The Lower Canyon section of the Kicking Horse River is what makes whitewater rafting in the area such a popular tourist attraction.

The Lower Canyon section of the Kicking Horse River is what makes whitewater rafting in the area such a popular tourist attraction.

Local raft companies fear loss of access

Golden has become known for its whitewater rafting, but local companies are getting worried about the industry's future.

Golden has become known for its whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River, and anyone who has been down the Horse knows that the it’s the Lower Canyon that really makes it unique.

But local companies are getting worried that their access to this iconic part of the river might be cut off as early as this year.

The Lower Canyon has been run by rafts for approximately 35 years. It has seen hundreds of thousands of intrepid travellers challenge its legendary whitewater. Rafters who go down this section of river float through downtown Golden at the end of their journey, and come out of the river in town.

However, to get to the Lower Canyon, rafters and river guides have to go over a CP Rail crossing. Val Pleym with Alpine Rafting says that rafters have been using the crossing for over 30 years without incident.

Transport Canada has recently deemed this unsafe, and sent a letter to CP Rail outlining the safety concerns, and requesting they send in their proposed safety actions.

“While Transport Canada rail safety inspectors were conducting track inspections in the area, they observed a very large group of people crossing and moving supplies and equipment across the railway tracks near the Lower Canyon on the Kicking Horse River. Not crossing a railway track at a designated crossing is very unsafe and is trespassing,” said Sara Johnston, a regional communications officer with Transport Canada.

Pleym says that the estimated cost of putting in a signalled crossing could be up to several hundred thousand dollars, and given that rafting is the main use of the crossing, the worry is that the cost will be passed onto the rafting companies.

Loss of access to the Lower Canyon would have a very detrimental effect on the local rafting companies, who gain their edge against the Albertan companies by bringing their guests down this section of river.

“What sets our three local companies apart from the Albertan companies is that we raft the Lower Canyon. Our customers not only experience our town with their own eyes but they also fill hotel rooms, campgrounds, restaurants and shops,” said Pleym.

So not only are the companies in danger of losing revenue, but the entire town would feel the ripple effect if the 15,000 people a year who have been rafting with the local companies stop coming.

CP says it is working with local rafting companies and Transport Canada in order to come up with a solution, but Spokesperson Salem Wooerow stressed that the company has not authorized the companies to use the unmarked crossing in the past.

“These rafting companies have been dangerously trespassing across the railway tracks for a number of years, potentially endangering their customers and guides,” said Wooerow.