Turnagain River Expedition

This two week journey in the shared traditional territory of the Kaska Dena and Tahltan people, covers over 300km of remote wilderness in BC’s Cassiar Mountains, from pristine alpine headwaters through diverse mountain landscapes with plenty of whitewater along the way.

The Turnagain River – gem of the Northern Rockies – diverse, wild, exciting.
  • Duration: 14 days from fly-in to take-out                    
  • Dates:  Next trip dates TBA
  • Cost: $5500 + GST plus equal share of charter flight cost (approx.  $650 pp)
  • Skill Level:  Intermediate to Advanced                 
  • Fly-In Location: Dease Lake, BC
  • Contact us for how to qualify for Early-bird pricing (save $500)

BONUS: Save 50% on a 2-day river-canoeing course taught by a certified instructor in advance of an expedition.

 Trip Overview

canoe trip float plane
Strap those canoes on tightly! The adventure begins.

A trip down the Turnagain river starts with a float-plane ride into the heart of jade country in the northern Cassiar Mountains.  From the moose ponds that form the headwaters, this clear river starts small and playful as the water begins it’s long journey to the Arctic ocean. Fishing is said to be world-class between the many sets of class 2-3 rapids of the Turnagain River and its tributaries. There are also some excellent hiking opportunities that we intend to explore along the way.

One of the more dramatic features that requires a hefty portage, is a series of three breathtaking drops – Turnagain falls.  

After the falls, the Turnagain eventually joins the silty Kechika for the last few days of paddling down the middle of the Rocky Mountain trench – a fascinating geological feature that’s large enough to be seen from the moon.  Finally the river sweeps you around the very northernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains and onto the mighty mother river – the Liard – for the last few kilometers to the take-out on the Alaska highway. 

As Laurel Archer describes, “You’ll rarely find a more interesting and fun river to run than the Turnagain…..”


How is this expedition unique?

This little gem of a river in BC’s far Northeast corner of the Rocky Mountains is a spectacular river that rivals any of the far north, for scenery, remoteness, wildlife – and fantastic whitewater paddling. It’s described in detail in Laurel Archer’s paddling guides as one of her favorite river trips of all time. 

This is the first time Elements Adventure Company is offering a trip down the Turnagain river – and given the technical nature of the whitewater, it’s rare that this is offered as a commercial trip.

The ‘first trip’ is a really special experience where no one in the group knows exactly what’s around the corner – and so it takes a little more of everything to take on an adventure of this nature and duration: higher level of paddling and backcountry living skills, good ‘expedition behavior’, a good level of fitness and agility, and a healthy tolerance for uncertainty and adversity. 

 Who is this trip for?

Relaxing by the water while dinner is underway
  • “I want to experience the adventure of being on a ‘first trip’ in pristine Northern BC’s wilderness”
  • “I want to explore a new river in its entirety.
  • “I’m looking for an exciting challenge for my paddling skills and backcountry experience.”
  • “I am looking to contribute to a positive trip environment and make lasting friendships”
  • “I am looking forward to some world class fishing!”


Skill Level Required – level II+ (intermediate/ intermediate plus)

Can you find the dry line?!

Intermediate paddling skills and outdoor adventure experience is required.  An ordinary wilderness expedition requires a positive attitude, and a high tolerance for adversity and uncertainty.  These attributes are even more important on an exploratory trip of this nature – that potentially also has some challenging whitewater and portaging/lining to be done.


What will we be doing (other than paddling)?

Did we mention there will be fishing?

We have assigned this trip a flexible schedule to allow a lot of time for:

  • hiking, fishing, exploring, snoozing, reading
  • learning about local botany, geology, ecology
  • wildlife viewing
  • learning and practicing river canoeing skills such as scouting rapids, group management, choosing safe lines through rapids, and more
  • There will be time for plenty of exploring and hiking
  • stopping to surf fun waves along the way
  • evening circle to debrief the day and review plan for tomorrow
  • there will most likely be some singing….
  • there will be some swimming
  • and most definitely cooking and eating delicious meals
There will be time for plenty of exploring and hiking


Elements Adventures Van

Please note: this itinerary is suggested and highly subject to change due to weather, river levels, and many other unforeseen factors.

Airport Pickup available in Smithers BC.

Day minus 2 – travel from Vernon BC to Smithers BC, camp near Smithers.

Day minus 1 – drive from Smithers BC to Dease Lake, BC, camp near Dease Lake

Day 1– Charter flight over the from Dease Lake BC into the headwaters of the Turnagain River
Day 2 -13– Paddle, hike, fish, explore the clear waters of the Turnagain and Kechika rivers
Day 14 – finish the last few kilometers of the Kechika and take out shortly after the confluence with the Liard on the Alaska highway, drive to near Chetwynd BC
Day plus 1  – drive the rest of the way to Vernon BC

Transfer to airports in Prince George or Kamloops available.

 Included in Price:

Enjoying a misty morning along the river
  • All food and cooking for the backcountry meals.
  • transportation in our van from Vernon and back again
  • Guiding and safety
  • Paddle instruction on trip
  • Camping fees on drive there and back
  • Paddling equipment: canoe, paddle, PFD, large dry-bag or barrel, small dry-bag, safety equipment
  • BONUS: 50% off tuition on a 2-day river-canoeing course near Vernon BC, taught by a certified instructor.  We offer this feature to support you to brush up on your canoeing skills before the big trip.

 Not Included in the Price:

float plane drop off at headwaters
  • Charter flight cost (is divided evenly between all trip members and billed 2 weeks before the trip).  You can expect a cost around $650 per person plus tax.  We guarantee the charter flight cost not to exceed $800 per person including tax.
  • Front-country meals prior to the flight to the headwaters and meals after take-out.
  • Personal camping gear, drysuit, tent, sleeping bag, thermarest – available to rent if you don’t have your own.

Other Important Details

  • Minimum age 18, or with guide’s consent
We will be visitors on this wild land
  • Maximum 10 participants
  • Early-bird pricing available before January 23, 2023 – save $500
  • Early-bird pricing is always available for bookings of 4 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. See our full cancellation policy here.

    Please contact us if you have any questions or if you would like more information about the Turnagain River Expedition

    canoe camping
    A splendid sunset after a rewarding day of paddling