The Spatsizi/Stikine River trip is recommended for intermediate to advanced canoeists and takes a minimum of 6 to 9 days to complete. While the Spatsizi River is Grade I, the Stikine portion of the trip has many Grade II rapids and sections of Grade III and IV. There are no regular patrols on the river so once on the river you are on your own.
There are two guide-outfitter camps on your route that may be of assistance in an emergency. The first is Hyland Post, 10km upstream of the confluence of the Spatsizi and Stikine Rivers, and the other is Upper Stikine Lodge, which is 2km downstream of the confluence. These camps are not always staffed so visitors should not depend upon them.
Spatsizi/Stikine River Canoe Route
Tuaton and Laslui Lakes are not usually ice-free until mid-June. River levels can be very high at this time and the canoeing much more difficult. By mid-July river levels have usually dropped and the prime canoeing season has begun. The most reliable weather is usually during July and August while the best time to see wildlife is during September and October.
The Spatsizi River is accessible from the BC Rail Grade, via the 5 km Didene Portage Trail. The Didene Portage Trail can be reached from Hwy 37 (near Eddontenajon Lake) via the Ealue Lake Road. The Ealue Lake Road is a 22 km gravel road that leaves Hwy 37 and heads east towards the Klappan River. Once you have crossed the Klappan River, you are on the BC Rail Grade. Turn right (south) onto the BC Rail Grade and the Didene Portage Trailhead will be approximately 93 km south of the Ealue Lake Road and Klappan FSR junction. The Didene Portage Trailhead is approximately 115 km from Highway 37, all on gravel road.
Please note that the BC Rail Grade is not maintained and natural slides and washouts may close this access route at any given time.
Spatsizi River Portage Trail
This is a well maintained trail that travels down to the confluence of the Spatsizi, Didene and Kluayetz Rivers. There are several canoe rests along the trail. Once at the river, facilities include a fire ring, a bear-proof food cache, a pit toilet, a creel survey registration box and a visitor registration box (located on the visitor information shelter). This site is user-maintained; please pack-out what you pack-in.
Please note that river boats are permitted on the Stikine River year-round. River boats are more commonly seen during the hunting season. The use of river boats is restricted on the Spatsizi River, upstream of Hyland Post, from break-up until September 1st of each year.
Safety in bear country
This is prime grizzly and black bear country. You should not leave any packs or food boxes unattended along any trial or waterway you travel. When camping over night, be sure that you have put your food items in a safe place, well away from your sleeping area. All garbage must be packed out. Do not bury garbage as animals will just dig it up again.
Spatsizi River portion
Once on the river you will find that it has many short, fast runs over gravel bars, with many braided channels. This braiding occurs mainly on the first 10 km of river below the put-in location. The canoeist must always be on the look-out for gravel bars and rocks and try to pick the best channel with the most water. Also, you must be watching for sweepers, trees that have fallen out over the river with branches hanging down into the water. Sweepers are very common on the upper Spatsizi.
From the junction of the Spatsizi River and Buckinghorse Creek downstream to where Kliweguh Creek flows into the Spatsizi, the river grows much larger and the valley becomes much wider. This section offers some of the most scenic views along the entire waterway. This area is ideal for spotting wildlife such as moose, black bear, grizzly bear, wolf, mountain goat, caribou and the occasional stone sheep high on mountain slopes.
From Kliweguh Creek to the Stikine River, the Spatsizi River flows through a wide valley of lodge-pole pine flats and semi-open grasslands, with many good camping areas along the shoreline. The river is much larger here and some braiding occurs downstream from Kliweguh Creek to Hyland Post. The river is somewhat faster in this area and the canoeist should always be reading the water, watching for rocks, gravel bars, sweepers, etc. The river traveler must keep in mind that long periods of rain or heavy storms can make a significant increase in the water volume. This brings swifter currents and less time to avoid any hazards and few places to land a canoe.
Stikine River portion
Located 15km below the junctions of the Spatsizi and Stikine Rivers is Jewel Rapids. This section can be extremely hazardous, especially during high water, with ratings from Grade III to IV depending on the water level. There are many large boulders scattered through the channel that you must pick a route through. These rapids should be scouted from shore before attempting to run them. There is a sign located on the right bank of the river shortly before you arrive at Jewel Rapids. There is no portage trail to avoid Jewel Rapids.
As of June 2, 2004, there is no warning sign indicating the start of the Jewel Rapids.
At Beggerlay Canyon, 20 km below the McBride River, there is a set of rapids that should be portaged during high water. There are 3 signs warning you of the rapids. The 3rd sign is located at the pull-out at the head of the portage trail on the right bank. All canoeists should land at the pull-out and scout the canyon thoroughly before making a decision whether to run the rapids or to portage around them.
Shortly after leaving the Beggerlay Canyon, you will pass under an old railway bridge and you are now only 17 km away from the end of your trip. But there is still one more challenging section of the river to navigate. This area is located some 15 km downstream from the old railway bridge and should be approached with caution. After passing this area, you will soon reach the Highway 37 bridge. There is easy access to the vehicle parking area on the right bank just below the bridge.
