Not only is the Slocan River float one of the most enjoyable adventures in the Kootenay region, it’s one of the best in the entire province of British Columbia. Every summer thousands of people converge on the Slocan Valley with inflatable inner tubes and other floatation toys to float down the river and take in the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The Slocan River float is an excellent half-day excursion for the entire family or you can turn it into a full day’s worth of fun by taking your time and lounging on the various beaches. (There are both sandy beaches and smooth rock beaches strewn throughout the float.) The season for the float is July and August as the rest of the year the water temperature is too cold.
To access the Slocan River float, drive northeast on Hwy 3A from Castlegar for 20 minutes until you reach the Slocan Junction where you’ll turn north onto Hwy 6. The Crescent Valley Beach Park is less than two kilometres up this highway and there’s plenty of free parking. This is the terminus of the float and the easiest way to do it all is with two vehicles: leave one at the Beach Park and then drive north for 10 kms to the access point by the bridge in Slocan Park or drive for 12 kms to the access point by the bridge in Passmore. (See map.) Starting in Slocan Park will involve a four-to-six hour float and starting in Passmore will add an addition 1 to 1.5 hours.
Slocan River Float Safety
Despite its popularity, the Slocan River float is not without it’s dangers. Even at the height of summer the water temperatures are chilly and there are downed trees on certain shorelines that can trap a person underwater. So it goes without saying that any form of intoxication is not recommended while doing the float. Save the alcohol and any other substances for after the experience is over. Here are some more safety recommendations for the Slocan River float.
Water Depth & Speed – In the summer there are certain sections of the river that are very shallow. Never dive head first into the water unless you’ve checked the depth first. Also, there are sections of rapids on the float, most notably above the Slocan Park bridge and at the takeout near the Crescent Valley Beach Park. Typically they’re mild in the summertime but check first with locals about water conditions, including height, speed and temperature.
Sweeper Trees – The deadfall on the banks of the river are called “sweeper trees” because they can grab a person and hold them underwater. They can also pop inflatable inner tubes and floatation devices. They must be avoided.
Other Obstacles – There are logs planted in the middle of the river in certain sections for fish habitat. Avoid these and all other debris.
Sun Stroke – Because the river environment is cooler than the rest of the air temperature, you might not be aware of the sun’s full impact until it’s too late. Cover up and wear plenty of sunscreen. Remember, the sun’s rays reflect off the water so you’re exposed from above and below.
Rope Swings – There are rope swings at certain points along the river. These are inherently dangerous and every summer people dislocate their shoulders or hurt themselves in other ways while trying to swing off a tree and into the river.
Intoxication – Unfortunately accidents are commonplace on the Slocan River float and in the majority of cases it’s because the victim is drunk or high. Alcohol, drugs and water do not mix. Save the party for after the float.
Slocan River Float Gear
A bathing suit and an inflatable inner tube are not enough to see you safely down the Slocan River float. Here is a list of all the gear you should bring to ensure a fun, and safe, experience.
- Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
- Drinking Water
- Sun hat
- Warm layer of clothing in a dry bag
- Proper footwear for hiking the river banks at the start & end
Finally, remember to always take your garbage out with you. As the Slocan River float becomes more popular, more trash seems to accumulate every year and this could jeopardize the experience in the future. If you want to continue enjoying the float in the years to come, pack out all your garbage.