Squamish River

Disclaimer

There is so much fun to be had on the backcountry forest service roads of British Columbia, but remember to be careful. These roads are typically used by large logging trucks transporting timber out of the area, but are also accessible to the public. Mind you, forest service roads can be pretty rough, so AWD or 4×4 is definitely recommended. It is always so important to understand the risks of travelling these lesser known roads as your car insurance does not cover you off of city roads without the proper insurance for off-roading. You’re probably wondering why I felt the need to include such a disclaimer, so let me show you why. 

Squamish River

To preface this adventure, I want to mention how the summer of 2021 brought extreme temperatures to British Columbia. Smashing Canadian historical records, there were some areas of the province that reached 46.6 C! Because of the extreme heat, many of our local mountains and glaciers experienced some of the most rapid snow-melt we’ve ever seen. As the snow and glacier-melt runs of our mountains, our rivers, streams and creeks carry the rest of the work of draining the water into the Pacific Ocean. Squamish River is relatively short as it stretches only 80km, increasing the likelihood of the river flooding in the scenarios that the summer of 2021 brought upon it. As the snow melted rapidly, the river rose rapidly as well. 

And now, on to the adventure to Squamish River along the Squamish River FSR. This area is incredibly fun to explore as there are long stretches of forest service road that lead to hundreds of amazing camping spots along either side. The best spots are always the ones that directly overlook the large, flowing river as they offer the opportunity to cool off in the glacial runoff in hot weather. This feat of the trip turned out to be the most important as we pushed through the hottest weekend we’ve ever experienced.

My friends and I had been planning this trip for a long while, as we were itching to get out and enjoy a good camping weekend and there was no way we were cancelling. We saw the weather forecast showing that we were in for one of the hottest weekends on record, but after thinking about how none of us owned air-conditioners at home, we decided that it would be cooler to be outside in the glacier water.

We set up camp about 27 kilometres up the FSR at one of our favourite sites. All of the sites are first-come-first-serve, so we were very excited to see that it was available. This site has everything such as river access, tree cover, and plenty of room to set up camp. We arrived late a night after myself and a few friends clocked out of work for the weekend. In the morning, we immediately felt the heat as the sun rose. 

Needless to say, the weekend consisted of a lot of swimming and sitting around, drinking a ton of water to stay hydrated. Coffee, my beloved dog, was quite resilient when it came to the high heat. We were ready to leave immediately in the event he showed signs of heat-stroke, but he was chirpy the whole trip. He knew exactly where to sit in the shade, and found pools of calm water to wade in. He was so happy to be outside all of the time as camping is his favourite thing to do. 






Good Dog.
CHilling
In the Shade.

 

 

Despite the heat, we were incredibly grateful to be able to enjoy the outdoors with the occasional cool breezes rather than being stuck at home with no air conditioning. Looking back, we wouldn’t have wanted to spend the weekend any differently. 

We had arrived on Friday night, and planned to leave Monday afternoon, but as we approached the end of the trip, we had some concerns. As the glacial runoff poured into the Squamish River, the water levels were rising rapidly. Entire sand islands found in the middle of the river were beginning to disappear and we decided to pack up first thing Monday morning. We packed up camp, took some final photos of the area and headed back down the road, expecting to be out in 27 kilometres.

 

 

At about 6 kilometres before the forest service road’s exit into Squamish, we discovered that the road had flooded, and it was very deep. It was immediately evident that my Mazda hatchback would not be able to pass this portion of the road, as I would most likely damage my engine with water had any gotten into the air-intake. This was not a risk I was willing to take. 

Seeing similar vehicles stuck at the beginning of the flooded road, I decided to drive back to a hill-top on the road and park my vehicle there indefinitely. I unloaded my gear and headed towards my boyfriend’s Jeep to hopefully continue forward. 

Luckily, my boyfriend’s Jeep had high clearance and he was not concerned about passing the flood in his vehicle. We were unsure which parts of the road were deeper than others, so I hopped out of the Jeep, put on my water shoes, and began to walk through the hip-deep water to find the high points in the road. Along the way, we found three vehicles entirely flooded on the road. There was a minivan stuck in the middle of the road, which now looks like a river. 

A little further down, there was a Mercedes SUV sunken in  a road-side ditch and the only part visible was the left headlight poking out of the water. As we were navigating our way through the water, a convoy of Jeeps came through to do some extreme off-roading through the flooded road. We strongly advised against this, but they were insistent that they were prepared. This was a terrible mistake as the first Jeep in line sunk into the same ditch as the Mercedes

Once we crossed the flooded portion of the road, we met a few Environment Canada officers that had been assessing the situation. They were surprised to see we had successfully crossed the flood, but glad to see we were safe. We were incredibly grateful that we had the high-clearance Jeep as an escape plan, as we had only packed the perfect amount of water and food for ourselves and the dog. We were able to cram four people and a dog into the 5-seater Jeep along with all of our camping gear. It was not long before we got back to town to have a drink of fresh water and have some lunch.

It was so hot outside, that it felt like sitting in an oven while outdoors. The Monday was by far the hottest day of our trip and we were glad to head home. I was very worried about leaving my car on the forest service road, about two hours from home, not knowing when I would be able to return for it. A kind water-station employee at the river gave us information as to how we can track Squamish River’s water levels online so that we can gauge when we can return for my vehicle. 

After days of constantly checking water levels online, Thursday was the first day the water levels had receded after the rapid melting of snow and glaciers. We hopped into the Jeep, and headed back to Squamish hoping that we would return with my Mazda. When we arrived, there was unfortunately still water on the road. A group of individuals who had been stuck there since Monday greeted us as we arrived, and they were happy to tell us that there was a tow-truck on the way. I was unsure how long it would take for the truck to arrive, so I wanted to check on my car to see if it was holding up fine. I had a bit of a low-pressure tire, but other than that, everything was fine. I started my car and returned to the group waiting for the tow-truck and it magically showed up right there!

After assessing the water levels, it was still too dangerous to cross with my vehicle, so I decided to pay the tow-truck driver to safely transport it for me. This gave me peace of mind, rather than stressing over whether my vehicle would survive the flood crossing. 

The kind truck driver came all the way out to Squamish to help those who were stuck on Canada Day. Without him, there would be a lot of people struggling to get out of the area, so, a big thank you to him!

Despite the events that unfolded during our trip to Squamish River, we still came out of it with incredible memories and took the time to think about the environmental impacts we have on this Earth. The weather patterns we experienced throughout the summer of 2021 were unprecedented and eye-opening in regards to climate change. 

I would take this trip again in a heartbeat if it meant that we were even more prepared, and ready to help others that were affected by the flooding of Squamish River. If you wish to camp, or take a day-trip to this beautiful location embedded in the mountains, keep in mind your own safety and the safety of the environments and habitats around you. 

Leave No Trace!

Please remember to leave no trace when adventuring outdoors. You are the one entering an environment that is home to entire ecosystems and habitats, so be conscious of what you bring. Any waste must be packed in and brought out of the area to be disposed of in an appropriate location. Leave no trace and enjoy your adventures!

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