Isn’t the River of Golden Dreams a dreamy name for a river?
It’s easy to paddle, even if you’re a beginner.
And one of the best things to do in Whistler in summer (spring and fall too) is paddling a canoe or kayak down this dreamy river.
River of Golden Dreams, Whistler
The River of Golden Dreams is a 3-mile (5-km) river between Alta Lake and Green Lake. (Some people call it the Whistler River of Dreams.)
It’s short, but incredibly scenic!
The wildflower-lined river meanders through a landscape of snow-capped mountains, cloaked in evergreen forests.
Black bears are sometimes spotted along the way too.
Whistler River of Golden Dreams: Route
You put in at Alta Lake to paddle first down the length of the lake.
You might see Canada Geese (and in early summer, perhaps cute little goslings swimming in a line by the shore).
At the end of the lake, you glide by a field of bulrushes.
Then you enter the narrow, slow-moving River of Golden Dreams for a magical paddle through wetlands, eventually getting out at Green Lake.
Interested in skiing Whistler in winter? Read our post on which has better skiing: Whistler or Blackcomb?
River of Golden Dreams water level
The water runs quite fast and is high in spring.
If you go in high summer, the water level is usually low (only two or three feet) and you can lazily make your way along the river’s many twists, turns and sharp bends.
In late summer, the water level is low, and you’ll probably have to portage one section.
Word of caution:
If you don’t want to get wet, consider portaging the tricky curve of the river. You’ll know it when you come to it!
If paddling without a guide, make sure to ask in advance about this section.
If you don’t portage, your canoe might tip otherwise, and you could get dunked (like one of us did) – especially if the river is running high.
River of Golden Dreams map
See below for the paddling map of the River of Golden Dreams.
River of Golden Dreams tour
The best way to experience the river?
Take a guided Whistler kayaking or canoeing tour of the River of Golden Dreams.
Paddling tours are 3 hours long, including 20 to 30 minutes on Alta Lake. At the end, you’re driven by return shuttle bus back to Whistler Village or Alta Lake, where you started.
We’ve gone with both of these companies and can recommend them :-).
Go with Whistler Eco-Tours (WET), and your naturalist guide will entertain you with tales about Whistler’s history (and fascinating local characters), as well as the area’s geography, wildlife and flora and fauna.
See that beaver den? It actually has different chambers – including a separate beaver “toilet” room and another room for drying off after coming in from the river.
Morning and afternoon tours are offered.
Whistler Eco-Tours: See their website here.
Backroads Whistler also offers guided trips on the river. Several morning and early afternoon departure times are offered.
Guides are experienced, and we felt comfortable on the water.
Backroads Whistler: See their website here.
Self-guided Whistler canoeing and SUP
If you have previous paddling experience, you can rent a canoe or kayak from either Whistler Eco Tours and Backroads Whistler and explore Alta Lake and the river on your own.
Note: A “rescue fee” of $75 per person applies if you get stuck.
There’s also the option to go stand-up paddleboarding on Alta Lake – SUP rentals and lessons are offered.
What else to do in Whistler? Go on the Joffre Lakes hike – it’s awesome!
Prefer a lazy River of Golden Dreams float?
You can also do as the locals do and float down the river in a cheap little inflatable or inner tube, taking only the bare essentials…
Like beer or soft drinks dangling in the water to keep chilled – and duct tape for that “pffft…” sound.
Here’s a good pin
Photo credits: 2, 5 to 11, 13 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 1, 12 Backroads | 3 Whistler Eco-Tours