Upper Stikine River Canoeing Trip

Next expedition Summer 2021

(check back here for exact dates)

Our Upper Stikine River canoeing expedition will have you spend 13 exciting days exploring the remote and beautiful Upper Stikine River as it begins its rapid descent from the high alpine lakes of the Spatsizi Wilderness Plateau, winds through endless wilderness with 5 distinct river characteristics, and completes the journey just before it plunges in to Canada’s grand canyon of the Stikine. A 300 km river expedition of class 1-3 whitewater will surprise and delight beginner-intermediate canoeists who are looking for a chance to experience BC’s true rugged beauty.

This guided expedition comes with a FREE 2-day whitewater canoeing course at Elements Adventure Co.s paddling school on the Shuswap River near Vernon, BC.


headwaters of the stikine river

The Headwaters of the mighty Stikine River

Duration: 13 days on the river        Max Participants: 10 people

Dates: July 19 – August 3, 2021 (including driving from Vernon BC)

Cost: $5710 + GST.     Contact us for how to qualify for Early-bird pricing (save $500)

BONUS: We are the only wilderness canoeing company that offers a FREE 2-day river-canoeing course taught by a certified Paddle Canada instructor in advance of an expedition.

How is this expedition unique?

upper stikine river canoeing

The headwaters provide the best access to alpine wandering.

Spending two whole weeks being completely removed from the people, things, and activities that we think make us who we are, provides a rare opportunity to recharge and reconnect with ourselves.  The nature of this river combined with the pace we set, makes for the perfect environment for exploring, learning new river-tripping skills, and adventure!
Our guides have diverse backgrounds and extensive river-guiding and teaching experience, and will make this trip rich in culture and adventure.  They are genuine, open, gentle, and skilled communicators.

Who is this trip for?

rapids on the upper stikine river

With on-the-go instruction, you’ll feel ready for the more challenging sections of the river.

  • “I want to experience true wilderness, stunning scenery, and paddle one of the top 10 wilderness rivers in North America.”
  • “I have some canoeing experience or have a keen interest to learn!.”
  • “I am looking for the time and space to explore my true adventurous nature, make new lasting friendships, and reconnect with the natural world in a meaningful way.”
  • “In addition to being safely guided, I want to participate and actively learn new wilderness canoe-tripping skills from the certified Paddle Canada instructors/guides.”

Skill Level Required – level II (intermediate)

River Canoeing Elements Adventure CompanyParticipants have experience canoeing on intermediate rivers and are confident adventuring in the outdoors. They are comfortable around/on/in moving water and have taken a river canoeing course (or equivalent experience).  Participants can expect to build on skills and experience in new and challenging conditions under the leadership of their guides.  Participants should be fit and capable of carrying their canoe and gear over rough terrain.


What will we be doing (other than paddling)?

  • hiking, fishing, snoozing, reading
  • learning about local botany, geology, ecology
  • learning river canoeing skills such as scouting rapids, group management, choosing safe lines through rapids, making safe decisions, and more
  • stopping to play in a safe rapid
  • evening circle (debrief the day, review plan for tomorrow)
  • there will most likely be some singing……
  • there will most definitely be cooking and eating delicious food!

Bird’s-Eye View

whitewater river canoeing

View from the charter flight in to the Stikine headwaters.

The Stikine River begins high up in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park (the traditional land of the Tahltan First Nation) and descends 2000m through the Cassiar Mountains, the Spatsizi Plateau, the Stikine Mountains and finally into the Pacific Ocean, near Wrangell, Alaska.  At the river’s source high up in the alpine, a series of lakes gather to form a fast-flowing river with exciting ledges, canyons, wave-trains, and boulder rapids, with options to portage around the class II and class III rapids.

