Raging Puntledge provides thrills for paddling rafters

Maybe it was the thought of falling in, or the sight of rushing water, but the thought of jumping in a raft made me incredibly nervous.

THE PUNTLEDGE RIVER'S mighty force provided paddlers with rafting adventures during the Puntledge River Paddlefest.

THE PUNTLEDGE RIVER'S mighty force provided paddlers with rafting adventures during the Puntledge River Paddlefest.

Maybe it was the post-safety demonstration thought of falling in, or the sight of the rushing water of the Puntledge River running at 75 cubic metres per second, but suddenly the thought of jumping in a raft made me incredibly nervous.Along with Record reporter Renée Andor and news reporter for 97.3 The Eagle Elizabeth Young, we had the opportunity last weekend to raft down the river — which scenically meanders into Courtenay — with Destiny River Adventures owner and guide Jamie Turko.The tour worked in conjunction with the Puntledge River Paddlefest, a time when BC Hydro provides a guaranteed river flow and access to a section of the river. The Campbell River-based rafting company offers two trips a day down the river during the festival, and no experience is necessary to raft.After changing into our wetsuits, booties and a helmets, we piled into our bus, rafts in tow, to our put-in spot, following back roads past the Puntledge River Hatchery. Turko, a Red Seal chef by trade and a 14-year experienced raft guide, took us through our safety demo, which included paddling instructions, what to do when —umm if — we fall in and how to move to one side of the raft to the other. After Turko warned us there is little time to ease into the river’s flows, we carried the raft down a short hill, and climbed in.Deceivingly shallow, the river Saturday had many hydraulics, he explained, which is a general term for a powerful current differential.It took only minutes in the raft to find our first big wave, and sitting at the rear of the raft, I braced myself, not knowing what to expect, as Turko instructed us to paddle hard.As the raft went nose up in the air, water sprayed all of us, and to my delight, the same amount of people who were in the raft prior to the wave remained the same afterwards.After a few more kilometres, Turko offered us a turn at the controls — the large oars at the rear which he used to guide the raft.He explained the how adjustments in the backstroke navigate the raft, and noted not to allow the oars to sink too deep, as they could easily hit the rocks at the bottom of the river.Coming up to another wave, the same nervous sensation when first looking out at the rushing river suddenly came back. I looked at the five other people in the raft and the responsibility of keeping them inside made me nearly want to bail and swim to shore.With Turko’s instructions of making sure the nose of the raft was in line with the wave, we hit it straight on, soaking the media duo at the front.From our put-in spot to our take-out point (near Maple Pool Campground) the entire journey lasted about 50 minutes.The trip was an excellent introduction into rafting, and to our delight, we remained inside the entire time.The adrenaline rush and sheer power of water pushing a small raft downstream was admittedly quite addictive; the next adventure may prove to be a full day on the Nimpkish or Campbell River.For more information on Destiny River Adventures and the rafting tour they offer, visit www.destinyriver.com.photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com