Upper Stikine River Canoe Route
The Stikine River canoe trip is only recommended for advanced canoeists with considerable wilderness experience. There are many rapids, rocks and sweepers that must be avoided. Although most of the Stikine River is Grade I, there are several Grade II rapids and sections of Grade III and IV rapids that must be run. There are no regular patrols on the river; once on the river you are on your own.
There are two guide-outfitter camps on your route that may be of assistance in an emergency. The first is located on the west end of Laslui Lake and the other is Upper Stikine Lodge, 2 km downstream of the confluence of the Spatsizi and Stikine Rivers. These camps are not always staffed so visitors should not depend upon them.
The trip length is 225km from Tuaton Lake to the pull-out at the Highway 37 bridge. You should allow a minimum of 8 days to complete this trip. It is possible to be picked up by floatplane at Upper Stikine Lodge (guide-outfitters camp). This must be arranged prior to starting your trip. Late season pick-ups may not be available due to low water levels.
The Stikine River route can be started at either Tuaton or Laslui Lake, both of which are accessible to float planes. Please note only permitted air charter companies are permitted to fly within.
The canoe route starts off easily, going down Tuaton and Laslui Lakes and the section of river between them. Approximately 1.5 km downstream of Laslui Lake are the impassable Fountain Rapids, which must be portaged. There is a sign located at the pull-out on the right hand bank. A 1 km long portage trail goes around the rapids on the right bank. From this point the river changes character and the canoeing becomes much more challenging and strenuous. White water and standing waves are nearly constant.
Eight km downstream is the second portage around the Grade III Chapea Rapids just below Chapea Creek. Look for the sign located on the left bank indicating the pull-out for the portage trail. The portage trail is 1 km in length and is located on the left bank, which takes you around the Chapea rapids.
As of July 24, 2015, there is no warning sign indicating the start of Chapea Rapids.
The canoeing continues to be challenging until Moyez Creek. Once at Moyez Creek, you have covered the most difficult section of the river. The rapids downstream from here are more widely spaced and the canoeing easier. For details on the remainder of the canoe route, see the Stikine River Portion of the Spatsizi/Stikine Canoe Route.
The rivers are generally quite muddy during June & July, but some good Arctic grayling can be had if you fish where the smaller streams flow into the main rivers. In late August and September the fishing improves. The Spatsizi and Stikine are home to numerous rainbow trout, arctic grayling and dolly varden char. All persons angling in BC must have the appropriate licence.
There are no designated campsites although there are several campsites in and around the area. In addition, there are some rustic campsites located at Tuaton Lake, Fountain Rapids Portage, Chapea Portage, Beggarly canyon Portage and the Stikine River bridge on Hwy 37.
If possible, camp on a sand or gravel bar as this has the least effect on local vegetation. This allows the rivers to reclaim your sites during high water.
On the Spatsizi River Canoe Route, there are two trails that permit the canoeist to get off the river for a few hours.
Mink Creek Trail to Cold Fish Lake Camp
The first trail leads to Cold Fish Lake Camp via the Mink Creek Trail. The trail is located on the downstream side of Mink Creek. To find the trailhead, go past Mink Creek and take the back channel on river left. From here you should be able to spot flagging to indicate the trailhead. The trip to Cold Fish Lake camp is approximately 20 km one way so several days should be allowed to make this trip.
Spatsizi Plateau Trail
The Spatsizi Plateau Trail begins at Hyland Post. Please note that Hyland Post is private property so please respect it and ask permission to pass though this area. It takes approximately two hours to hike up to Spatsizi Plateau. From here you can spend several hours or several days on the plateau. Caribou can often be seen on the open rolling hills and Stone sheep may be seen on the rock escarpments.
On the Stikine River Canoe Route, aside from limitless bush-whacking trips to alpine areas, there are two short hikes.
Shreiber Canyon Trail
2 km below the Pitman River is Shreiber Canyon. This canyon is not on the Stikine River but on a small side creek. An interesting short hike can be done up the canyon and for the adventurous, on to the cliffs overlooking the Stikine.
A short hike up Adoogacho Creek leads to Adoogacho Falls.
- File a trip plan and estimated time of arrival with a trusted friend or relative.
- A number of cabins and active camps will be seen along the rivers. You should not use these facilities unless prior permission has been obtained.
- In order to carry a firearm, you are required to have the appropriate licence(s): a Possession Only Licence (POL) or a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
- A British Columbia angling licence is required if you intend to fish. Please consult current Freshwater Fishing Regulations.
- Topographic maps should be obtained before arriving at the park. These maps are available from an authorized dealer. Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park is covered by map sheets 104H and 94E at a scale of 1:250 000.
- If you would like larger scaled maps (1:50 000) or plan to do some hiking, the maps required are: 94E 12, 94E 15, 104H ,7 104H , 104H 9, 104H 10, 104H 13, 104H 14, 104H 15, 104H 16, 104I 4
- The following companies offer a ferry service from Tatogga Lake to the Spatsizi River Access Trail (Didene Portage): Red Goat Lodge (250) 234-3261, Tatogga Lake Resort (250) 234-3526, or Rick’s Outdoor Rentals (250) 771-4243.
The Stikine River downstream from the Highway 37 bridge is un-navigable by any craft!