Exploring the Floodlands
Posted on: June 8, 2018 4:15 pm
Freshet brings meltwaters from the north and the east to Kamloops and the South Thompson River and the North Thompson Rivers join to bring floodwaters to the area near the head of Kamloops Lake. On the north side the 2km x 1km flatlands become covered in 2-3.5 meters of water to become Tranquille Bay. On the south side of the river the 2.5 km x 0.7 km areas also become inundated and channels and bays form among small islands and willow groves. If we paddle through channels into both areas, crossing the river twice, we can cover 10km in our kayaks.
By mid-May the floodwaters reach the shoreline near Tranquille, but we need to wait for the waters to rise enough to cover the barbed-wire grazing fences too. We can usually launch and paddle through this area for 6 – 7 weeks.
When there is no wind, the waters of Tranquille Bay are mirrors of the shoreline features.
Mara Mountain provides colorful background terrain, standing above Tranquille Bay and the Floodlands.
Willows stand out in the floodwaters like floating islands.
We often paddle south for 1.3 km to the river then we have a 1.1 km crossing of open water. Our seaworthy ocean kayaks handle any wind and waves well. Smaller boats without rudders should probably stay on the north side of the river on a windy day. All kayakers should be carrying a paddle float, tow rope, a bailer/pump, and some kind of communication device if crossing Kamloops Lake or the open river of this area. Too few kayakers have practiced self-rescue but they still venture into exposed conditions.
Once we are on the other side, the river channels provide protected paddling. The channels are a maze of navigable routes and dead-ends, but in general if we stay close to the shoreline we can paddle all the way through the south floodlands to the east end.
The channels of the south side have a special quality not available anywhere else in the Interior. There are some grazing fences on this side, but when the water is high, we drift right over them.
We take any channel that leads back to the river which we cross, using the current to take a long diagonal route northwest. Once we are on the other side, we look for more channels to work our way into Tranquille Bay. We took our time and paddled for 3 hours in a large loop.
On other days, we stay in channels and bays on the north side only (a good plan for smaller boats or less-experienced paddlers). We watch for wetland birds, turtles, raptors, muskrats, river otters, carp, and water-tolerant flowering shrubs as we explore the floodlands. We will continue to explore these “water trails” as they change with flood volumes right up to the point when the rivers drop at the end of June.