MADE IN CANADA Episode 4: The Ashlu

Steve Arns guides viewers down a BC classic

Five2Nine and NRS have teamed up to offer a glimpse into the rivers of Canada. Past episodes have included Quebec classics such as the MagpieTaureau, and Neilson rivers. Each section is seen through the eyes of the locals who paddle them like no one else can. “The goal is to show the individuals and the rivers in the diverse landscape that is Canadian whitewater,” says Mike McKay, owner of Five2Nine and director of the film series. Episode 4 moves the series west to British Columbia, starting with a classic stretch of the Ashlu with local paddler/chemist Steve Arns, whom C&K recently heard from in western Nepal, en route to his next paddling adventure.

Canoe & Kayak: What exactly is that you’re working on there in the chem lab?
Steven Arns: I work for a small drug company in Vancouver. I finished my Ph. D. years ago in Ottawa and moved to Vancouver for both the work opportunities and to be close to some of the best boating in North America. I hope to see myself working in the same capacity for the foreseeable future.

How’d the shoot go?
Well, when we did the Ashlu shoot, I managed to squeeze the trip in between family commitments one day and a wedding the night of the shoot. That shows just how accessible it is.

What else makes the Ashlu unique?
Most of all the super-classic whitewater. But also the scenery, reliable season and the ever-growing community that in part comes to visit or live in southwest BC to paddle on the Ashlu. For aesthetic, Class V kayaking, there are few other rivers in the world that compare to the Ashlu. It’s the reliable early- and late-season river even when we don’t have a huge snowpack, and it was a normal season this year, after several high-water seasons.

What’s happening the hydro projects?
The release system on the Ashlu should continue indefinitely, so it will have reliable flow and you can plan a trip in release season for guaranteed kayaking there. Other projects are still under development (notably Skookum Creek), but BC Hydro just revoked 10 IPP contracts that were supposed to be built soon, so things are looking a bit better for BC’s creeks.

Any advice for potential Ashlu paddlers heading to BC?
If you come early in the year, be prepared for rivers with a lot of water, but that are still fun to kayak. Also, aside from the rivers that are well known in guidebooks etc., there is a lot of really awesome kayaking in the area that a lot of people don’t know about.

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