Stranded U.S. kayakers rescued by helicopter off B.C. coast

A group of U.S. kayakers stranded along the Klinaklini River needed to be airlifted to safety Friday after dangerous river conditions made it unsafe to continue.

Kayakers spent four days hiking and camping out before being rescued, says search and rescue manager

Campbell River SAR members use a long line to pull stranded kayakers from dense forest. (Campbell River SAR)

They did a lot of things right, but still four U.S. kayakers stranded along the Klinaklini River needed to be airlifted to safety Friday after dangerous river conditions made it unsafe to continue. 

The group of women aged 19 to 29 were experienced kayakers, in the midst of a nine day journey from Nimpo Lake in the B.C. Interior, down the Klinakilini River to Knight Inlet on the B.C. Coast, according to Daryl Beck, Campbell River search and rescue manager.

Beck said the women were very well prepared for the trip, carrying food, maps, and a satellite phone. 

"All of those types of things were I think spot on in terms of individuals going into the wilderness, the backcountry wilderness, and what you should do to make sure that things go well for you, even if your initial plan doesn't turn out," said Beck. 

The kayakers were a couple days into their trip, when heavy rain started falling, causing the river to rise to a dangerous level. 

They left the river and portaged with their kayaks through hard terrain to try and find a better route, but soon discarded their kayaks to move faster.

Their back-up plan was to reach an old logging road, and after making it just 300 metres away from the road they were stopped by what Beck calls an impassable tributary of the Klinakilini River.

At that point, after two days of hiking through the backcountry they called for help using their emergency satellite beacon.

Campbell River search and rescue's helicopter assisted extraction team was called into action on Wednesday afternoon to rescue the stranded women, but difficult terrain and bad weather kept the team from reaching them for two more days. 

Friday afternoon, on their third attempt search and rescue managed to rescue all the kayakers, airlifting them via longline to the nearby logging road before taking them to Campbell River.

"It was a long day, but it had a very happy ending to it," said Beck. 

Beck said the women were a little bit embarrassed, but shouldn't be because they were well prepared. 

Although he adds they did forget their identification and credit cards, which meant they couldn't pay for anything in Campbell River and had to spend a few days with Beck.

"My wife and I put them up for a couple nights at our home, they were just camping out in the living room," said Beck. 

"They got the hot shower, and food, and I think, well I know they were extremely appreciative of us being able to help them out before they headed home."

This estuary at the mouth of the Klinaklini River is protected by a conservancy as it's rich with Eulachon, a small fish, harvested by First Nations for oil. (B.C. Parks)