Puntledge River surge creates ideal kayaking conditions, but paddle with caution: BC Hydro

Puntledge River surge creates ideal kayaking conditions, but paddle with caution: BC Hydro
Stephen Watson/BC Hydro
An image from a previous water release. David Prothero is on the left.

For the next few days, the Puntledge River will be fast, dangerous, and should be avoided — unless your kayaking skills are sharp.

That’s because BC Hydro will be tripling the water discharge from the Comox Dam.

It’s a move the Crown corporation says is beneficial for controlling the water levels in the Comox Lake Reservoir following an extremely wet April.

BC Hydro says it will have danger signage posted in the area by Thursday to remind the public to keep out of harm’s way, but there’s one small group that will be taking advantage of the once-a-year opportunity.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island rainfall records washed away by ‘really needed’ weekend storm

“We’re looking forward to getting out on the river,” said kayaker David Prothero. “People with a good amount of white water experience get to enjoy the Puntledge when the water comes up, and it’s quite a spectacular river with a lot of different wave features.”

Prothero is an avid kayaker and chair with the Vancouver Island White Water Paddling Society.

Their group has had a close relationship with BC Hydro since 2003.

Together, they’ve been able to identify the ideal water flow through the Puntledge that unveils the channel’s hidden features.

Certain standing waves and other features only reveal themselves when the water flow hits its sweet spot.

That figure? Ninety to 110 cubic metres per second. Any slower and you’d never know it was there, any faster and they melt away in the current.

“There are a few eddies and calm spots where people can move over, but its a lot of swift moving current and trees you have to keep out for,” Prothero added.

He’s most excited for the section where the Brown River comes into the Puntledge, down to the Hatchery. It’s a three-kilometre section of river with the most play features, and can be repeatedly shuttled back-and-forth via paved road.

Puntledge River remains dangerous

Kayakers thinking of attempting to paddle the surging river should be experienced and prepared.

Prothero says they should know how to roll their kayak upright in case they tip and have a good understanding of moving water.

BC Hydro’s update on the increased river flow says that only expert kayakers will be able to take advantage of the water abundance.

Spokesperson Stephen Watson said the event is great but interested kayakers should maintain caution,

“The fact that it brings people from across Vancouver Island, B.C., and beyond…It’s great. That’s what it’s intended for,” he said. “Yes, we generate power, but where we can find wins through fish habitat considerations, domestic water supplies, recreation, there are certain scenarios where one can really benefit.”

He added that while the Puntledge’s perfect kayak flow is a fascinating event, it still poses a danger.

“It only takes 15 to 30 centimetres of fast-moving water to knock down an adult. Even at the edge of the river. Look at it from the safety of the various trails. Just don’t get close, its not worth it.”

Roger CollinsRoger Collins

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