Access: See Getting to Hope & Lytton.

Though far from British Columbia's population centres, the Thompson River remains the province's rafting mecca. When setting out to get soaked, many like to hedge their bets by choosing an area with 325 or more days of crystal blue sky each year. The utterly foreign semi-arid landscape is an added attraction to waterlogged coastal British Columbians. The real reason for the popularity of this waterway, however, is the 25 class iii and iv rapids squeezed into a 40 km stretch of the lower Thompson Canyon. Having an extra long rafting season certainly helps too. Commercial trips on the Thompson River usually start at the beginning of May and continue until the end of September.

While many companies have built respectable rafting operations on the Thompson only two cater specifically to the car-free tourist. After the brief but intense rafting season on the Chilliwack River ends, Hyak Wilderness Adventures starts ferrying participants to the Thompson River. As with their shuttle to the Chilliwack River, this service originates at any major hotel in downtown Vancouver. At present this shuttle is only offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting at the end of July and continuing until the end of September. Pick up is at 6 AM with drop-off scheduled for 9 PM. This is by far the quickest and cheapest way to enjoy a day of rafting on the Thompson. We can only hope that the popularity of this service will push Hyak into extending it to include weekends.

Kumsheen Rafting Adventures offers a "Three Hour Whitewater Quickie" which can be undertaken in a day if travelling by Greyhound. This package is not offered on weekends and does not include lunch but does cram 18 of the Thompson's gnarliest rapids into a compact adrenaline rush for thrill seekers in a hurry. Those recreating at a less frenzied pace may want to consider over-nighting at Kumsheen's riverside resort and undertaking one of their other single or multi-day rafting packages. Kumsheen is located along the banks of the Thompson River just 5 km east of Lytton. Arrange for the bus company to drop you off at the rafting company's doorstep, before booking your ticket.

Many other companies have developed luxury, full-service camping resorts from which they base their rafting operations. Fraser River Raft Expeditions offers free rustic camping at their home base near Yale. Rent or bring your own tent or use their giant teepee free of charge when signing up for a raft trip. Fraser River Raft Expeditions offers both the usual Thompson River day trip and a power-rafting scream through Hell's Gate on the mighty, muddy Fraser River. Because of scheduling, neither can be undertaken as a simple, car-free day trip from Vancouver.

If a single day of punishment is not nearly enough, the truly jaded might find what they're looking for in a wham-bam two-day package that splices together the Fraser and its biggest tributary, the Thompson River, with a night of riverside camping in between at the mouth of the Nahatlatch River.

Ask the bus driver to drop you off on the highway in front of the rafting company's base of operations just 22 km past Hope. Alternately, since Hope is much more frequently serviced by bus, arrange for staff to pick you up in Hope when you make your rafting reservation.

The End


Dentalia

Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura