Accident Database

Report ID# 3671

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Kayaker missing on Cheakamus River

Searchers couldn't find him at his last known location

by John French

A missing kayaker from Canmore is presumed drowned after he disappeared on Friday, Sept. 28.Sgt. Rob Knapton of the Whistler RCMP said the police were called at about 5 p.m. after Peter Thompson, 19, went over a waterfall on the Cheakamus River and never resurfaced. The waterfall is located about 3.5km from Highway 99 just upstream of Loggers Lake at a popular kayak entry point.

Knapton said the two people with Thompson reported they went over the waterfall after Thompson and retrieved his paddle but there was no sign of their friend. The RCMP called Whistler Search and Rescue (WSAR) and a search team was in the area of the waterfall until 9 p.m. when darkness set in.

According to Knapton, the searchers went back to the scene the next morning and discovered Thompson’s personal floatation device. An underwater camera was used to further search the area below the waterfall. Knapton said water clarity was an issue along with the powerful hydraulics in the area. The searchers were unsuccessful in locating Thompson and efforts were curtailed at about noon on Saturday. “We are evaluating options at this point,” said Knapton.

While WSAR members and the RCMP were leaving the search area another group of nine paddlers from Vancouver were preparing to launch their kayaks from just below the waterfall where the search was conducted. The leader of the group indicated they would keep their eye out for the missing kayaker as they intended to paddle a large section of the Cheakamus River. Check back for more information on the search in Thursday’s edition of Pique Newsmagazine.

Paddling community mourns loss of Canmore kayaker, coach Peter Thompson

Victim was head coach for Bow Valley Kayak Club

By Bryce Forbes and Tanya Foubert 

Calgary Herald

October 1, 2012

Peter Thompson, 19, had a passion for mountain activities, especially kayaking.

CALGARY — A Canmore teenager whose life revolved around kayaking is presumed dead after going over a waterfall on the Cheakamus River in B.C. and not resurfacing. Identified as Peter Thompson, 19, he was a master on the river, acting as the head coach for the Bow Valley Kayak Club, teaching the sport to kids with disabilities, and paddling all over the world.

Rob McIntyre, president of the club, said Thompson was with a group of friends Friday at a six-metre waterfall in B.C. he had done many times before. He went over and never resurfaced. Two friends reported him missing.

RCMP called in search-and-rescue and dive teams, but after two days, the search has been called off. “We called out Search and Rescue and have not located him or his kayak yet, but we did locate the paddle,” said Sgt. Rob Knapton of the Whistler RCMP. The RCMP dive team was in the area to evaluate the scene on Saturday. Knapton said the biggest issue with the recovery effort is safety for the rescue workers because of the hydraulic pressure of the waterfall on the Cheakamus River. “We are looking at our options,” he said. McIntyre said Thompson always preached safety to his students, but tragedies happen.


I'm not positive where it occurred but assume it's the waterfall that is sometimes run at the put-in. I have a photo and description of it on my website:

Some news accounts have described it as a 6m waterfall, but I don't think it's that high. It got me to wondering if maybe he was running a drop further upstream that I'm not familiar with, but other news accounts say the waterfall is located "just upstream" of the "popular kayak entry point".

If it is in fact the one at the standard put-in, it's a relatively new feature where the historic river channel became blocked and the river changed course to flow over a bedrock ledge. An impressive amount of power plunges deep on river left (hard to tell in the photo). I've looked at it but determined it was not anything I wanted to mess with--just too much power sending you deep and no real way to tell what's down there. I know it is routinely run though.

Thomas O'Keefe, PhD

Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director

American Whitewater

Upper Cheakamus River

ACCESS: Nearest town: Whistler (Yahoo map). Take Highway 99 to Function Junction just south of Whistler. At the light, take Cheakamus Lake Road east and in 0.5 km (0.3 miles) you will reach the bridge across the river. After crossing the river take the left fork for the Westside Main Road. After making this turn head into the House Rock Day Use area to your left. This day-use area provides convenient parking for the take-out and you can walk down to the river and view the gauge.

To reach the put-in continue up river left on the Westside Main Road (continue past the sign marking the "kayak put-in"). It is 3.0 km (1.9 miles) up this road to a small parking area at the Riparian Trail parking area (space for a couple cars) where the road comes close to the edge of the river.

Description: The Upper Cheakamus is a great run just a few minutes outside of Whistler with a long summer season. It provides non-stop class IV action all the way from start to finish. First timers might consider the higher volume creek boat, but experienced paddlers will enjoy this run in playboats. It is a short run that you can easily paddle in an hour or less if you know the lines making it a popular evening run with locals. Those headed down the first time will likely want to spend more time scouting some of the drops or go with a guide who can give you the lines as you go.

The river starts right off with a class V waterfall newly formed following recent floods which shifted the channel over a section of resistant bedrock. It's an impressive sight as you can still see evidence of the old channel, now plugged with rocks and debris, on river right. Those who just came for the class IV run put in below the waterfall (hike downstream on the trail about 100 m) but it does get run. 

I just wanted to let you know that the Peter Thompson the Upper Cheak itself is considered a class IV (IV+) run, with the put-in waterfall (the rapid he died on) being at most an easy V. Also, some folks went in a few weeks later and discovered he and his boat had been pinned under something at the base of the waterfall -- either a log or a weird rock formation -- so you may want to adjust the cause of accident to "strainer / entrapment" or "pin / entrapment."

Posted 2012-10-18 1:36 PM (#23417)
Subject: Hazard on the Cheakamus River


Hello all,

Last Saturday we were able to recover Peter Thompson's kayak and body from the Cheakamus River where he passed away on September 28th. The falls at the put in of the Upper Cheakamus run splits into two channels at low water. Peter and his crew were running the river left line and that is where he disappeared from sight on the 28th. During the recovery we were able to get a pretty good idea of what was underwater that prevented Peter from resurfacing. We weren't able to tell if the obstruction was a log or a bedrock outcrop but what we do know is that it creates a sieve. We know that because once dislodged, Peter (still in his kayak) went under the obstruction and surfaced downstream. The line that we had on his boat followed from upstream where we were pulling, down under the obstruction and into the eddy on river left immediately downstream of the drop. We were unable to free the upstream end of the line and move it downstream, telling us that the obstruction likely spans from the river left wall to the bedrock that protrudes downstream from the tower that splits the 2 lines. From the damage to the boat I think that the sieve is not big enough for a boat to pass through on the side closest to the river left wall which was where we located the stern of Peter's kayak.

In the attached image you will see a blue circle that represents approximately where the stern of Peter's boat was found. The water level had dropped considerably between incident and recovery. The red line is about where I think the obstruction runs, though it is under the surface of the water about 3 -5 feet at the water level in the picture. The picture was taken on September 30th at a very similar water level to when Peter ran the drop.

Remember Peter with his huge grin and big laugh. He was an amazing young man.




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