The best hiking can be done at the very beginning of the river, where access to endless alpine wandering is a short hike through the small fir, spruce, and birch brush.

caribou upper stikine canoeing

A lone caribou crosses a scree slope above Tuaton Lake

The Upper Stikine is known for its high density of wildlife.  You can expect to see some of Canada’s most iconic animals, including Wolves, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Goats, Dall Sheep, Moose, Stone Sheep, Lynx, and Caribou from BC’s largest herd of Woodland caribou that roam in this region.

For a deeper look at the stunning beauty and the vulnerability of this region, check out this video narrated by Wade Davis making the case against mineral exploration in the Sacred Headwaters.

Your guides

Charles and Mark get in a bit of play time on one of the many fun rapids on the Upper Stikine.

Charles Ruechel – former National Outdoor Leadership School instructor and certified Paddle Canada instructor.     (read Charles’ full profile…)

Mark Bauer – former director of YMCA Camp Chief Hector.  (read Mark’s full profile….)

Itinerary (13 days, not including driving to and from Tatogga Lake BC)

Airport Pickup available in Kelowna BC, or Smithers BC.

Day -1 – Drive from Vernon, BC to Smithers, BC

Day 0 – Drive from Smithers BC to Tatogga Lake BC

Day 1– Charter flight over the Spatsizi Plateau from Tatogga Lake BC to Tuaton Lake
Day 2 – Hike, explore, fish
Day 3 – Paddle Tuaton Lake, paddle practice, begin river paddling
Day 4  – River Paddle, portage, explore, camp
Day 5 – Rest Day (fish, hike, read, relax)
Day 6-8 – River Paddle
Day 9 – Rest Day (fish, hike, read, relax)
Day 10-12 – River Paddle
Day 13 – final morning of paddling, take-out at the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, drive to Smithers BC.

Day +1 – drive from Smithers, BC to Vernon, BC

Transfer to Vernon, BC, Kelowna Airport, or Smithers hotel available.

Included in Price:

flights in to tuaton lake

Lake glass on Tuaton Lake

  • Guiding and safety
  • Paddle instruction
  • All food and meal planning (cooking is a shared effort) for the 13 days on the river
  • All transportation costs within BC, including the drive from Vernon BC to Tatogga Lake BC, and charter flight
  • Park Fees
  • Camping fees on drive there and back
  • High-end paddling equipment: canoe, paddle, PFD, large dry-bag or barrel, small dry-bag, safety equipment
  • BONUS: FREE tuition on a 2-day river-canoeing course near Vernon BC, taught by a certified Paddle Canada instructor.  We offer this feature to support you to brush up on your canoeing skills before the big trip.

Not included in the price:

  • Road-meals – which include breakfast and lunch on Day 1 and lunch and dinner on Day 13
  • Cooking and cleanup – we all take our turn helping the guides, so it works out to 1 in every 4 days where you help with the task of feeding the group.
  • Personal camping gear, tent, sleeping bag, thermarest – available to rent if you don’t have your own.


Other Important Details

upper stikine river whitewater canoeing

Dramatic skies – upper Stikine River.

  • Minimum age 18, or with guide’s consent
  • Maximum 11 participants
  • Early-bird pricing available before February. 17, 2020 – save $500
  • Early-bird pricing is always available for bookings of 3 or more participants
  • To help you prepare, you will be issued a detailed trip package upon receiving your registration.
  • A $1600 deposit is required to hold your reservation.  The balance is due 90 days prior to departure, after which time, no refund will be available. Refunds can be issued up to 90 days prior to the trip date but a $300 cancellation fee will be deducted.  Special considerations may be made for medical conditions.


sunset stikine river

Sunset over the Spatsizi confluence.

We are currently taking applications for this adventure in 2020.  Please contact us if you have any other questions about the Upper Stikine River Canoeing and Hiking Expedition.


Need a great place to stay while attending a course, or in advance of an expedition? Please see our list of highly recommended local accommodations here.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ALL OUR CLIENTS: We have been given the green light to operate again! We are back on the water with all our courses and trips as of May 24, 2020! - with covid-19 precautions in place. Please see our covid-19 response page for details. More information here