Good news for whitewater enthusiasts, and anyone looking for an exciting, safe outdoor adventure this summer: Kumsheen Rafting Resort near Lytton has now opened for the 2020 season for full-day and half-day trips, with new safety protocols in place to keep adventurers safe in the COVID-19 era.
“I bet my dad two bottles of wine that we weren’t going to be rafting this year,” laughs Braden Fandrich, Kumsheen’s director of operations, referring to his father Bernie Fandrich, who founded Kumsheen Rafting in 1973. “But as things progressed we figured out ways we could make it work.”
The season normally starts on May 1, so the resort is two months late in opening, but Fandrich says bookings are coming in.
“So far the response has been okay, and we’re getting bookings. People seem excited to be getting out of the city or wherever they’re at. We have a big site, so there’s not much contact and we can do physical distancing. There seems to be a bit of pent-up demand, but we’re definitely not as busy as in previous years.”
He says that Kumsheen is doing its best to be socially responsible. Although the summer 2020 season is presenting challenges, the focus on safety is sharper than ever. The resort has been completely revamped to comply with provincial safety guidelines and orders, strict cleaning protocols have been put in place (including continued disinfecting of all wetsuits, rain gear, and life jackets), and the rafts that go out on the are compliant with physical distancing rules. All staff have personal protection equipment, and new check-in procedures limit contact and ensure physical distancing.
“We’re set up for people who are in their own pods,” says Fandrich. “We can have different groups in the same boat and maintain a two metre distance. Our big boats can now hold up to 16 people depending on the group sizes.
“We’ve worked with the British Columbia River Outfitters Association to establish protocols which were submitted to the Provincial Health Officer and approved. We’ve worked out how to have maximum safety while having maximum fun.”
Fandrich notes that people should not come to the resort if they are ill, have been exposed to someone who is sick, or have been outside Canada in the 14 days prior to the visit. Guests should bring a non-medical mask; a buff or neck tube is preferred, and can be worn on the raft. All guests must wear non-medical masks while being transported to and from the river.
Bagged lunches are now available for all full-day trips, and Fandrich says the resort’s chef has been working out what food service at Kumsheen will look like this summer. “Her idea is to start with takeout and then set up tables outside for people to use. We’ll leave it up to people to decide whether they want takeout or sit-down. I hope we get busy enough to have servers and sit-down service, but this is really unprecedented. It feels like starting up a new business, to some extent.”
Tenting and self-contained RV sites are now open, as are Kumsheen’s canvas cabins and teepees. Half- and full-day power rafting trips are now operating, and half- and full-day paddle rafting trips are starting soon. Fandrich says that conditions are great for rafting, but staff will decide around Labour Day whether to stay open through the end of September as usual or close the resort earlier.
“We’ve scaled back on some specialty trips this year, such as the photography trip, which is a great trip. Dad was the main host for that, and would tell people the history of the area, and sometimes have a naturalist along to talk about the area. This year, though, we’re focusing on our core values of getting people out on the Lower Thompson section, and coming out and enjoying the property.
Fandrich has nothing but praise for his staff, who have been working hard to ensure that the site is safe and ready for visitors.
“We’re looking forward to a great season, and we’ll offer refunds to anyone who feels sick on the day of their trip. We’re in this together.”