For the past 40 years, the Kootenay River, Toby Creek and Kicking Horse River have been home to the oldest rafting company in western Canada. Today, Kootenay River Runners are still rafting the rapids, ensuring they have something to offer everyone who’s seeking some adventure.
“What’s unique about our company is that we have a river for everyone from five and up. So we have that great family adventure with either the Kootenay or Toby Creek, and then we have the big water adventure with the Kicking Horse,” said owner Ian Scheler.
For 36 years, Daryl Bestlug and Linda Irvine were the original owners of the company, and four years ago Ian Scheler took over.“I started bugging them about four years prior that I wanted to take over. They sorta laughed at me and said, ‘ you’re a raft guide, you can’t afford a rafting company’. Then they were nice enough to help me out and we worked out a way that I could take over the company,”said Scheler.
After taking over ownership, Scheler has only made a few minor changes, including a new logo, social media presence, and a new website. As for the rapids and river routes, those haven’t changed, staying the original runs that started the company in 1976.“Daryl and Linda sorta perfected it over the 36 years they owned and if it’s not brok, don’t fix it, of course,” said Scheler.
Each trip offered features a completely unique adventure, from a shorter run on Toby Creek to the big rapids on the Kicking Horse River and a wilderness trip on the Kootenay River. There is something for everyone and every family as children as young as five are allowed on the Kootenay River trips.
“The Kicking Horse River, of course, is our big water river. It’s class 3-4 plus rapids. The Toby Creek is just a fun quick trip up at Panorama that’s about an hour and a half long, eight kilometres on the water. The Kootenay river is just a full-on wilderness trip. It’s a very awesome trip for families, but just a very remote trip. It’s a class 2-3 rapids we’re sorta in the middle of nowhere and we get to see amazing Pedley falls on the trip it’s just a really amazing adventure,” said Scheler.
The company runs trips multiple times a day with groups going out on the Toby Creek three times a day, twice a day on the Kicking Horse and one big day trip on the Kootenay River.“The Kootenay River can be a full day you can do a half-day or a full day. A half-day trip is 18km on the water, which is about three hours. Our full day trip is actually 45kilometres on the water and it takes 6 to 7 hours depending on the time of year. For the Kootenay trip we provide a morning snack and an afternoon lunch,” said Scheler.
Kootenay River Rafters is helping develop water sport in the region with sponsorship and support for the Toby Creek Kayak Race and Festival, which took place for the second year on July 23rd and 24th at Panorama Mountain Resort.“We did the raft race section of it so there was a big raft race and we provided the boats and guides. It was awesome, it was really cool to watch and we hope the event keeps building from there,” said Scheler.
The Kootenay River Runners’ passion for adrenaline pumping adventure has been providing residents and visitors of the Columbia Valley the opportunity to discover rafting.“We have people that have been coming with us in all honesty for 30 straight years. They came with the company when they were five years old and now they bring their five year olds. It’s a really good family environment and we sorta have a river (trip) we can offer something for everybody,” said Scheler.
The company makes sure to make each trip hassle-free for those joining them on the river by providing everything you would need on the river. They make sure to have lunch, wetsuits, river shoes and splash gear so participants can have a worry-free experience. Adventure, adrenaline, excitement and gorgeous scenery of the East Kootenay await at Kootenay River Runners.