The Tatshenshini River flows from an area called Bear Flats (near the summit between Haines, AK and Haines Junction, YT) all the way to Dry Bay, AK.  Two runs exist: the Upper Tat which is an extremely fun and safe day trip, and a 10-14 day trip to the Pacific Ocean.

The put in for the Upper Tatshenshini is either at the bridge that crosses the Blanshard River right at the BC/Yukon border (allowing a fun, hour long warm up before joining the Tat itself) or further south on the Haines Highway where you put in right on the Tat.

The Blanshard is a class III run, most enjoyable in high water and can be quite boney when low, necessitating carefull lines to avoid bumping your butt too many times.  A few good ender spots exist along with a few surfing waves.  During salmon runs, flashes of bright red are common as the fish head to their spawning grounds, this food source usually means that a few bears are around so keep your eyes open.  Along with the bears, bald eagles are a frequent sight.

Once on the Tat, the river becomes grey, as the water is laden with glacial silt, this also means that the water is much colder than the Blanshard.  The volume usually is triple or greater than the Blanshard, and this is where the real fun begins.  At the first left bend, there is a large eddy with a sharp eddy line perfect for stern squirting - most boaters play here until the inevitable 'ice-cream headache' occurs.  Play spots abound on this section before the canyon. 

Theresa enders again. Another favorite play spot is the 'ender hole' which just preceeds the entrance to the Rock Garden.  With the popularity of shorter rodeo boats, more cartwheels can be seen here than enders, and a lineup of a dozen kayakers is not unusual.

This is also where one of the rafting companies have their safety talk before running the rapids below.

There are three significant rapids in the canyon, and they change dramatically with the water level.  The first is the Rock Garden, that when in high water can be run anywhere, but in lower flows you have to watch for some big holes.  The second (and it's right after the gardens) is the Big C, a river right bending corner full of holes and waves.  Once through this part, the river straightens out for a couple hundred meters then takes a left turn.  This is the entrance to Twin holes, which can be scouted easiest on river right.   In extremely high flows these holes flush out and become steep surfing waves; at low flows they are quite sticky, while in medium flows the first hole is an excellent place to practice your cartwheels (both intentional and unintentional), hard bracing, and rolling.  The second hole becomes a great place for enders.

To be continued...


Kayak Yukon design and content Derrick A. Law except where noted.