Haidee and I had just finished a great couple of days on the northern side of the Daisetsuzan range, paddling the Biei River and Chubetsu River. We were now on our way back to Sapporo, so decided to make a long detour back to Sapporo via the upper Tokachi River rafting course. We’d heard great things about this short course from Greg and Mari. “It’s one of our favourite places to paddle,” said Greg. “Just wish it was longer!”
We were doing all this paddling on the back of an 8-day traverse of the Daisetsuzan Range, so we didn’t have our open-deck canoe with us. It felt a bit like cheating to paddle this upper Tokachi River section in a packraft, but so be it. We dropped the packraft and gear at the put-in, next to the rafting company rafts, and drove to the take-out.
From the take-out we walked 20 minutes along the main road back up to the put in. A bit convoluted, but we had plenty of shade along the side of the road, and it wasn’t overly far. We took a shortcut across the shallow trickle of a river upstream of the hydro power station outlet, rather than walk the extra 200m or so via the bridge.
Once on the water, the nerves kicked in as the river reared back into life at the power station outlet. The entire Tokachi River essentially gets funnelled through the power station, so it’s quite remarkable how much the river grows past the outlet.
The first taste of the rapids was the Futamata-no-se Rapids, so called because of the brief forking in the river, and then rejoining at the base of the rapids. Taking the outside corner, we were happy we were on a well-maintained section of river. No strainers to speak of. Straight down the guts of the rapids. Easy. Fun in the packraft.
By the time we’d run those rapids, we were already a quarter of the way through the route. We weaved our way through the Slalom Rapids. It really did feel like cheating in the packraft.
To make things at least a little bit more challenging, we chose a surfable wave and took a few well-intending tries at catching it. The floppy tandem packraft worked against us though, we we didn’t last long on the wave.
The Chute Rapids lived up to their name, with some exciting splashes and waves to be enjoyed.
And then the grand finale before the take-out was the Old Weir Rapid – a small uniform drop which threatened to fold the packraft in two.
Beyond that, we grabbed at eddies and squirmed past rocks. This really is a nice short river section to hone the river running skills.
The paddling really was over before we felt like it had begun. Certainly too fast to really process what we’d just run. We had to do it at least one more time before making the long drive back to Sapporo. So we quickly loaded the packraft onto the roof of the car, and made the quick shuttle back to the put-in, then back to the take-out, and then the 20-minute walk back up to the put-in.
On our second run, we loosened up a bit. We were a little less nervous about what lay up ahead, and more excited to make the most of the rapids.
A bit of surfing here, a bit of catching eddies behind rocks there, and we were once again back at the take-out.
Next time we’ll be in a canoe!