AMT and Blackwater River in BC

We did a two-week packrafting trip in July '07: six days hiking on the Alexander Mackenzie Trail till we reached Eliguk Lake where we had a flown-in resupply and packrafts for a float-trip down the Blackwater River.
The first few days of hiking from Heckman Pass through the Rainbow Range of Tweedsmuir Park were great.
The next 100km was a swamp and mosquito hell interspersed with nice lakeside camps. Routefinding was tricky at times, mostly following old tree blazes.

When we reached the bridge over the Dean River, we realized that going down the Dean right from the highway near Nimpo Lake would be a better way of starting the trip . Not sure what the river would be like above this canyon but it should be mostly flat water, with perhaps the odd waterfall/rapid – definitely worth looking into.
We finally reached Eliguk Lake with rafts and beer courtesy of Tweedsmuir Air at Nimpo Lake ($150 between 3). Starting your trip here from Eliguk Lake Lodge would be a saner option. The owner is a great guy, and the fishing is superb.

The river is quite meandering for the first few days and you paddle through about 60km of nice windy lakes. Lots of wildlife. The trail parallels the river/lake route, packrafting the river is so much better than walking the trail. The light rafts make portaging easy and handle shallow and rocky water way better than a canoe.
The river starts to enter a few canyons with some class 2 & 3 water, some drops need to be portaged (eg. canyon below Tascha Lake, it’s a painful swim). The portages often have lots of blowdown trees, following old blazes from the furtrading days. The whole trip has a remote feel until the last few days. If you have a bad swim, remember that it’s easier to find your boat downstream than your paddle (in one of the lakes), so don’t let go of your paddle. At lower waterlevels, alot of the waterfalls would be good to run.
Beware the huge logjam about 1.5km below the final bridge before the Fraser, it’s not a good swim. There is no eddy on river left before the rapid but exit on that side anyway in the bushes and hike around the logjam on the fisherman’s trail. The logjam is right below the confluence of two river channels that go around a large island. You’ll be on the left branch because the right is unnavigatable… Not sure what the rest of the river is like down to the Fraser, let us know if you find a paddle. This last day is supposed to be one of the best open-boat river canyons in the province. The Northwest Paddle Brigades’ guidebook description is adequate.

Unlike most rivers in BC, the Blackwater River is warm. Two weeks is too rushed given all the flat water and excellent fishing, three weeks would be better for the entire trip. The historic nature of the route adds greatly to the experience. August-September is probably the best time to do it.

It’s a good intro trip.

We brought photocopied maps from the Cariboo-Chilcotin Backroad Mapbook and used them in conjunction with a GPS route. We also brought photocopies of the river description from the Northwest Paddle Brigades’ guidebook.

Excellent trip report! I am really interested in doing a float trip on the upper Blackwater via float plane access to Eliguk lake with a pick up at Tsacha lake. Is the upper river easily runable? Are there water level issues? What was the situation with the rapids and waterfall, et…?
I have tried to locate the “NW Brigade Paddlers guide” with no luck, can you tell me where to find it?
Sorry for all the questions, but I have been wanting to do this for years, and have not found very much info on this River.
Thanks, MG

Right on! The river is easy from Eliguk Lake to Tascha Lake – some wave trains, rocky shallows and the odd hole but mostly flat water. You will want to portage a few clicks at the very beginning to start from Goose Lake to avoid the log & beaver-dam choked initial section. There are low water issues if you are canoeing but it’s easy with a packraft. I think there was one four-foot drop that we all ran before Tascha Lake. There is a really nice cabin at the far end of that lake that would make a good pickup spot.

We found a copy of the guidebook at our local library but it might be out of print so contact the club at and their forum.

The fourth picture down on their latest logpost (15-JUN-08) on the lower Blackwater shows a picture of the logjam that ended our trip last year… still having flashbacks from that! I learned that you shouldn’t decide to paddle rapids above hazards where swimming is not an option because packrafts don’t roll back up. We were a little too confident after all that time on the river and we planned our eddy takeouts like kayakers instead of packrafters. The short version is that I managed to swim into the last possible eddy on a corner but my partner wasn’t able to… luckily she managed to grab onto one of the logs… Another lesson was learned. :open_mouth:

Hi Mateo, thanks for the great info! Sounds like you guys had an awesome adventure!
We will be taking an inflatable canoe, so we will have more weight than you guys did. I rigged it with oars, so it should be good for the flat water sections. Did you have to hike/portage the section between Eliguk lake and Geese lake? Would we be able to paddle it in early August do you think? I’m not sure if the float plane could drop us off at geese lake? Is there a beach there?
Thanks much, MG

I think the shoreline of geese lake was all swamp (see pic on above post) – so probably not a great drop off place. Paddling didn’t look like an option between the lakes, too many dams & sweepers every 50ft. It wasn’t recommended by the guide book or by Johnny Pim @ Eliguk Lake. You can just do multiple carries with the inflatable canoe or bring one of those wheeled carriers for the road/trail. The section from Eliguk to Tascha Lake is easy, it gets harder after that. An inflatable canoe would probably work great. Many camping & fishing opportunities along the route. My advice is to take your time and try to do it without a schedule. Renting a satellite phone would be a good thing in case you want to stay longer. Don’t forget about scouting hazards.

Oh yeah – get a packraft!

i am planning this trip for last week in june/first week in july of this year with a couple of friends…everyone says the portage must be done by the alexander mckenzie trail which is very long, but i noticed on the backroad mapbooks that there are two trails from the rainbow lake area up to eliguk lake…has anyone tried those? i went to scout a couple of weeks ago, but there’s still alot of snow…another question? how long did it take you to get from eliguk lake to nazko…thats the trip i plan…i have set aside 2 weeks, and i think its ample time but im not sure…anyways, thank you so much for posting this, ive been looking around for info, but without much success

Yeah, those ways in from the Dean River Road should be good. Likely they are quad trails. It might not be the best place to leave a vehicle considering the proximity to Anahim Lake. I think I recall somebody mentioning vandalism. I believe we camped below the Nazco bridge at the junction of the Nazco and Blackwater rivers on the night of day 7. Taking two weeks to get there instead would be great so you can spend time at the lakes. The river below the Nazco is pretty nice.

thanks for the reply, i appreciate it