Thursday, September 03, 2020

Easy Family Day Trip on the Columbia River (Invermere to Radium Hot Springs)

Get ready for an incredible day paddling leisurely down the Columbia River from Invermere to Radium Hot Springs. The trip is beginner-friendly, great for families, and you'll only need one vehicle. (You can also rent kayaks, canoes, or stand up paddleboards directly at the launch site.)

Paddling the Columbia River from Invermere to Radium Hot Springs

We absolutely love the Columbia River and it's the perfect "lazy day paddle" where you can just enjoy the outing as the river slowly meanders through the valley, bald eagles and great blue herons soaring overhead. (Seriously, a giant heron flew right over my son's head as he stood on his paddleboard and we all screamed at how awesome it was.)

Getting Started (Rentals and Shuttle Service)

There are always two challenges with river trips. First, you need boats, and have to be able to transport them to the river. Second, you need two vehicles so you can set up a shuttle. Well, my family uses inflatable paddleboards so that part's easy, but we never travel with two vehicles when we're camping. That leaves us with limited options if we want to do a river trip.

Renting boats

The easiest way to get on the river in Invermere is to rent either a canoe, kayaks, or stand up paddleboards from the Columbia River Paddle Company, located at the Athalmer in Invermere (beside the bridge at the entry of the river out of Lake Windermere.)

Paddling under the first bridge from Lake Windermere into the Columbia River

It's recommended that you make a reservation in advance, and your booking will include a return ride back to Invermere. The company gives you a pick up time and suggests a time to start your trip so that you'll be in Radium early enough to meet the shuttle bus.

All rentals include life jackets and safety gear. Bring your own dry bag for your phone, keys, and personal belongings.

Find more information on rentals with the Columbia River Paddle here.

Rent boats and then hit the water with the Columbia River Paddle company

Shuttle service

If you have your own boats but just need a ride back to Invermere at the end, you can opt out of rentals but still make a reservation with the Columbia River Paddle Company for a pick up in Radium Hot Springs.

This is what we did on our recent trip because we had our own paddleboards but only had one vehicle. The company told us to be at the boat launch in Radium for 5pm and suggested a time to start on the river. We gave ourselves extra time so that we wouldn't feel rushed, and ended up with plenty of time for rest breaks on sand bars and islands along the way.

We had lots of time to take breaks, to have snacks, and to play on sand bars along the way

Columbia River Paddle picks you up with a shuttle bus and a trailer to bring your boats back to Invermere. If you have your own paddleboards they request that you deflate them prior to pick up. (If you're borrowing their boards, ask them in advance what they'd like you to do.)

And a special disclaimer for our crazy Covid-days: The company pays attention to physical distancinging for the shuttle rides and brings extra vehicles to Radium when there are several groups to pick up. Our experience was that there were two groups/families per vehicle (one sitting at the back of the bus, and one at the front.) Masks weren't required when we used the shuttle service at the end of August but I'd recommend bringing them.

Please ask with the company directly if you have any special concerns.

Paddling through the Columbia River wetlands en route to Radium Hot Springs

Navigation (Launch, Take out, and Route)

There are many sections of the Columbia River that make for excellent day trips between Fairmont Hot Springs and Golden. We personally like the section between Invermere and Radium Hot Springs the best and have always enjoyed paddling through the wetlands outside Invermere where you're sure to see bald eagles and great blue herons.

The Columbia River is very calm and easy for beginners

More information on the Invermere to Radium section can be found here on the Columbia River Paddle website. 

"On this 3-4 hour flat-water paddle, you can spend a leisurely morning or afternoon on the Columbia River exploring the local waterways, taking in the spectacular scenery and enjoying lunch or snacks on a sandbar or the shoreline along the way. The Columbia River Wetlands provide habitat for more than 250 species of birds: eagles, osprey and herons are commonly sighted throughout the year, as well as various species of wildlife." - Columbia River Paddle

The Columbia River Paddle Company goes over the map with you before starting, explains any sections that require more careful navigation (example, you should get down on your knees when going under the bridge at the end of the wetlands if you're on a paddleboard,) and makes sure you know exactly where you need to take out!

The one crux of the entire trip, paddling under the second bridge

The company has also placed a few signs along the route to guide you. 

And don't worry about arriving at the take out spot early. There are bathrooms and picnic tables at the boat launch in Radium.

Paddling the Columbia River is an easy family day trip

Guided Tours of the Columbia River 

My family has always felt confident doing a self-guided tour, but I can respect that it would be scary to head down a strange river as a complete novice paddler with children in tow. Fortunately you can sign up for a guided tour with the Columbia River Paddle Company.

And as a bonus, they'll be able to identify the birds you see! We saw several large birds that I could only guess were either hawks or osprey. Maybe a golden eagle?? 

Find more information here on guided tours with the Columbia River Paddle

The scenery is incredible when you float down the Columbia River from Invermere

Suggestions and Tips for your Paddle Day

Below are just a few suggestions that will make your day more comfortable:

  • Bring a dry bag for your personal items, lunch and snacks

  • Bring a change of clothes and a towel if you're going to use paddleboards (you might want to change before getting on the shuttle bus)

  • You might want to wear swim suits if it's a warm day. There are several opportunities to jump in the water to cool down

My son took many breaks to swim in the river along our paddle

  • Kids will appreciate sand toys if you plan to stop to rest on a sand bar or beach.

  • Bring insulated water bottles that will keep your water cold in the sun (We like our Hydroflask bottles)

  • Try to start your paddle in the morning for a 3pm pick up. The wind often picks up later in the afternoon so it can be challenging to paddle in the afternoon on a windy day

  • Pay attention to the wind speed and direction!! (Ideally you want a south wind for this paddle.) If you're on a paddleboard you'll have a challenging time with a strong north wind

  • Bring a tow rope or have a leash along if you're on paddleboards with kids. My son was ok on his own for 95% of the trip, but the wind changed direction at the very end and we had to tow him the final 10 minutes to the take out bridge

One of our beach breaks on the Columbia River (all to ourselves!)

The perfect beginner river for children

For more information on using the Columbia River Paddle Company for your river rentals and shuttling please visit their website. You'll find detailed information on the river as well on their site.

Disclaimer: We received complimentary shuttling for this trip.

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