Category   Chilliwack River, Chilliwack, Fraser Valley, Vancouver, BC
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The Chilliwack 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.

Emerging from 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.

A challenging 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.

Conditions 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).

The Chilliwack 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.

Enormous old-growth 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 the river.

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, Volume 2.

Nearest Towns: Chilliwack, Cultus Lake, Fraser Valley, Abbotsford

Nearest Lakes: Chilliwack Lake, Cultus Lake

Nearest Parks:
Chilliwack River Provincial Park
Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park
Cultus Lake Provincial Park

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