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Home » AMPPE in the News » CP to allow access to lower Kicking Horse

May 12, 2016 – Rocky Mountain Outlook. Story by Cathy Ellis.

Canadian Pacific Railway has backed away from a decision to deny access to the famed lower section of the Kicking Horse River near Golden, B.C., a move that is welcomed by Banff and Lake Louise rafting companies.

The railway giant announced last month it was shutting down access over its train tracks, citing safety and liability issues that were flagged to them by Transport Canada as a concern last year.

But following a meeting with tourism officials, rafting companies and politicians last Friday (April 22), CP will now continue to allow access over the tracks, the only existing access point to the lower canyon with its famed whitewater rapids.

It’s not yet clear what solution has been reached in time for the start of the rafting season in May, though CP did earlier decline the community’s request to install an at-grade crossing at the site.

“Safety is a responsibility all of us share and that was recognized by the stakeholders involved,” said Salem Woodrow, a CP spokesperson in an emailed statement, but who declined an interview request.

“Working closely and collaboratively with our community partners, we have arrived at an agreement in principle for the 2016 rafting season, formal details of which will be worked out in the days ahead.”

Rafting companies in Banff and Lake Louise are happy CP came back to the table.


Rafting on the Kicking Horse River. Photo courtesy of Brewster Travel Canada website.

Daryn McCutcheon, owner of Banff-based Hydra River Guides who has rafted the Kicking Horse since 1989, said there are no specific details yet, but said he expects more regulation and perhaps companies paying for flaggers at the crossing.

“We’re not exactly sure what the new stipulations and regulations will be,” he said, noting the company will begin running the river on May 15.

“At the end of the day it’s business and usual and we’re super happy with the outcome.”

Ted Bilton, owner of Wild Water Adventures, is pleased with the decision, noting this is the Lake Louise-based rafting company’s 25th year of business, so CP’s change of heart is a welcome birthday present.

“Naturally we’re thrilled and excited. We’re very happy to have access this year,” said Bilton.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with CP so we were surprised when their position changed that no access would be permitted at all.”

The access to the put-in point for the river’s lower canyon requires vehicles to park on the north side of the train tracks, and then groups of rafters and guides, carrying equipment, walk over the tracks.

Due to the steepness of the canyon, it is the only existing access point to the lower section of the Kicking Horse.

The Kicking Horse River has some of the best, easily accessible whitewater that B.C. has to offer, and the lower canyon, with its class 4-5 whitewater, is on the bucket list of paddlers from around the world.

Rafting the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River is a popular tourism draw in Golden, B.C. Photo credit Glacier Rafting.

Rafting the Lower Canyon of the Kicking Horse River is a popular tourism draw in Golden, B.C. Photo credit Glacier Rafting.

About 40,000 people a year raft the Kicking Horse River, with 15,000 of those running the lower canyon.

Whitewater rafting tourism is said to bring in $3 to $5.8 million a year to the community of Golden.

Bilton said his company, which kicks off the season May 21, doesn’t raft the lower section of the canyon as much as other rafting companies, but nonetheless, closing off access would still have affected his business.

“The guys in Golden would have been more impacted, but it would have caused more congestion on the upper part of the river, which is still the most popular part,” he said.

Bilton said rafting companies have always followed safety protocols for crossing the tracks outlined by CP, noting rafters must walk across the train tracks as a group.

There has never been an incident in all the years of rafting.

“If there is any visual or auditory signs of trains, then we have to stop at whatever side we are on,” he said. “We have to be 10 metres away.”

As part of the massive protest, the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment (AMPPE) fired off letters to CP and Transport Canada on behalf of its member who raft the lower canyon.

Casey Peirce, the group’s executive director, said AMPPE’s efforts of support were to not only advocate for the regional rafting industry, but also for all of the organizations that would be impacted in Banff, Jasper, Kananaskis, Yoho and Kootenay.

“These include the accommodation and restaurant sector as well as many other tour operators that work so hard to provide a unique visitor experience to our guests from all around the world,” she said.

Original article sourced here.

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