled
beside the Chilliwack River and afford launch and rest areas. Several
rafting companies offer guided rafting tours in May and June.
For a thorough,
rapid-by-rapid examination of the Chilliwack and Chehalis Rivers,
consult Betty Pratt-Johnson's WhitewaterTrips British Columbia,
Nearest Towns: Chilliwack,
Cultus Lake, Fraser
Lakes: Chilliwack Lake, Cultus Lake
Chilliwack River Provincial Park
Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park
Cultus Lake Provincial Park