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Rafting adventure thrills in Banff

MARIA CHURCH, QMI Agency

Hydra River Guides has been rafting on the Kicking Horse River for more than 25 years. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Hydra River Guides has been rafting on the Kicking Horse River for more than 25 years. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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It’s 7:45 a.m. Sunday morning and the crisp Banff air seems to crackle with the anticipation of adventure. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m pretty sure I’m radiating excitement: I’m going white water rafting with Hydra River Guides.

The only rafting company based in Banff but operating on the Kicking Horse River, Hydra starts off our morning with a bus ride as our driver, Marie, picks us up from several locations around Banff. For me, it’s at the Bison Courtyard downtown. I can’t quite shake a nervous, excited grin as we settle in the cheesewagon’s classic school bus seats.

Marie informs us that we will be driving for about an hour and a half, making the trip west on the Trans-Canada Highway to their private rafting base between Field and Golden, B.C along the Kicking Horse River.

As we zip past the picturesque Rockies the anticipation grows. Like many fellow adventurers on this trip, I’ve never been white water rafting before, but going with Hydra – the Kicking Horse’s biggest rafting company – seems a safe bet.

My trip today is Hydra’s Kicking Horse Classic, one of three different trips the company offers for various levels of thrill-seekers.

We pull up to Hydra’s fully equipped base camp just as the sun makes its full appearance for the day. Our cheery guides inform us the river is about six degrees Celsius and we were going to be cold, so they get us fitted in wetsuits, fleeces and splash jackets.

Fully decked out out in gear I’m sweating hot, but once we hit the freezing water I’m suddenly thankful for the warmth. With eight other rafters I help carry our massive blue raft into the creamy white river.

Our guide, Matt, preps us for the more than two hour trip down the rapids by teaching us the basics of paddling. Forward, backward, hold on, the latter seemingly the most important.

Then we are off.

The first section of the river is mostly floating, getting to know the paddle and the feeling of whizzing past the banks of the Kicking Horse River.

Then comes the first rapids, class one. Easy, Matt says.

“Forward paddle, team!” he calls out. We stroke to the best of our abilities before we hit the rapids.

“Hold on, hold on!” he yells. Down, up, crash, the raft folds in the middle and there is water everywhere. And I’m laughing.

We emerge on the other side unscathed but wet, very wet.

“Great job! Hive five, team,” says Matt. We all put our paddles in the middle for a rafting version of the high five then smack them back down on the river.

At this point my grin is reaching ear-splitting. And that was just class one of six. The Kicking Horse goes up to class four rapids. One of them is called the Terminator.

Hydra River Guides is a Banff owned company that has been operating on the Kicking Horse River for 26 years now. Their guides have more than enough experience to make the trip down the rapids both safe and entertaining.

For those looking for a less intense rafting experience, they offer the Mild White Water trip and for those looking to pump the adrenaline, an Ultimate White Water trip.

For more details or to book a trip on Hydra River Guides, go online to raftbanff.com or call 403-762-4554.


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