Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Floating down a river

If you’re like me as soon as the temperature reaches 25C or higher it's time to seek water.  Ocean, lake, or river it really doesn't matter.  There are plenty to choose from in the central Vancouver Island area.  Often my days are planned around which body of water I am near.

One of my favourite places to escape the summer heat in Cedar is along the Nanaimo River.  It also happens to be many other people's favourite place as well evident when driving across the Cedar Bridge.  It is not uncommon to see numerous cars parked along Cedar Road and people walking with a towel draped around their shoulders.  Within a few blocks of the bridge are several rocky riverfront beaches.  Flat rock (Raines Rd), the Bridge (accessible on the north west and south east banks off Cedar Rd), along Wilkinson Rd (between Cedar Bridge and Duke Point bridge) and deep hole (Boswell Rd behind the old firehall).  We spend the lazy days of summer along the Nanaimo River swimming, snorkelling, river kayaking, cliff jumping, catching crayfish, and hanging with friends at all of these locations.  However the number one thing to do is float down the Nanaimo River on tubes.

In July and August the water level and flow of the Nanaimo River (downstream from the Trans Canada Highway) is low and slow.  Some years the water is too low and the biggest risk is dragging your bottom along the rocks.  Other years there is plenty of snow melt and rainfall to create a constant flow maintaining the ideal river level for floating.  Combine that with scorching temperatures and you have yourself a fun river adventure.

A great family friendly float route on the Nanaimo River begins at the Nanaimo River Regional Park (Thatcher Road or Fry Rd near the bridge on hwy 1) and ends at the bridge on Cedar Road.  The water level is knee deep at the best of times but there are a few deep sections perfect for swimming.  The river is wide, there are plenty of beaches to stop at and a few faster moving sections the kids like to call rapids. Hardly rapids but definitely fun.  

Our floats of choice are tubes that have mesh bottoms but anything inflatable works.  We also use an air mattress and boogie board for variety because you can get uncomfortable floating in the same position for hours.  A dry bag is perfect to bring along as well.  Keeps lunch, towels, keys, phones and cameras dry and safe.  The bridge to bridge route takes between 3-5 hrs to complete pending water flow, pace, and stops for lunch, snacks or swimming.  We probably take more breaks than most as we all love to snack often and explore around every bend.

Logistics of getting transportation at start of and end of route required but doable.  Best to float down the river with friends (the ones who have vehicles) and after a bit of people, gear, and car shuffling the problem is solved.  Just remember not to leave the keys to the vehicle parked at the end of the route in the vehicle parked at the start of route.  Makes for a long hot hike back to where the adventure began.


  1. We are new to Vancouver Island so it's nice to have an outdoor resource. Many thanks!

    1. Another great website for all things outdoor is Pure Outside. Welcome to Vancouver Island and happy exploring!