The Thompson River, the largest tributary of the Fraser, drains an area of 35,000 square miles. In the spring it gathers the melting snow from this vast area and fills its banks peaking at an average flow of 85,000 cfs. The highest flow recorded was 145,500 cfs in 1948.
When the river is in spring runoff big rafts are commonly used. Motorized J-rigs are the most common rafts used in the big water during peak flows and once the river drops to 70,000 cfs oar-assisted paddle rafts are brought into action.
The fifty miles of river between Ashcroft and Lytton is the stretch most commonly run, with the best rapids in the last ten miles. Here the gradient averages 16 feet per mile and the eighteen rapids are usually at their most technical and best suited to paddle rafting in August and September. Kayakers enjoy the September and October levels the best when great playholes develop.
The Thompson River Canyon is known as one of the driest and hottest regions in British Columbia. Annual precipitation is usually less than one inch per month, in contrast with the coast which can get ten times that amount. Average daytime temperatures during the summer months hover around 80° F with extremes of 105 degrees not uncommon in July.
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