30 years of whitewater rafting on the Clearwater River in B.C.

A pristine wilderness area with a wild river was the combination that drew Doug Trotter to follow a dream

The first of Doug Trotter's Interior Whitewater Expeditions raft trips on the Clearwater River in 1984. Note the rafters gear at that time did not require helmets be worn.

By Elli Kohnert

A pristine wilderness area with a wild river thundering through rugged canyons was the combination that drew Clearwater’s Doug Trotter to follow a dream that started in 1979.

Trotter has kayaked and guided extensively in Canada and throughout the world and is a true ‘river person’.

His dream was realized when he founded Interior Whitewater Expeditions in 1983, and now, 30 years later Trotter still maintains his enthusiasm for this wilderness, and says he has an especially close connection to the wild waters of the Clearwater River in Wells Gray Park.

Trotter says that much has changed from Interior Whitewater’s early beginnings; back then the company owned only one raft plus necessary transport and operating equipment.  Today the company employs 22 individuals, owns a number of rafts, and also has a variety of watercrafts that offer different river experiences for the public.

Trotter notes the biggest challenge he faced when first operating his rafting enterprise was, and still is, the Clearwater River Road, which is the only access to the river. Originally it was a Forestry road built along the river through steep high rocky terrain, only wide enough to accommodate one-way traffic, with pull out areas to get past oncoming vehicles.  Over the years, road maintenance continued to be a complicated situation, where Forestry, and Wells Gray Park continuously changed road maintenance operations, with Trotter’s business being involved.

“We needed the access and we worked out an agreement when we had to do so,” said Trotter, “But the road itself was a huge challenge.”

Due to the terrain that the road traversed through, slides occurred frequently; and when that happened, Interior Whitewater had to clear them.

Trotter recalls that in one instance there was a big washout that left a large hole, thus  closing the road.

“We needed to get the road repaired right away,” said Trotter, “We could not wait for help.”

Fortunately a logging company from Merritt offered assistance, and travelled through the night to get to the site and help open the road.

Trotter says that when the highboy trailer that was loaded on a truck arrived at the site, heavy equipment and determined men placed it across the hole and the road was open once again.

“Our bridge lasted all that summer,” said Trotter, “And we were able to access the river again – rafting was able to go on as usual.”

He says that the Wells Gray Park boundaries were extended to include the Clearwater River and the road; and the use of it by Interior Whitewater has worked out to the satisfaction of both parties; thus allowing whitewater rafting to continue as it has for a long time.

Over the past 30 years Trotter has been true to his company; committed to extending his own levels of excellence and enjoyment of river rafting to all his clients.

The company is one of the original members of the BC River Outfitters Association and touted as one of the most experienced rafting companies in British Columbia.

Interior Whitewater was recently awarded a prestigious place amongst the members of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Signature Experiences Collection – once in a lifetime remarkable travel experiences in Canada. Trotter says they are one of only two rafting companies in all of Canada to be accepted into the Collection.

This reporter attended one of Interior Whitewater’s rafting trips recently from the river bank only, where the rafters had gathered.  A tourist from Switzerland who was participating in the expedition commented, “We are here with a group including a young boy; none of us have ever done this before and we are so exited – but maybe a little scared too.  This river looks so powerful, the crashing rapids, and rushing water, it is so beautiful. We started our trip in a quiet backwater, but first we had to take a short course about safety and how to act in an emergency, which included that each of us had to fall off the raft, and learn how to get back on properly.  Our guides are patient, and friendly, and made us feel safe and confident. I am sure we will remember this adventure for a very long time.”

When asked about his plans for the future of Interior Whitewater now that he has 30 years of the Clearwater River under his belt, Trotter responded, “I want to continue our rafting business – it’s a great adventure.  That’s what I have heard over and over when people walk through our office. This is the best thing we have ever done in our life.”

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